Effective continuous improvement begins with open, ongoing, democratized communication. It continues with the translation of these communications to collaborative real-time learning opportunities for everyone involved. These learnings are then applied to the project or work through incremental changes.
When done right, the impact of these incremental changes can be significant – greater than the sum of each change alone. It can lead to accelerated time-to-delivery, increased quality, and better organizational, departmental, and individual outcomes. Continuous learning is critical when an organization enters a rapid growth phase.
The Unending Tango of R&D and QA
Let’s take, for example, R&D and QA teams churning out large software or software embedded hardware products. Handover is always a point of contention.
Design documents, For example, may not be up-to-date, and the QA team ends up conducting incomplete testing or testing features that did not make it into the end product.
Alternatively, the scope of the product – and as a result of that, the scope of the QA work – may not be fully known before handover. These are not only problems of efficiency; they are also problems of accountability.
Often, there isn’t a chosen person or unit whose role is to update the design specs and ensure the QA gets them if a large customer initiates a product feature change.
Teams try to overcome these problems by deploying agile methodologies, but agile does not fix the problem of responsibility and accountability. In fact, “agile accountability” can be an oxymoron, as not all agile project teams are accountable for demonstrating progress on their journey. In other cases, team members may be accountable to each other for their responsibilities, but they may not know how to hold each other accountable in a constructive way, as agile does not initiate learning. So mistakes are repeated again and again.
Debriefing – the Heart of the Continuous Improvement Process
A few methodologies out there deploy continuous improvements, such as Six Sigma and Kaizen. But at the heart of all of them is the debriefing process: going over past actions, asking why, and drawing lessons that can be translated into better efforts in the future.
Debriefing is key to building a high-performance culture. And it doesn’t have to be complicated. The more straightforward and to-the-point it is, the better. Debriefing helps dissect your successes and errors as they happen to identify ways to act better – as you move forward.
For debriefing to be effective, your events and milestones must be clear from the get-go. You will then be able to identify recurring moments, e.g., repeated mistakes, and change employee behavior early on.
Teams should do this in a structured way, preferably over a digital platform. Using this system, teams conduct debriefing to actions, arrive at lessons learned, and assign action items for new, improved measures. The digital platform captures the lessons and provides ongoing access and reference to teams.
When each R&D handover is debriefed, a process of continuous learning and improvement is initiated. The debriefing process itself improves collaboration between R&D and QA and across teams, and the result is a quick reduction in testing times and customer escalations.
A New Urgency Propelled by Growth
There comes a time in an organization’s life when growth is inevitable. This may mean hiring more people to work at the same site or opening completely new sites. Take the case of a large pharmaceutical company expanding their R&D team fast to meet market demand. There is much more information to share. And existing centers are not enough – the company opens a new R&D facility in another city or country.
This company would experience a new urgency – how to maintain competency with an expanding workforce. Continuous learning is critical to maintaining delivery times and product quality in this situation.
Along with other industries, this issue is especially acute in the pharmaceuticals sector. Here, on-time delivery is vital. Markets are highly competitive, and diseases don’t wait. Therefore, a structure continuous improvement framework is essential.
The Advantage of a Continuous Improvement Platform
Shamaym offers a solution that allows large and growing teams to debrief and seamlessly capture lessons learned. A structured and streamlined framework for conducting debriefs and turning them into improved actions.
The Shamaym platform encourages full team participation. Its unique speech-to-text and AI tools make the process easy, extract valuable takeaways, and are gratifying, so team members want to partake in the process and see clear benefits from it.
With Shamaym, companies, especially those complex conducting projects or at a critical growth junction, can move from a culture where employees rarely think about what to improve and how to one where team learning and improvement become routine.
Contact us for a demo to see how Shamaym can improve your complex projects and fast-growing teams.