What’s Agile? Continuous Improvement (Principle #12)

Agile embraces continuous improvement. The twelfth and final Agile principle is:

At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

Principles behind the Agile Manifesto

Continuous Improvement Through 3 Questions

Scrum calls these Sprint Retrospectives. Two things should happen at the end of each sprint.

  • A sprint review. Show key stakeholders the new working software you’ve built for them to start using.
  • A sprint retrospective. Meet as a team to identify opportunities for improvement

In the sprint retrospective, you address 3 questions:

  1. What went well in this past sprint?
  2. What didn’t go so well?
  3. What could we start doing to improve?

However you word these questions, the important thing is that you identify:

  • Positive things to enhance
  • Negative things to reduce or eliminate
  • New opportunities to improve

Impediments to Continuous Improvement

And don’t forget impediments. You need to help the team think creatively to identify impediments. Consider any policies, practices, requirements, habits, and so on that impede their productivity.

The project manager (or scrum master) should lead and facilitate these meetings. Then you need to follow up and ensure that these ideas for continuous improvement are acted upon.

In particular, it’s usually up to the project manager to remove identified impediments. Escalate these as necessary to get them resolved.

Continuous Improvement Never Stops

It doesn’t matter how good you are today; if you’re not better next month, you’re no longer agile.

Mike Cohn

Is your Agile project experiencing continuous improvement? Remember that it needs to be continuous – not just occasional. If it’s not continuous, perhaps it’s because you’re not running at a sustainable pace. You may want to review What’s Agile? Sustainable Pace (Principle #8).

Or, your team might not be motivated to continuously improve. If so, take a look at What’s Agile? Motivated People (Principle #5)

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