A series for self-managed agile delivery teams wanting to continuously improve and stay ahead.
In the 3rd article of this series, I unpack why continuous improvement matters and share some of the quantifiable benefits it provides to software delivery teams. In this article, I introduce feedback loop (one of many variations on a theme) as the means to bring continuous improvement to life in your team.
Continuous Improvement doesn’t happen without a continuous feedback loop. Admittedly, embedding a feedback loop into your team’s practices can be overwhelming. Even though so many of us are agile product delivery teams, we love hearing the good but not necessarily the bad or the ugly. Lots of teams I encounter profess to being built on the virtues of listening, acting responsively and quickly to what customers feed back to them. But in reality practices can be a little haphazard and reactive all because there is no explicit feedback loop in place. Unless your team defines and owns a feedback loop that works best for you, you’re probably not taking full advantage of what a systematic practice could do for you in elevating your practices and reaping the benefits of continuous improvement.
The Feedback Loop.
I’ve shared Umano’s feedback loop below. There are many different examples of loops that exist (just google it!) and clearly ours is a variation on a theme. Before you start, get clear on the practices you’re looking to improve collect relevant data points through meaningful metrics. With the evidence at hand you’re ready to share observations with the team on how you’re tracking and where you’re at. Analysing your metrics together helps to deepen your team’s understanding of what’s going on and prioritize the importance of the matter at hand. Discussing any influencing factors will create alignment on the smartest course of action available. Once the actions are applied, you can observe whether the desired impact is taking effect or not during the specified interval, in which case the steps are repeated in the next iteration.
There are natural points within your team’s agile way of working to pause, check and adjust. That might be your stand-up or check-in, retrospective or planning ceremonies.
Critically, your feedback loop doesn’t work without feeding it data. Collecting and analysing data through relevant metrics is an objective way to learn more about your team and measure any practice refinements you take for the sake of improving. Working with metrics in a feedback loop that mirrors your development cycle empowers smarter and more strategic refinements to your practices and improves communication with your stakeholders.
But software delivery teams already do this! ?
Engineering teams are particularly familiar with feedback loops already. Engineers review the output of each other’s work. Design reviews are a constant fixture. Code metrics are tracked in terms of speed and time. But it’s time to level up and support not just the performance of your code but also the performance of your team through which ever practices you’re applying and improving upon. Can you name what the feedback loop is in your team, and when you apply it in your delivery cycle?
Embedding the loop into your way of working
Building highly effective practices requires a disciplined approach to embedding repeatable, highly effective habits. Take it in one iteration at a time. Start with a practice you all want to get better at that you believe will have a tangible impact on the way you work together. Name the metrics you think will give you the evidence to better understand what’s going on and spot any patterns that may be hidden from view.
Building a culture of smart action led from awareness and reflection systematically is best facilitated through a feedback loop. You can make feedback more effective by creating much more of it, organising it better and making it available to both team leaders and team members all the time. A constant stream of data will help to make feedback less intimidating, more appreciated and more effective.
How Umano can help
“There is a good chance man will begin to evolve at an accelerating pace with the help of man-made technologies that can analyse vast amounts of data and “think” faster and better than we can.” @raydalio
With Umano, your feedback loop is automated for you. We collect data from four feeds: input from team chat channels, tasks tracked and collaborated on through issue trackers, pull requests in git repositories and interactions on their wiki. Insights are delivered through a suite of agile metrics that help your team by highlighting your communication, tempo and quality practices. Our goal is to help you identify and improve practices that drive your team’s success. Umano gathers these four feeds into one channel for a rich, robust ‘continuous performance review’. We simplify the process of collecting your data into a unified view.
Umano is on a mission to help self-directed teams succeed by providing real-time feedback with data-driven insights that help agile teams to continually improve and stay ahead.
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