The Continuous Improvement Cycle

Life is done of routines. A routine has a taste of contradiction: sometimes is boring sometimes means comfort, security, trust. Respect a routine implies discipline and recognition about the value we can get from that. In this post I would like to share my thoughts about the Continuous Improvement cycle. I think this is a basic concept you must understand once we enter in Agile and specially if we start planning to adopt a DevOps model to guide our development. Let’s pay attention to this positive loop.

The continuous improvement cycle can almost be called a life philosophy, by the fact that some religions base their principles into this attitude to seek for achieve the best version of ourselves. In Agile as well, we seek for a permanent improvement of the product and of the process to develop the product.
We can see, release by release, sprint by sprint a permanent product improvement orientation to maximize the value to the customer. Entering in the DevOps model, to achieve the continuous development, we observe a synergy between 3 continuous efforts: continuous integration, continuous testing and continuous deployment.
If we see individually those “continuous” concepts we conclude that they are based on the principle of continuous improvement, improving product quality, product enhancement frequency, and improving methods, tools and motivation for the correspondent development teams.
The continuous improvement cycle is the approach to evolve a product based on a vision or a plan, phase out his execution, check if what is delivered is accepted and corresponds to users expectations, and correct if not. The goal is, per cycle, increase the product value.
Aiming to shape a team working with a continuous improvement mindset, I would like to add some hints:

  • Please bear in mind risks and dependencies, if it’s possible try to anticipate them and create plans to minimize and mitigate each risk.
  • Find the reason for your problems and do not rely on alternative solutions. A workaround is a workaround and not the best solution. Fix workarounds as soon as possible, they have a high risk to fail in the customer side. Each failure has a cost for your product (bad reputation) and for your customer (cost).
  • Shit happens, that’s why one of the phases are check and act. The important advise here is, as soon you learn about the failure causes, as faster you must document them and create measures to don’t repeat it. In Sports this is called recovery time, in high competition the recovery time should be minimal. You need to aim for the faster recover time.
  • You should measure for improvement and not for control. People who are used with more hierarchical structures, don’t feel comfortable with measurements, especially performance-related measures, they are afraid of the miss use of it for control reasons.
  • Try to have a 360 degree view in each meeting, on the product context of use, on the market. Essentially, be sensitive to all inputs you can observe for possible improvements or corrections.

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