Kaizen (n): (改善) the Sino-Japanese word for "improvement", is a concept referring to business activities that continuously improve all functions and involve all employees from the CEO to the assembly line workers.
Previously, I alluded that our DealerOn Product Development Leadership would be meeting to unify our vision, road map, and release plan for the previous quarter (EOY/Q4 2019). Since then we've met with the entirety of our development team, contributors, stakeholders, and executives but I wanted to share my thoughts on our initial migration along with our strides towards improvement.
Change is not always easy to manage but it is necessary to grow...
The drastic change of aligning ourselves as a whole to start planning to our best abilities with all of our current knowledge was quite daunting. We hadn't always structured ourselves in that manner previously. Before our reorganization, we sometimes lost insight and feedback to properly plan when we didn't collaborate in our initial outlining. Our newly formed teams consisted of subject matter experts in their designated domains so we formed Scrum teams around them along with strong Product Owners. As expected, there is an adjustment period during the formation of new teams but the real hard work was ahead of us.
Once everyone was informed of their new teams, we focused on the work we wanted to commit to based upon priority and value, which is key. We quickly learned many new processes to best deliver value. Whether it was in new forms of communication within Slack channels or ticket transitions in Jira, there was a learning curve for everyone and it was quite hectic staying up to speed.
When the dust had finally settled a bit though, I recognized that we were all better equipped going forward because of it. We now had more transparency and visibility as a whole. Information dissemination was much more apparent and the adoption of daily stand-ups across our domain teams proved fruitful for everyone to be on board with the business activities and "why" we were focusing on certain goals.
Why did we feel the need to make so many changes to our organization? Simply put... to improve. Staying stagnant and not adapting will not assist in improvement. What I learned throughout all of these changes is that while it is not easy to change it is necessary and you have to start somewhere.
For example, the first iPhone did not even have a camera let alone any of the features we now take for granted or expect from the device. After listening to customers and improving their product, the current iPhone 11 now has 4 cameras and boasts "Shot on iPhone 11 Pro" as part of their marketing. One would perhaps not be able to imagine such improvements back in June of 2007 during the first iPhone release but constantly seeking improvement and pushing the boundaries got them there.
As humans, it seems as if seeking improvement is what we intrinsically strive for whether we may recognize it or not. Someone will develop a certain technology that another person will utilize to improve a certain facet of or it will allow them to surpass and improve upon it with other technologies. These types of relationships promote growth as a whole and the fascination to me is what is inlying in the wanderlust of the journey that will take us there.
Most of this improvement would not be possible without proper collaboration and willingness. Certain steps must be taken to get to this level, you must shake things up, get out of your comfort zone and find a new norm. Even when that new norm is recognized you cannot get too comfortable as you must continue to discover new ways to improve. Listen to each other, learn from one another, try new things, and inspect & adapt. I'm proud to say that our initial foray into restructuring our organization in this manner has allowed for positive improvements.
With that type of mindset, I realized that even doing small things to improve my surrounding area is beneficial even if it is just picking up some trash that someone "left out". No credit should be bestowed upon me for cleaning this up, as it is simply a kind gesture towards keeping things "nice" and beneficial to improving.
Recently, one of our fellow developers vacationed to Japan, where the concept of Kaizen originated (interestingly it was also formally adopted by the Toyota Production System, which we also have formed program partnerships with). When he returned he informed me of an instance during his travels in which he saw a resident cleaning up their neighboring street, seemingly taking pride in what was around them and improving upon the current state even if it was ever so slightly. With that same type of mentality, simple efforts towards improvements in our everyday life or work environments are boundless. Each of us can always contribute towards the commitment of improving; Kaizen 改善
As I mentioned before, we have now included all of our contributors into our quarterly planning and next time I will inform you of the benefits that were recognized after that took place.