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Creating a Culture of Continuous Improvement in Your Company

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First presented at Agile Camp NW in September 2017.

Continuous improvement is the goal for agile teams. We strive for it.

What does it look like when we create a continuous improvement beyond our agile teams and bring it to the larger organization: the company level?

Kevin Goldsmith was leaving Spotify, a company that had a built an amazing continuous improvement culture. He saw the benefits that it brought, first hand. When he joined Avvo as its new CTO, his primary goal was to help Avvo create that culture for itself.

In this talk, Kevin shows what Avvo has done to build a foundation for a continuous improvement culture: frameworks, organizational and processes that support and empower individuals and groups to own and drive improvements to make themselves more efficient and the company a better place to work.

The ideas presented will inspire cultural and organizational changes that you can make to bring continuous improvement to your institutions.

Published in: Leadership & Management
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Creating a Culture of Continuous Improvement in Your Company

  1. 1. @GoAgileCamp #AgileCamp2017 2017 Creating a culture of continuous improvement in your company Kevin Goldsmith @KevinGoldsmith Chief Technology Officer, Avvo
  2. 2. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture What does a culture of Continuous Improvement look like?
  3. 3. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture No status quo
  4. 4. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture No “that’s how we do it here”
  5. 5. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture Continuously asking “can we do this better?”
  6. 6. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture Continuous Improvement is the soul of Agile
  7. 7. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture A culture where people are • Adaptable to change • Advocates for improvement • Owners of the company mission • Empowered to feel control over their work A culture of continuous improvement
  8. 8. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture How to get there?
  9. 9. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture My journey at Avvo
  10. 10. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture • 10 year old company • Rapid growth over the last few years
  11. 11. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture
  12. 12. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture The “Oh Sh*t" moment
  13. 13. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture • Good values • Clear mandate to improve from senior leadership • Agile already in practice Strengths
  14. 14. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture Stage 1: evaluate
  15. 15. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture • Easy to jump in and start “fixing” things • Need the complete picture • Spent the first several weeks with every team in the company in every area. Evaluate
  16. 16. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture • What is going well? • What is not going well? • What can I do to help? Questions to ask
  17. 17. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture
  18. 18. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture • Poor information flows • Poor organization • Poor WIP management • Bad habits encoded into myth What I learned
  19. 19. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture • So. Many. Silos. • So many cross-team dependencies • Transparency without clarity • A bad cycle had developed What I learned
  20. 20. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture Lack of Velocity Lack of Accountability Forcing Function Failure to Achieve
  21. 21. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture Stage 2: Set up the conditions
  22. 22. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture • Transparency with clarity • Objective Measurement • Autonomy • Ownership of change Continuous improvement requires
  23. 23. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture Transparency with Clarity Make priorities clear
  24. 24. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture WIGs/sWIGs
  25. 25. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture • From Covey’s Four Disciplines of Execution • Wildly Important Goals • Company-level Strategy • Set by SLT yearly • WIP-limited (currently 2) WIGs
  26. 26. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture • sub-WIGs • Tactical cross-functional, cross-team projects • Scoped to 1-2 Quarters • Reviewed bi-quarterly • WIP-limited (currently 4) sWIGs
  27. 27. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture Objective Measurement Replace dates with data
  28. 28. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture Date-driven projects should have real business meaning and consequences. On dates
  29. 29. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture • Track metrics, not dates • Not “are we making the date?”, but rather “are we learning?” Accountability without dates
  30. 30. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture Created a data-driven decision-making framework and educated the company on its use. All project proposals and big decisions are now backed with the framework artifacts. Driving data-driven decision-making
  31. 31. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture DUHBs
  32. 32. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture • Data • Understandings • Hypotheses • Bets • (Results) DUHB(R)s
  33. 33. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture • Spotify DIBBs • Kaizen Cards • Toyota A3 Problem-solving sheets DUHB Influences
  34. 34. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture • Incontrovertible • Internal product or external industry data DUHB(R): Data
  35. 35. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture • Interpretation of the data • Must follow from the data • Semi-incontrovertible DUHB(R): Understandings
  36. 36. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture • Based on the Understandings • Strategic interpretation of how to address the situation/problem outlined by the Data and Understandings • Debatable DUHB(R): Hypotheses
  37. 37. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture • Tactics to validate the strategic hypotheses • Can be sequential or parallel • Reasonably small scope • Debatable DUHB(R): Bets
  38. 38. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture • Documentation of the bets and their outcome • Used for future reference and to inform future DUHBs DUHB(R): Results
  39. 39. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture Autonomy Give teams ability to own their improvements
  40. 40. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture Journey Teams
  41. 41. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture • Focused on an external (or internal) customer journey • Fully cross-functional, autonomous organization • Can drive reasonably large efforts independently Journey Teams
  42. 42. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture • Accountable to unique business metrics • Primary unit of organizational execution Journey Teams
  43. 43. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture • Minimize execution bottlenecks • Minimize coordination bottlenecks • Minimize decision-making bottlenecks • Maximize execution velocity Journey Team Goals
  44. 44. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture Ownership of Change RFC Process
  45. 45. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture • Organization leadership identifies an issue • Organization leadership creates a DUHB outlining the problem and proposed bets to mitigate • Cross-functional working group assembled • Working group puts together a document outlining mitigation of organizational issue Organizational Change via RFC
  46. 46. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture • Working group presents plan and document to the larger organization as an RFC • Organization adds comments / questions / request for clarifications to the document • Working group iterates on the document and repeats with larger organization until reasonable consensus around plan is reached Organizational Change via RFC
  47. 47. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture • Working group owns rollout of change • Long-term support for the change is part of the RFC Organizational Change via RFC
  48. 48. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture Stage 5: Continuous Improvement
  49. 49. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture Building a practice of having retrospectives beyond the agile ceremony cycle and focus. Retrospectives everywhere
  50. 50. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture “When is the retrospective?”
  51. 51. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture • What went well? • What didn’t go well? • What will we do again? • What will we do differently? • What concrete actions will we take from this for future projects? Ask
  52. 52. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture • What went well? • What didn’t go well? • What will we do again? • What will we do differently? • What concrete actions will we take from this for future projects? Ask
  53. 53. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture Central repository for retrospective notes. Make it easy to find the lessons. Collect the learnings
  54. 54. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture So, how did it really work?
  55. 55. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture WIGs/sWIGsJune2016 DUHBsSeptember2016 JourneyTeamsJanuary2017 JourneyTeamRFCDecember2016
  56. 56. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture WIGs/sWIGsJune2016 DUHBsSeptember2016 JourneyTeamsJanuary2017 JourneyTeamRFCDecember2016
  57. 57. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture WIG ITERATION #1 4 WIGS (7 MONTHS) WIG ITERATION #2 2 WIGS (12 MONTHS) SWIG ITERATION #1 7 SWIGS CREATED BY SLT 7 MONTHS 4 COMPLETE SWIG ITERATION #2 4 SWIGS CREATED BY DUHBS 6 MONTHS 4 COMPLETE SWIG ITERATION #3 2 SWIGS CREATED BY DUHB/SLT 3 MONTHS 1.5 COMPLETE
  58. 58. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture
  59. 59. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture
  60. 60. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture • Clear priorities • Removal of artificial cadences • Metrics-driven, autonomous, teams • Data-driven decision making • Organizational ownership of organizational change • A practice of retrospectives • An archive of learnings With
  61. 61. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture Lack of Velocity Lack of Accountability Forcing Function Failure to Achieve
  62. 62. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture DATA VISION EXPERIMENTSLEARNING PRODUCT INFORMS GUIDES GENERATES DRIVES PROVIDES
  63. 63. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture DATA VISION EXPERIMENTSLEARNING PRODUCT INFORMS GUIDES GENERATES DRIVES PROVIDES
  64. 64. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture Questions?
  65. 65. @kevingoldsmith #avvoculture I would love your feedback!
 http://bit.ly/avvoculture

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