We’ve all been there: working well into the night to get a project over the line and live; hastily fixing bugs, making last minute tweaks and applying the final polish for that big release. The sense of relief is palpable when it’s all done. There is the warm glow of satisfaction to look forward to when your Net Promoter score improves and KPIs move in the right direction. In the past the journey would often end there; 6-12 months later and round 2 would commence (often with a different project team) in a bid to shore up things that haven’t been quite right since the last release: queue more late nights, pizza and fizzy drinks of choice.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock recently, things are changing: with fast release cycles, quick design sprints and better deployment practices meaning that product teams can be much more reactive in delivering updates and new features. Here at Spicerack we have used this step change to embrace the Continuous Improvement Mindset across all our projects – both client and internal.
So what is a continuous improvement mindset?
Originating in Japanese Business culture the concept of Kaizen (Good Change) combines the Growth Mindset with Continuous Improvement to monitor and refine all company functions. The changes can be big or small, one off or ongoing provided that they are a change for good.
By integrating this mindset into our daily work-life we are striving to identify and implement changes that make our working process, quality of output and workplace better. These changes can be anything from iterative interface changes, automation of repetitive and/or complex tasks through to improvements to the office environment. It’s about combining creativity, measurability and accountability to strive for better.
The benefits of this approach are not just limited to the gains made through each change, they are more holistic with the ongoing sense of achievement, progress and benefits of the changes acting in synergy to boost team productivity, quality of work, happiness and efficiency.
How to implement continuous improvement
Promoting an open door / round table culture where all team members have equal voice in suggesting ideas. Having a “pinwall” for improvement ideas to be added to and then a weekly session where the ideas are discussed and voted on by the team.
Foster co-operation: teams work better as teams not groups of individuals. Encourage pair working and peer review. Allow team members to think across disciplines: you will be pleasantly surprised how creative your finance team can be given the opportunity!
Take time to listen to your customers, clients and users. Understand their pain points and goals and make sure your road map is updated regularly based on a review of this input. Identify quick wins from these conversations and implement them in a timely fashion.
Run regular retrospectives/reviews both internally and with clients. Keep them light and constructive but don’t shy away from dealing with issues. All projects and relationships have their ups and downs: understanding what’s causing the downs and putting in place solutions next time round builds stronger products and relationships.
Use your data! Hunches/intuition can be a great source of ideas for improvement but you need to pair these with a data based approach. There is so much data available to highlight areas of improvement, validate concepts and set actionable KPIs.
Use readily available tools such as Google Analytics, HotJar, Sentry, New Relic, Pingdom, Screaming Frog to monitor your application/website usage and performance; use Net Promoter Scores, surveys and user testing to benchmark customer satisfaction; analyse client satisfaction data and team feedback to manage project relationships.
TAKE SMALL STEPS
If a change feels too big it probably is. We try and focus in on small achievable changes that can be made within a single week sprint. If a change appears larger than this then break it down into streams and prioritise these streams in terms of effort and likely reward.
This is something that we have struggled with in the past on internal projects where scope creep and a lack of committed time have led to project stagnation. Being realistic about what is achievable given the time, resource and budget you have available and having an open and honest conversation with delivery partners really helps to maintain momentum and keep delivering improvements.
Automate repetitive and error prone tasks. Life’s too short so look for areas where you can automate. Examples range from linking up business reporting spreadsheets with your accounts, project management and time tracking solution through to automating deployment and testing processes.
There are lots of tools and frameworks available to facilitate automation including IFTT, Zapier, CRM & Marketing automation platforms, Continuous Integration software, Ansible and other IT automation systems to name just a few.
Adopting these practices will help you and your team develop the Continuous Improvement Mindset. In surprisingly little time you will start to see the benefits of small incremental changes.
If you would like support with website or application development or the automation of business and development processes give us a call on 0117 933 2595.