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5 Best practices for developing a culture of continuous improvement

Aaron Lober

How do you create a great engineering team? Exclusively hire brilliant, tenured computer science PhDs. There we solved it. You can skip the next 400 words.

(I can hear my college professor in my head saying “Humor might not be your strong suit”)

Building a great engineering team isn’t easy. Understatement of the year. It’s not even a problem to be solved per se. We need to think about it as preparation to solve an infinite set of constantly evolving problems. The key is optimizing for adaptability. The meta skill of learning how to adapt to new problems is an infinitely more valuable attribute for engineering teams than any single set of domain expertise. 

If you want to optimize your team for adaptability, there is no more powerful methodology than cultivating a culture of continuous improvement. At Blameless, we believe when properly managed, incidents can be a powerful tool for establishing a culture of continuous improvement within an engineering organization.

One of the key benefits of proper incident management in this respect is that it provides an opportunity for organizations to learn, in real time, from their mistakes. Taking steps to understand contributing factors can expose areas within the system where improvements can be made. Doing a retrospective (post-mortem) analysis of the incident, in which the organization looks at all of the factors that contributed to the incident is an ideal way to do that. This can help teams identify ways to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

By continuously improving its processes and systems, an engineering organization can reduce the impact of its incidents and the number of repeat incidents. This helps to improve the overall reliability and stability of the organization's systems and can lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.

In order to effectively establish a culture of continuous improvement through incident management, there are a few key practices that organizations should follow.

  1. Establish clear incident management processes and procedures: It is important for organizations to have clear processes and procedures in place for managing incidents. This should include guidelines for how to identify, triage, and resolve incidents, as well as how to communicate with stakeholders about the incident.
  1. Foster a culture of openness and transparency: When an incident occurs, it is important for organizations to be open and transparent about what happened and what steps are being taken to resolve the issue. This helps to build trust with stakeholders and demonstrates that the organization is committed to continuous improvement.
  1. Encourage a proactive approach to problem solving: Rather than simply reacting to incidents as they occur, organizations should encourage a proactive approach to problem solving. This can involve regularly reviewing incident retrospectives and pulling tickets to address causes into your planned work. 
  1. Invest in tools and technologies to support incident management: There are a variety of tools and technologies that can help organizations manage incidents more effectively. This can include dedicated incident management software, which allows organizations to track and manage incidents in real-time, as well as monitoring and analytics tools that can help identify issues before they become major problems.
  1. Encourage a continuous learning culture. HEAVY emphasis on encourage: Incidents provide organizations with an opportunity to learn and improve. You can lose that opportunity by punishing or shaming employees for mistakes or knowledge gaps. If organizations want a culture of continuous improvement in which employees are encouraged to share their insights with the rest of the organization and learn from incidents, THEY NEED TO ENCOURAGE IT.

By continuously identifying and addressing issues as they occur, your organization can improve the reliability and stability of your systems and provide a higher level of service to their customers. This, in turn, can lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty, as well as improved business performance. Or you can just hire more computer science PhDs.

If you want to learn more about how Blameless can help your team establish a culture of continuous improvement, start a free trial today!

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