Every Scrum Master must know the Kaizen principles

The article shares the popular Kaizen principles for job optimization. Every Scrum Master should know these principles because the Scrum framework is not only an adaptive process, it also aims to deliver business value for both the product and the stakeholders.

Two years ago, BVOP published its Agile Guide, in which it supplemented many additional topics that every modern Scrum Master should know well.

The Scrum Master role is responsible and takes care of the value of the product, but also the effectiveness of the teams. Reference: The Scrum Master role, BVOP.org, 2019

The ranking of topics in order of importance should be unique to each organization, given its current type of processes, goals, and capabilities, which would be completely unknown to a new employee. But for the general principle of a start-up, for example, I would suggest the following basic distribution:

Table of Contents

Management style with commitment and participation – because at the heart of any organization is its leader with all its qualities and shortcomings.

Participants – senior management

Example procedure – attending courses or seminars for leadership qualities
Probable problems – personal conflicts with the individual understandings of managers

Teamwork – because only through team efforts can goals be achieved with efficient and effective allocation of resources

Participants – all members of the Scrum team.
Example procedure – attending courses or seminars for teamwork, maybe internally organized
Probable problems – interpersonal conflicts due to different levels of soft skills and unique characteristics of the participants.

Creating interconnected cells, where flow and withdrawal are the main agenda – because only through clearly defined processes and connections between the individual units in an organization, work can be done without hindrance.

Participants – the leaders of all teams and departments in the organization, Product Owner and Scrum Master role.
Example procedure – holding meetings between leaders to determine the relationships and dependencies between departments in a strong chain of activities

Probable problems – omission or insufficiently effective action planning in case of delays and unpredictable conditions, which can stop the interconnected procedures in a given link in the chain

Disciplined, rhythmic work – because an effective department/team must have clear rules for work

Participants – team manager, Product Owner, and Scrum Master role.
Example procedure – preparation of procedures and rules for team work
Probable problems – the effectiveness of the procedures depends on the leader’s ability to communicate them properly to his team

Planning the time of operations

Participants – the leader of a team

Example procedure – creating time tables with all the main stages of a procedure and marking the time intervals optimal for it
Probable problems – effective time planning depends on the experience of the leader and knowledge of the procedures

Zero monitoring – because well-established systems for communication between members of a team or organization must have a control or reporting mechanism

Participants – a specific unit – department, employee with control functions, and members of a team
Example procedure – reporting the results of the team to a specific unit – a person who would properly address any problems without stopping the whole work process to the team leader
Probable problems – depending on the qualities of the specific unit for correct interpretation of data and identification of problems

Defect management – because the problems in an organization must be addressed and corrected in a timely manner, instead of at the inevitable critical moment

Participants – the leader and members of a team
Sample procedure – receiving feedback from the unit responsible for the control mechanism and developing a procedure together with the team for the elimination of defects
Probable problems – untimely or insufficiently effective defect management, depending on the way the information is presented.

Waste. Constantly identifying and eliminating things that either do not add value or even destroy it – because improving the performance of an organization greatly helps its overall success

Participants – project managers, Product Owner and Scrum Master role.
Sample procedure – periodic evaluation of the effectiveness of procedures according to predefined criteria
Probable problems – effectiveness depends on the experience of the leader and his personal views on the need for an element in the organization

Effective balancing of financial problems with other areas that indirectly affect costs – because without a balanced financial basis no company can exist

Participants – team leaders, Product Owner, Scrum Master, and senior management.

Example procedure – preparation of a general financial plan for the distribution of financial resources by procedures or departments
Probable problems – the distribution of finances to the wrong recipients in case of insufficiently clearly communicated strategy from the top management

Reducing costs and deadlines – because optimizing costs and deadlines is a good prerequisite for good financial results

Participants – the leaders of all teams and senior management

Example procedure – preparation of cost-optimizing or reducing the implementation time plans, taking into account the objective opinion of each department
Probable problems – in the absence of sufficiently clear rules of judgment, wrong decisions can be made

Reduction of technological time – because the optimized performance of tasks is part of the basis for efficient work

Participants – All members of the Scrum and Development team
Example procedure – holding a meeting in each team and considering the possibilities for process optimization
Probable problems – subjective assessment of possibilities.

Technology. Use and training of more complex technologies and adaptation of teams to them. – because only in compliance with the latest innovations can results/products be achieved that are sustainable over time

Participants – senior management and team leaders
Example procedure – research of possibilities for use of new technologies in the work, and assessment of their costs and benefits through analysis
Probable problems – underestimating the need for technology and a conservative approach to innovation can prevent proper adaptation to the needs of the organization

Technology and competitive engineering – because in order to be competitive in the market, we must always be aware of the possibilities of others to provide products like ours

Participants – senior management and team leaders
Example procedure – research of possibilities for use of new technologies used in competing companies and preparation of plans for neutralization of foreign advantages
Probable problems – underestimating the need for technology in competition with direct competitors can lead to long-term losses for the company

Supplier partnerships – because good supplier relationships can reduce overall costs and improve final financial results

Participants – procurement and logistics department
Example procedure – establishing close relations with suppliers with a view to long-term joint projects, instead of short-term contracts with temporary discounts
Possible problems – inability or refusal of suppliers to participate due to external reasons

Maintenance of internal systems – because those who know the internal systems best know those who use them on a daily basis

Participants – all members of the Scrum team.
Example procedure – creating a plan for maintenance of internal systems for certain periods of time
Probable problems – unforeseen problems can arise at any time, which are not within the competence of the available employees

Support and training for employees – because the development of a company is directly dependent on the development of employees in it

Participants – all members and team leaders
Example procedure – conducting thematic trainings, both by external and internal persons for the organization
Probable problems – inability to accommodate massive training in a busy and active mode of daily work.

Continuous improvement of the workplace – because good results depend on staff motivation, which can be increased by improving working conditions

Participants – team leaders and senior management
Example procedure – consideration of proposals for improvement of working and living conditions and systems for additional stimulation of the staff at periodic meetings
Probable problems – insufficient availability of funds for such additional costs, and underestimation of the need to improve working conditions

Cross-function work – because only by getting to know other people’s work and problems can an understanding be achieved between the different departments, minimizing interpersonal animosities and stopping the work process

Participants – the leaders of all teams and participants in them. The cross-function is typical of Scrum teams and each Development team must have the necessary skills to develop the entire product.
Example procedure – setting up a program for the exchange of staff between departments, or if this is not possible – placing employees from different departments physically close to each other, or organizing joint meetings between departments, to achieve clarity in the processes of related departments
Probable problems – not every organization can freely move employees to different jobs, and not all employees are prone to such changes

Clean and tidy. Everywhere and all the time – because the order of the workplace can lead to greater orderliness and work processes

Participants – the leaders and participants of all teams
Sample procedure – creating rules for the type of workplace
Probable problems – individual misunderstanding and underestimation of the need for such rules if they are not communicated properly

Preservation. Saving resources to avoid waste, both for the company and for society and the environment. – because we must be responsible to the world around us

Participants – the leaders and participants of all teams
Example procedure – creating rules for reducing waste from the work process
Probable problems – depending on the personal attitude of employees to the topic.

References:
  • 20 Agile Kaizen keys to workplace improvement, libraryofmu.org
  • Modern Kaizen principles and keys to workforce optimization, vbprojects.org
  • Kaizen: 20 Keys to Workplace Improvement explained with examples, pm.mba
  • The Kaizen 20 Keys to Workplace Improvement Explained with examples, agileprogramming.org, 2020