An Example of a Self-Improving Team

Photo of a Sprint Retrospective capture with Post-its capturing things that went well, can use improvement, and action itemsSince I pontificated yesterday about the problem with relying on managers for improvement, I thought I’d share an example of a self-improving team: the software engineering team at Geonetric.

This image is the output of the retrospective done by the team, in this case, at the end of the regression period just before we release the next version of our software to our clients. Retrospectives are a critical component of Agile software development and at Geonetric, they happen every two to three weeks.

It is a decidedly low-tech affair for a software engineering team, involving only Post-it notes, giant sticky paper, and pens/markers. It comes down to three questions:

  • In this iteration, what went well?
  • In this iteration, what could use improvement?
  • Next iteration, what will we do differently?

The entire team is present. The team runs the retrospective. The team supplies answers to each of the three questions. The team decides what to do about the areas that need improvement and commits to doing those things in the next iteration.

It takes all of 45 minutes, and then they’re back to building amazing software for our clients.

Did you notice anything missing?

There was no “manager” required to organize the event; no “manager” had to guide the conversation to push for things to be better. No “manager” was necessary to get action items identified or acted upon.

Or, in contrast to yesterday’s post, no manager had to move the saltshaker back to the middle of the table. The team did it by itself.

I should note, by the way, that there are 13 items that “went well” and only 5 that “could use improvement.” And there are six “action items”. They did a great job with this release, and if you could see the arc of improvement over the last five years, we have made tremendous progress over the approximate 90 sprint iterations. I would venture to say the pace of improvement is much faster – and morale is higher – because of this empowerment.

An empowered high performance team can self-improve. They are expected to self-improve. They are trusted to self-improve.

If you’d like to work in an environment where the team is expected and trusted to improve on its own, check out the open positions on our website.

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This entry was posted in Agile, Geonetric Culture, Leadership by Eric Engelmann. Bookmark the permalink.
Eric Engelmann

About Eric Engelmann

Eric gets people excited. About healthcare. About technology. About Geonetric. It only takes a few moments of being in his presence to feel his passion and see his vision. A healthcare reform junkie, Eric can usually be found uncovering new ways to show healthcare executives how to leverage technology investments and develop patient portals that will improve care delivery. After earning his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Iowa, he began his career in technology, founding Geonetric and never looking back. Through his leadership, Geonetric continuously receives honors and recognitions, including being named a Best Place to Work by Modern Healthcare, Software Company of the Year by the Technology Association of Iowa, and an Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Company for five years running. When he’s not sharing his vision for the future of healthcare or accepting awards on behalf of his company, he can be found having lunch with his daughter at a local elementary school or donning lederhosen and entertaining his team at the Annual Engelmann Oktoberfest.

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