My Lesson in Process Improvement

stable velocity sustainable pace

Regardless of your organization and goals, everyone is trying to do things better.  I commonly hear about management asking its people to do more faster, often with less.

One major mistake I see time and time again are organizations trying to do things faster before really understanding their own processes.  If you don’t stop and really ask yourself if you’ve optimized the whole of your processes, before trying to go faster, any successes will be short lived.  I can assure you that speed without optimization is not sustainable.

Recently, I got back into running.  I haven’t ran consistently for a few years and honestly, I always hated it.  The goal was never to run a half or full marathon.  The goal was always to stay under 28 minutes for 3 miles.  That was the minimum speed requirement on a Marine Corps PFT back in the late 80′s, when I was enlisted.  Without fail, my feet and knees always hurt.  So, I did what any novice runner would do. I bought really cushioned running shoes.  I was able to run a couple miles at a time, at the pace I wanted, but I had to stop due to sharp pain in my knee and lower back.

A few weeks ago, I had lunch with a friend who is also a former Marine but he does a lot of distance running.  His goals include running half and full marathons.  I told him of my pains and he said I needed to read the book Born to Run and consider barefoot running.  Now, barefoot running includes both running barefoot or wearing minimal footwear.  Remember, the modern running shoe wasn’t invented until the 1970′s.  By getting rid of my cushy shoes and changing how my feet strike the ground, suddenly the pain is gone.  It was that simple.  A few days ago, I ran five miles and I could have kept going.  Suddenly, three miles in 28 minutes is no longer the goal.  Because I have a stable velocity with no pain, I now have a sustainable pace.  I know I can now go the distance.

Think about your organization again.  Do you meet your commitments, but it’s painful?  Do you sometimes not meet your commitments, because your pace is not predictable or it’s just too fast?  Stop and think about what you’re doing.  Really take a fresh look at how you’re doing things and consider making some changes.  Don’t use the excuse of “this is just how we’ve done it in the past”.  Once you find and address the root causes of your pains, you can refocus on what you’re trying to accomplish and reaching both those short and long term goals.

The picture above is of me in a LeadingAgile running shirt.  Thank you Mike Cottmeyer for the slogan (and the shirt).  This blog post was originally posted on the LeadingAgile blog

About Derek Huether

I'm an Enterprise Agile Coach at LeadingAgile. I have a goal to take the hand waving out of Agile, Kanban, & Scrum. I’m a strange combination of a little OCD, a little ADHD, a lot of grit, and a lot of drive. I come from a traditional PM background but I don't give points for stuff done behind the scenes. The only thing that counts is what you get done and delivered. Author of Zombie Project Management (available on Amazon)