Guided Continuous Improvement (GCI): Speeding Up the Agile Kaizen Loop

A fundamental philosophy of agile is that teams should own their own process, or as we like to say in Disciplined Agile (DA) teams should choose their way of working (WoW). Of course this is easier said than done in practice. The challenge is that every team is unique and faces a unique situation – in other words, context counts. Furthermore, there are no “best practices,” rather, every practice has tradeoffs and works well in some situations and poorly in others. Worse yet, you really don’t know how well a technique will work for you until you actually try it out in your environment. Given all of this, how can a team choose its WoW?

While working with organizations to help them to learn how to improve their WoW, we’ve developed a technique that we call guided continuous improvement (GCI). Let’s start with some definitions:

  • A kaizen loop is an approach where a team experiments with a small change in their way of working (WoW), adopting the change if it works in their given context and abandoning it if it doesn’t. The goal of kaizen is often to reduce or better yet eliminate waste (muda) or to eliminate overly hard work (muri).
  • Continuous improvement is the act of applying a series of kaizen loops to improve your WoW over time.
  • Guided continuous improvement (GCI) extends the kaizen loop strategy to use proven guidance to help teams identify techniques that are likely to work in their context. This increases the percentage of successful experiments and thereby increases the overall rate of process improvement.

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