As part of Homesteaders’ quest to become more efficient and effective by using technology and continuous process improvements, we began implementing a project methodology called Agile.
The idea of Agile is complex, but in a nutshell, it is characterized by the division of a large project into incremental phases that are continuously assessed and adapted. This process was initially adopted in our IT department to assist with technical project delivery. Even though the method originally started as a software development process, it has evolved into an idea called enterprise agility, which takes the Agile process and moves it into other business functions outside of IT.
Our IT team began transitioning to the Agile process last year, specifically using the Scrum methodology, which focuses on short daily meetings and fixed-length iterations that have clear goals and an agreed set of work items to complete. There have been numerous interesting observations during this process. Several things immediately demonstrated value while others have taken patience to build the appropriate muscle memory by our team. Over a year into our transition, we are very pleased with our progress and our ability to demonstrate an increased delivery speed.
I was recently reflecting on our progress when one specific aspect of the Scrum methodology struck me as exceedingly valuable, even independent of the full Agile process. This process is referred to as a Retrospective, which is the assessment and adaptation aspect of Scrum. A Retrospective is a regularly scheduled exercise where team members meet to discuss recently completed projects. The goal is to actively critique what has worked well, what could be improved and to commit to what you can do or will do differently based on this analysis. We’ve seen tremendous value in this process (even independent of other Agile processes) as it quickly:
- Identifies inefficient processes
- Identifies beneficial processes and allows them to be refined
- Creates a focus on continuous improvement by all team members
- Uses positive words to express thoughts
- Provides opportunity for reflection and celebration of successes
- And, perhaps most importantly, creates a sense of ownership and engagement from every member of the team
Some Retrospective processes that we have used, include:
- The Perfect 10 – A discussion leader passes around Post-it notes to all team members, who are required to rate a project on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the best it could have been. If the rating is less than 10, the team member must write what they would have done to make the project a perfect 10.
- Mad-Sad-Glad – This exercise encourages your team to capture things that they are really happy about and things that are causing them concern. Using pictures with emotions (our team once used images of actor Will Ferrell), have your team vote on how they felt your project, or different aspects of your project, went.
My tip for this month is to try holding regular Retrospective meetings within your funeral home staff to help improve processes and create a greater sense of belonging. While you may not have as many IT-focused projects, things like events, client family conferences and day-to-day business practices can benefit from a Retrospective.
As Executive VP-Operations, Wade Comstock continues to develop the solutions that provide state-of-the-art technology to manage our business and serve our funeral home customers, sales counselors and policy owners. Click here to learn more about the leadership team at Homesteaders.