Continuous (Self) Improvement Practices

Continuous (Self) Improvement Practices

I’ve been making blog entries recently about how to improve (my) life as a systems engineer. In line with this goal, I am reading and watching talks as much as I can to learn about how to be better, and eventually become the Tech Lead I want to be. In the article and video resources that I have consumed so far, I noticed patterns about self-improvement and how to make it continuous. Try to check these practices and see how you can apply them to help yourself improve.

Improvement Kata

One pattern is the Kata – a discipline where you repeat a seemingly static set of actions and incorporate those actions into what you consider “the normal” way of acting on things. When you can do it intuitively, you can then incorporate new actions to improve what you can already do. In a practice called the Improvement Kata, you have the following components:

  • Vision – your goal, where you want to be in the future.
  • Current Condition – this is where you are (usually associated with a problem to solve).
  • Target Condition – a milestone towards your Vision.
  • Next Steps – the actions necessary to get to the Target Condition.

Everytime you achieve the target condition, it is now time to move on to the next step and update the components to guide you in improving.

In Kua and Peterson’s talk on Tech Leadership they came across the acronym G.R.O.W. which means Goals, Reality, Options, and Work. It’s the same with the Kata’s components. Goals can be the Vision, Reality is your Current condition, Options are the Target conditions that you want to satisfy, and finally Work is similar to Next steps while incorporating a call to action.

Another article that I’ve read was about gamifying life which was explained by Louise on her blog post The Epic Life Manifesto. She talks about game-specific components like character pages (Current Condition, working towards your Vision), skill trees (multiple, arranged Target Conditions), quest logs (steps taken), and rule document.

Learning Space and Performance Space

Another noticeable pattern in the materials I read and watched was the importance of having a place for growth. I liked how Eduardo Briceño presented it in a very clear way in his TED talk on How to get better at the things you care about. He explained why we need a Learning space (low-stakes environment where you can perform deliberate practice) and how to use it to prepare for the Performance space (high-stakes environment where you want to minimize mistakes) like workplace, school, or an event.

For environments that have limited allowance for a Learning space, he suggested that we create small areas for some Learning space within the Performance space. As a developer, this can be done by setting aside time to study or review some parts of a codebase while waiting for tests to finish or reading a technical book on lunch break.


I have experienced using the Improvement Kata and I can say that it was effective not only for myself but for the team as well. It’s time you try them too and see how they can improve you.

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