The Three Pillars of Continuous Improvement
(And How Sensemaking Can Make the Difference)
Creating an ecosystem of continuous improvement is one of the most important pieces of agile enablement. How you set the conditions for it, how you nurture it, and how you sustain it, can make or break your transformation efforts. The idea is that you create small experiments with tight feedback loops that allow you to gather insights and improve things as you go along. The philosophy is that this continuous improvement allows you to adjust and adapt to an uncertain business environment that is shifting underneath your feet.
We’ve written before about how sensemaking can be the key ingredient for a true agile transformation, but we thought we’d use this article to show three examples of how sensemaking can radically transform how you think about continuous improvement.
In any scenario where people are working in a team, there is going to be complexity in terms of roles, performance, delivery, and the like. A strategy is typically put in place to try and anticipate some of this, hold people accountable for their contributions, and set a north star for everyone to work towards. But even with all this planning, bumps in the road are natural. So, your preparation for these obstacles, and your capacity to face them is absolutely critical.
Sensemaking can be a fantastic tool to help diagnose strategic weaknesses out in the field in real time. By integrating the narrative insights from your people, you can identify trends that point to misaligned incentives, miscommunications, and a range of other potential problems that you might want to rectify.
Imagine another scenario where your team steps back from what they’re doing to look at the bigger picture. This is crucial for continuous improvement but it’s only valuable if you can push past shallow metrics and get to the heart of what’s going on. Sensemaking provides that research-based methodology that can open up those feedback loops for you and provide actionable information that can inform the next iteration of whatever you’re doing.
This is crucially important at every step of the process so that you’re learning from your mistakes and making incremental improvements wherever possible.
The last scenario in our continuous improvement framework is to understand the nature of interpersonal conflict. When we see this in our organization, it should point us toward a red flag that we need to deal with. But it’s only through sensemaking that we can dig through the emotion in the conflict and uncover the underlying reasons for the frustration. If we don’t use a disciplined approach like this, we risk diffusing the situation and sweeping things under the rug, only for it to re-emerge in the future.
Continuous improvement demands that we deal with that conflict effectively and make the necessary changes to avoid seeing it again going forward.
Each of these three pillars represent opportunities for sensemaking to make a dent in your agile transformation journey. Too many companies approach it with the idea that they know how they are going to transform themselves. They’ve read the books and they’re ready to implement the theory. Unfortunately, that’s just not how things work in practice.
Organizations are complex and it’s only through sensemaking that you truly understand how your agile transformation is panning out. Then, with those insights, you can make the iterative changes to your culture, mindset, and systems to improve your results.
We’ve seen it time and time again with clients here at Spryng. Maybe you should be next?