Friction Fridays

Tony Yates

At VIX Digital we have multiple clients often with different priorities and needs, this can lead to context switching between issues and the way that things have been solved can often cause confusion and friction for the team(s).

One of the things I love to do is find friction and reduce it, preferably removing it altogether. I keep thinking about this friction stuff in delivery trying to understand why it is what it is? If we take the definition of friction, “theresistance that one surface or object encounters when moving over another”, and apply it to software development the two surfaces could generally be classified as progress over time.

Therefore we need to reduce the friction to increase progress over time, but how?

Firstly friction shows itself in many guises, but the easiest friction to spot is one where there is a multi step process to follow and it’s either difficult to find the documentation, it’s out of date or it doesn’t exist at all and is passed on through word of mouth. These are the things that bring frustration to peoples daily work and harm productivity and is the low hanging fruit that should be tackled, your company will be all the better for it, more efficient and able to respond to clients quicker.


Treating Your Company like a Product Focusses the Mind on Making It Incrementally Better.

User research is often described as a team sport and while it is easy to focus on users of your products, it’s often overlooked that your company is a product too. Strategy can be important for defining where you are going as a company but often focusses on a utopia that is too far in the distance to give immediate benefits. Creating the environment that enables continuous company improvement shows your team that you care about the work they do and making their roles fulfilling by giving them meaningful work not repetitively frustrating them.

We made the decision to capture friction in our friction log which is basically a normal backlog of items that cause problems and need to be addressed. There’s no blame and potential solutions aren’t captured as it’s important we capture the friction itself and look at ways of resolving that together. We can see visibly on the friction backlog wether we are improving or staying still.

On a Friday we dedicate half an hour to looking at the friction backlog and identify the items that have the biggest value and time requirements. Obviously the ones that have the biggest value and lowest time commitment are addressed first and then the prioritisation after that is a discussion. In turn we each agree to committing one item of friction by the next weeks get together, this approach ensures we are continuously improving our company and our approach to making things better.

These are the kinds of things that are typically ignored but have significant impact when resolved.

Friction Fridays Table

While the concept of continuous improvement and capturing issue in a backlog isn’t unique, this purpose driven company as a product improvement methodology is already giving us great rewards. In the words of Stephen R. Covey - we are sharpening the saw.

We hope you enjoy our Friction Fridays approach, we’d love to hear if you have similar approached to company/team improvement.

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