Agile and Kaizen. How to implement a real continuous improvement process with Scrum
20tab’s retrospectives have a new approach, the Kaizen one. We will now explain what it is and how we implemented it with Scrum.
What does Kaizen mean
Kaizen is a Japanese term consisting of two words 'Kai' - 'change' and 'Zen' - 'good', which we can translate with the expression 'change for the better'.
It was coined by Masaaki Imai over 30 years ago to describe the strategic vision supporting the achievements of the Toyota Production System first and those of the entire Japanese industry later.
It consists of a strategy aimed at continuous and incremental improvement of processes and sets specific objectives:
- Improving and humanising the workplace.
- Reducing waste and unnecessary work.
- Encouraging ideas and experimentation for organisation-wide process improvement.
Why implement Kaizen
Why do companies need to implement Kaizen, a continuous and incremental improvement process? Which benefits can they get?
It is easy to say: today, more than ever, companies must necessarily adopt continuous processes aimed at increasing quality and reducing waste to survive in increasingly complex and rapidly evolving scenarios.
Even the most agile business contexts have to face the same challenges:
- generating real change can be difficult;
- the retrospective process, in the absence of follow-up, may not be continued and therefore not materialise into a real result;
- retrospectives can be perceived as obsolete and boring by teams and as a useless waste of time by management;
- in the long run, teams lose motivation and get discouraged because they don't see any of their proposals come true.
Adopting a Kaizen approach at all levels of the organisation means generating immediate positive results. Day after day, these small improvements turn, in fact, into a significant advancement for the whole company.
In terms of quality, efficiency, productivity and increase in profits.
How we implemented Kaizen
Retrospectives represent the moment in which Scrum teams develop proposals and share ideas to improve their processes, the working environment and the quality of the results.
In order to fully exploit the potential of these ceremonies, it is important to implement them regularly, but also to adopt a Kaizen practice integrating what emerged from the retrospective during the Sprint. All this in a continuous virtuous cycle of proposals for improvement and their actual implementation by the team and management.
But let's get to the point, let's see what happens at 20tab on these occasions.
Basically, during each Retrospective, the team identifies the single obstacle everyone considers as the most important one: the Kaizen, that is, the element whose elimination or implementation will provide the greatest impact for the team in terms of happiness, energy and well-being.
The KPI adopted to choose the solution we want to pursue or, alternatively, the obstacle we want to remove is the principle of happiness: we choose to pursue what will be able to give people relief and serenity at work.
At this point we incorporate Kaizen in the form of a User Story in the subsequent Sprint Backlog, so that the team can immediately implement the improvement or the remedy, which will not remain just a good intention but will rather turn into a real task.
What results have we had after adopting this process?
First of all, we improved our Retrospectives, which are now even more useful and certainly more interesting for professionals.
But not only.
In doing so, we grow a little bit every day, in a continuous virtuous circle allowing us to generate greater value for the customer too. The level of product quality grows, in fact, along with the team.
And last but not least, we are all more motivated to carry on the process, which is capable of making us work better and giving us a peaceful working environment.
The implementation of Kaizen in our Retrospectives during Scrum, is a further step in 20tab's commitment to continuous improvement and learning.
Useful to us as a team, but also to our customers, to whom we always want to guarantee high quality services and products.