Thinking about continuous improvement the other day I tried to figure out what makes a continuous improvement process work and what makes it stick, these are my thoughts:
- It should be a slow, gradual process of change, no “sudden movements”.
- It should be a continuous flow of change, no settling down into a rut.
- It should be a culture, not a bunch of individuals with ideas.
- It should be unanimously accepted.
- It should be measurable.
- It should be celebrated.
- It should be evangelized.
- There should be room for failure, and for success.
- It should be rewarded.
- It should be encouraged.
- It should become default behaviour.
- It should be transparent.
For me agile is about many things but first and foremost it is about people and dynamics between people, you get the right recipe going and anything is possible. I work with what I think is a great team, but what makes them a great team? I’m not entirely sure but here are some of my ideas of traits of a great team (in no particular order):
- There’s a good level of respect not only for each other as people, but in each other’s ability to do stuff.
- They trust each other.
- The team has built in redundancy so anyone can take time off at any time, no silo’d experts.
- There’s lots of laughter and healthy tomfoolery, they know when to work, but they also know when to play (at work!).
- They allow failure and learn from it, focusing on the problem, not the person.
- High levels of collaboration, both at work and at play. They help each other out constantly, no-one is ever “too busy” to help.
- They’re cross functional, there’s a good mix of skills amongst the team, helping with redundancy.
- Everyone feels they can talk openly about issues and problems.
- There is no fear (of failure, of specific people), they take chances and enjoy challenges.
- They self organize, there is no one leader, they all lead, they all follow.
There’s more I’m sure, but those are the ones I can think of right now. At the core of it I think people must feel like they belong, that they are respected for their skills and trusted with responsibility and above all treated like people, not resources.
As much as I know (or think I know) about Scrum I still find it difficult some times to communicate to non-agile (waterfall) people that are resistant to change and passionate about their point of view. An interesting article I found clarifies this a bit for me, specifically how to communicate with project managers. The essence of it is to communicate to them in their own language, in terms they understand and can relate to. The article can be found here:
How to Talk to Project Managers