At work, we are all familiar with the feeling of not knowing where to start when new tasks are given to us. For team members of Amihan’s Sustaining Engineering Group (SEG), this happens quite often due to the influx of new technologies we need to work with. This has required the team to keep a healthy balance of flexibility and resilience while adjusting to the changing needs of clients and establishing repeatable processes.
This is where one of SEG’s tenets comes in handy. The Continuous Improvement tenet dictates that the team and its members have the potential to improve beyond their current capacities. It encompasses several areas: skills, process, communication and generally, how we deliver our services.
Continuous Improvement in a Nutshell
There are different frameworks for Continuous Improvement in the IT Industry. The Kaizen method, for example, outlines a problem-solution-centric approach that promotes standardization. SEG defines Continuous Improvement as a continuous cycle of three components: Do, Learn, and Prescribe. The following text that describes each component is taken from the SEG Playbook:
The team should exemplify willingness to improve in all aspects including but not limited to processes, task execution efficiency, technical know-how, and fostering a good working environment.
The following diagram shows the core values of Continuous Improvement. All engagements should be in an endless loop of Do-Learn-Prescribe. Mistakes should first and foremost be treated as learning opportunities and a chance of doing better. Questions or escalations should be taken as individuals’ own initiative of self-improvement.
Each member of the team should exercise due diligence in performing all tasks whether technical or non-technical. The team must follow prescribed procedures or act in the best interest of all stakeholders if no prescribed processes are in place.
By nature, most tasks assigned to the team are based on incidents and mistakes. It is therefore fundamental that processes are put in place to make resolutions repeatable and improve upon the previous mistakes. This can be done by continuously creating KB documents, holding Retrospective meetings, and in general, placing feedback mechanisms for each of the team members to know Best Practices.
The team as a whole should be able to come up with prescribed processes and best practices. Enforcement is a responsibility by all members with the leads acting as governing bodies. Actual written documents should be available for guidance to everyone. Best practices should also be shared outside the team to help improve the whole organization.
Continuous Improvement in Action
SEG still has a long way to go before becoming a mature business unit within Amihan. But this is not to say that we’re not on track to becoming more established and effective. Efforts to optimize processes have already yielded some results.
- Team Engagement. It pays to know that you are being heard. More team members have voiced out suggestions and personal concerns. They are learning tech that they have not been exposed to before. Due to our efforts to be open and transparent, we are able to escalate issues promptly with leads and members of other teams chiming in to resolve them.
- Process Improvement. Many of our processes have been documented and have gone through iterations. Some are in the works and have shown positive outcomes, including access management, hardware inventory, and the tracking of contracts and licenses. Step-by-step processes will become guides and eventually, a culture of compliance to standard procedures will be established. We have also started incorporating elements from industry standards for service delivery to our current processes.
- Documentation. As important as being able to know how to execute tasks is being able to document them for future reference. This is an integral part of Prescribe, as each document becomes the basis to execute tasks. From How To’s to Operations Manuals, the team has found the importance of having written documentation to be able to guide others, especially the more junior team members and clients. Oftentimes, members surprise themselves when their notes become useful in re-executing tasks.
- Feedback Mechanisms. It is necessary for the team to discover and discuss opportunities for growth. SEG leadership actively looks for these opportunities not just internally but with clients as well. Feedback from stakeholders, management, leads and peers are key to doing better in the future. Discussion sessions are two-way, with junior members being asked how leads and senior members can support them better.
Guided by the quote “You can’t improve what you don’t measure”, SEG is dedicated to prioritizing the quality of the services we provide by putting in place qualitative and quantitative metrics that indicate the success of what we do.
Ultimately, the goal is for everyone in the team to have a discerning eye for areas of improvement. SEG has a lot of room for growth and maturity and input from anyone is more than welcome. We shall continue to emulate industry best practices and provide suggestions for the betterment of the whole organization.
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Julius Borja is the Director for Sustaining Engineering and leads the Sustaining Engineering Group at Amihan. In his free time, he likes to swim for exercise and considers Karaoke his happy place. He is also a casual MCU fan.