«    »

Becoming a Champion of Continuous Improvement

I am pleased to announce that I am a Champion of Continuous Improvement.

The story of how I became such a champion starts a few months ago when I spent some time reflecting on my mission / purpose / vision as a professional software developer and architect. I was inspired to do so by two sources. The first was the book The Professional Service Firm50 by Tom Peters, which advises readers to create a cool job title for themselves that is motivating and inspiring. The second source was an online article by Steve Pavlina titled How to Discover Your Life Purpose in About 20 Minutes which provides a simple yet effective process for creating one's personal life purpose statement. This process involves brainstorming statements and then using your emotions and intuition (your heart) to evaluate and evolve them rather than logic (your mind).

I decided to use Steve's process to create a cool job title. (I also used Steve's process to draft a mission statement for myself.) Reproduced below is my brainstorming list – at least those items I actually wrote down – with some commentary.

  1. Problem Solver: My starting point because lately when coworkers ask me what I do, I tell them I solve problems. I wear too many hats to be able to easily describe all my roles :)
  2. Visionary
  3. Leader
  4. Do Things Better
  5. Quality
  6. Technical Growth Visionary: With this item I knew I was close to the core idea. Most of the remaining brainstorming ended up focusing on selecting the most meaningful words to capture this idea.
  7. Improve
  8. Coach
  9. Guide
  10. Professional Development
  11. Change Provocateur
  12. Change Agent
  13. Technical Improvements Leader
  14. Personal & Team Technical Growth Leader
  15. Services
  16. Software Development Services Leader
  17. Champion of Continuously Improving Software Development Services: This is the last draft version before the final version. It seems like a big jump from the prior items since both the words "Champion" and "Continuously" are introduced for the first time. I suspect I did some mental brainstorming prior to this item that I never wrote down.

The final version of my cool job title is Champion of Continuous Improvement of Software Development Services. This is a bit of a mouthful so I tend to shorten it to "Champion of Continuous Improvement". The clause "of Software Development Services" is still important, however, since it provides a scope or boundary for my continuous improvement activities. I deliberately restrict myself to the realm of software development where I am most motivated and have significant expertise, and exclude activities such as service delivery management, program management, and infrastructure support. I have the word "Services" on the end to avoid restricting myself to only software development activities such as coding or debugging. I deliberately wanted to include related activities such as quality assurance, project management, and enterprise architecture.

Now that I had my unofficial title, I found myself strongly motivated to make it as official as possible. My first step was to print out the title in large font and post it outside my cubicle. I then added it to my short term career goals and discussed it with my manager. One interesting comment I received from more than coworker was that the sign was unnecessary in the sense that they already knew that was what I did. I found this encouraging since it meant my title aligned well with my past actions.

Speaking about past activities, I was already chairing a process improvement group and leading a technical practices review – or at least trying to. My efforts in these areas had stagnated somewhat, due largely to a lack of clarity about an effective way to move forward. With my new title, however, the path forward became much clearer and my motivation much stronger. I transformed the process improvement group into a continuous improvement group and at the first meeting discussed the topic of championing continuous improvement. The discussion was spirited and the topic seemed to resonate with the other senior technical resources at that meeting. This provided me a boost of confidence that I was on the right track.

Another key step I took was to discuss my new title with my manager. Together we brainstormed various ideas regarding the next steps I could take and I began implementing the most promising ones. I was fortunate to have such a supportive manager since management support was essential.

At this point in time my road ahead as a Champion of Continuous Improvement was clear to me, and I felt that I had earned the title by my actions, both before and after I came up with it.

That is my story of how I became a Champion of Continuous Improvement. I plan to write further about my experiences as champion, and would love to hear from you concerning your experiences with continuous improvement, both good and bad.

If you find this article helpful, please make a donation.

«    »