Continuing to continuously improve

We’ve always had internal projects and objectives to improve how we work: ideas for doing better user research, producing better discovery outputs, running the business, winning work, staying secure…

But this had become increasingly fragmented across various internal Trello boards, project retro session action lists, personal development plans, and post-it notes stuck to monitors.

Good ideas for improvements have a habit of being pushed out by billable client work and losing momentum.

Ironically, we needed to improve at how we improve.

So we’ve introduced an initiative we’ve tongue-and-cheek(ily) called Operation Continuous Improvement. It is designed to create the conditions for everybody at Lagom to do just that.

Taking an Agile approach

There’s loads of things we know we can get better at and ideas will continue to pop up. So we needed to find a way to manage that and make healthy and continuous progress.

Firstly we set up a new Trello board and ported in and groomed dozens of improvement ideas from various sources into discreet Trello cards. For example: improving how we recruit vulnerable users.

We then met as a full Lagom team at the start of November to prioritise the cards for a month-long sprint.

Each of us took ownership for delivering at least one improvement card.

We then had a month to each reflect, conduct research, consult colleagues, prototype, experiment… whatever we needed to do to identify and implement a tangible improvement.

We created the necessary templates, checklists, materials to repeatably execute our improvements, and documented them in our Lagom Playbook.

For example:

  • Emma developed a run sheet for using Zoom to conduct remote usability testing of mobile device experiences
  • Stephen refined a run sheet and Miro board templates for facilitating workshops to ‘unblock’ blockers on projects
  • Helen documented a step-by-step guide for running pay-roll (in case she falls under a bus)

The team came back together at the end of the month for the Sprint Show & Tell, taking it in turns to proudly demonstrate their implemented improvements.

Improving December’s sprint

The first month’s sprint went well, and we have learned lessons, to yes, improve how we do this:

  • We’ve added a standard ‘Definition of Done’ check list to prioritised Trello cards so everyone is super clear when we can move an improvement card to the Done pile
  • We’ve agreed on the importance of breaking up larger ‘epic’ improvement cards into cards that can be achieved within a month – better to achieve something than nothing because it was too big
  • We’ve made good use of the Icebox column in the Trello board to capture more improvement ideas that popped up during the month (to groom and prioritise at the start of next sprint)

I’m pleased to say we have just prioritised another batch of improvement cards for December’s sprint. We seem to be finding a satisfying momentum and rhythm (like a good Agile project should).

Anyway, look out for our blog posts about specific improvements coming out of this work.

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