Continuous Improvement: Product development as change project

We are sharing this material from our continuous improvement site on this blog.This is a short overview of the steps we apply to start continuous improvement in a software or product development team.

Instead of applying complicated, unsuitable procedures, collect information about your organization and start a step-wise improvement project based on actual needs and competencies.

Start with a continuous improvement backlog

You need to prepare your organization for the change. With the vision, which entails the goals as well as their value for the customers and the organization, the change receives a direction. Start by carefully observing and collecting needs and motivations for change. Meet all stakeholders, attend their restrospecive meetings and perform interviews. Prioritize the topics to address, and build a first version of a list of improvements ( the improvement backlog). Do this as an agile project to learn and adapt your improvement backlog as you move forward.

Build on strengths

At the beginning of every improvement project, carefully build a picture of the actual situation. What is already working fine? What can be kept and propagated between projects? Get a balanced view from your team about what they think is most important and the different objectives they want to achieve. If the team stands behind the aimed objectives, it will embrace the change emotionally.


When establishing new work practices, techniques and tools, bear in mind that development teams do not act in predefined patterns: deploy only rough workflows, general goals and guidelines. Allow space for the project teams to tailor the techniques according to their own needs. You must ensure an open communication. Share the improvement backlog with everyone who will be affected and listen to their comments.

Give it a try!

Ask the early adopters from the different units to pilot the initial solutions in their own projects. They are the most capable persons to gain practical experience, adapt the development practices and then optimize the way they work. Make sure that the improvement is not tailored to a single person or project.

Visualize progress

Visualize your team’s every-days tasks to make progresses and bottlenecks apparent. Use simple Task Boards or Kanban Boards as a quick way to get an objective view of what works and what not. You can then improve the work practices accordingly.

Eliminate waste

Changing is not only about adding new techniques and tools. It is also about departing from old habits that are not anymore useful.

Anchor the change in everyday life

Ask the participants of the first pilot to deploy the improved practices to other projects and to communicate their personal experience to their peers. They can also help their peers to tailor the practice to new projects. Let the participants and the structure vary when the number of projects involved is growing. Communicate new successes and advantages of deploying the new practices to the complete organization.


A periodic retrospective is important to learn from your experiences. Use the experience gained during the piloting and introduction of new practices to adapt them. Compare the picture of where you are to the one of where you want to be; the difference between the two is the focus of your next improvement step!

Feel free to comment or share your experience.

Read more:

[1] David Anderson – Kanban, Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business http://agilemanagement.net/index.php/site/kanbanbook/

[2] Lean Change -Evolving Change Management by Jason Little https://leanpub.com/leanchange




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