Thomson Reuters Development Excellence Dojo: The Journey Begins

Mandy Simpson Coaching, DevJam News, News

There’s a grand experiment in learning going on in the lower level of the Thomson Reuter’s Eagan campus. For context, last year, a group at Thomson Reuters was tasked with identifying best practices for software product development. They called themselves “Development Excellence”. Simply coming up with those best practices wasn’t enough. They also needed to develop a way to efficiently and effectively teach product teams these practices. The overarching goal for Development Excellence was to arrive at a curriculum and knowledge transferal process that could be used to transform the Thomson Reuters Enterprise in the use of modern and consistent development practices.

Along the journey, DevJam coaches played an important role as the Development Excellence team’s go-to experts for both external product agility coaching as well as guidance adopting the concept of a learning dojo. Thomson Reuters also took time to tour the dojo learning environment that Target has used to great success.

If you are not familiar, the term “dojo” is taken from the martial arts context where students come to a physical location to be instructed by teachers to attain skill mastery. In Thomson Reuter’s case, the dojo is a six-week immersive learning program that has product teams work on their real-world business problems while being coached to apply Lean, Agile, and DevOps practices. New skills are learned and internalized through constant repetition during short 2-day iterations.

Why 2-day iterations you might ask? In truth, the requirement is that the teams complete two iterations per week. It could be they agree to two 2.5 day iterations, or a 3-day and a 2-day one per week, or two 2-day iterations with a day set aside for other work activities. The intent is to create a working environment that enables quickly reinforced learning so that as time progresses in the dojo, the team members internalize what they are being taught. It essentially becomes muscle memory for them. The short iterations also make problematic behaviors, e.g. poor story writing, surface sooner and much more difficult to mask or ignore. Furthermore, short iterations encourage the team to experiment more (take more risks) and to learn (quickly) from those experiments and to receive timely feedback on the outcome of their work.

One of Ed Tilford’s – lead of the Development Excellence team – favorite participant quotes taken from the dojo so far speaks to one of the many benefits of using short iterations; “The dojo 2-day iteration is forcing me to ask questions – if this were a two-week iteration I would have spent much longer. I wouldn’t have gotten farther in a two-week iteration”. For certain, it’s uncomfortable learning to adapt to 2-day iterations but the payout is worth the investment.

The Development Excellence team is in the very early stages of learning how to run a dojo. To date, a total of three product teams have come into the dojo, with one of those teams having just completed their six-week journey. The Development Excellence team expects to run six teams through before the end of the year. For 2018, they expect to continue teaching teams in Eagan in a dedicated space with an additional focus on starting up other dojos in other strategic TR sites.

In Ed Tilford’s words: “I want to extend my personal gratitude to the teams that have volunteered to take part in our trialing of the dojo. Your enthusiasm and candid feedback has been greatly appreciated. We on the Development Excellence team have perhaps learned as much from all of you as you have from us. Closing out, this derived quote from the Chinese philosopher Xun Kuang is a favorite of mine as it speaks to the greater benefits of experiential learning that form the heart of the dojo. “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn. – Xun Kuang””

Contact us to further explore the dojo concept and learn how it may help your team(s).