Are you spending considerable time discussing how to improve your team’s process? Are those discussion frustrating? Do you come up with a considerable number of action points during your retrospective? Do you spend time prioritising them? Are you only able to address a few of them and build and manage a backlog with the remaining ones?
If you answered yes to any of these question then my message to you is: Stop! or tell your team to Stop!
What you should do is to start minimising the time spent on process improvements and maximising the time spent on shipping your product, regularly & frequently, to users by introducing timely, relevant and reasonably sized process improvements.
Reasonable size = value that is added should be reasonably proportionate to the time spend adding the value. With other words the improvement should have a justifiable ROI.
Where it matters
Instead of scheduling process improvement meetings or having discussions during retrospectives on how to improve planning and/or prioritisation and/or communication and/on etc, start reflecting and making relatively small improvements when you’re actually planning, prioritising and communicating.
One concrete, effective and efficient way of doing this is to reserve 5-10 min at the end of your meetings where you ask:
- How valuable was this?
- How do we increase its value until next time by?
Use the ‘Fist of five technique’ by asking each participant to, on the count of three, show how valuable they found the meeting on a scale of 0-5 with the help of their fingers on one hand. (0 = no value at all, 5 = tremendous value). Then ask people that gave the lowest and highest score what made them vote the way they did and what would make them rate it one score higher. Based on the discussion jointly decide on a small improvement for the next meeting.
If a majority voted zeroes and ones it’s likely time to discuss the option of removing the meeting altogether or replacing it with something else that’s more valuable.
If you keep using this routine you’ll become better and better at improving where, when and by how much you improve. This will have the benefit of freeing up more time for you to spend on developing your product. It will also improve the value you get from your retrospectives by steering the discussions towards identifying areas where your process is not adding enough value and how you holistically should adapt it to your needs.
Not an understatement
In terms of bringing teams significantly closer to the agile mindset, i.e. ’becoming agile’ this simple technique and routine has proved to be one of the most powerful to a considerable number of teams I’ve worked with.