The Target Dojo
The Dojo is Target's unique immersive learning center approach to build new or improving Product, Lean, Agile, and Technology muscles. Teams leave their normal workings space and come down to the Dojo for a period of time to accomplish two goals.
First, deliver on their current work while in the Dojo. Teams do not build fake applications, instead they focus on their real-world product work, deliver against their backlog, and add value to their customer.
Second, learn how to acquire and develop long-standing skills. Learning is essential to the Target culture and to keeping up with the ever changing world of technology. Teams must be willing to commit to learning and accepting that they may need to slow down to accelerate the learning.
These two goals are essential to come into the Dojo to continue to deliver value, but also to learn something new or improve a current skill.
The need to change
No doubt you’ve heard it in the news. Amazon and online growth is exploding, security breaches are practically commonplace and mobile apps are changing faster than you can say Pokémon Go. In order to stay competitive, Target had to change how we deliver Technology Solutions. Like all large companies that grew up in the industrial age, we were relying on old methods like capital planning and waterfall management to run our business. If we want to survive and thrive we had to embrace a new mindset and build a new culture.
How do you change the mindset and culture of an entire organization with thousands of employees? You can’t just conduct a training sessions and run through a few computer-based-learning modules. We have over 400 teams to transform and generations of culture to unlearn. We had to change how we learn and we had to go big.
Enter the Dojo… "The place of the way"
Based on the Japanese places of learning, the Target Dojo was built as an environment where teams can enter an immersive learning experience focusing on Product, Lean, Agile, and DevOps mindset as well as learning new capabilities such as APIs, UX, Cloud, Containerization and so on. Gone are the cubes that isolate. Instead teams sit around large tables surrounded by white boards and large TV monitors that encourage sharing, discussions, even arguments, but always with a focus on collaboration and growing. The space is also specifically designed to get people out of their old environment and break their old patterns.
More than space, the Dojo is about access to people with a variety of skills. The Dojo is staffed with a team of Agile/Product and Technical coaches to help teams truly learn and use the skills and values they need to succeed. When each team enters the Dojo, they are assigned an Agile/Product coach to help them learn Product, Lean, Agile, and DevOps mindsets and practices, including self-organization, prioritization, outcomes and more. Technical coaches are also assigned to sit side-by-side with teams to help them learn the new technologies they need to build and run their product. Whether it’s a continuous integration, continuous delivery, automated testing, cloud tools such as Kubernetes or Docker containerization, the tech coaches tailor the experience to help the team get up to speed many times faster than they could on their own.
The Dojo focuses on learning the full spectrum of skills including product definition, product discovery, application design, application development, production pipeline, automation, test-driven-development, logging and monitoring, and more. It is truly a fully immersive experience to show how all these pieces work together to create a new way of delivering a product. Yes, the learning curve is steep, but teams emerge from the Dojo with stronger skills and a new confidence to sustain the momentum going forward. A team may not be able to learn everything they need in one experience, therefore teams may have several experiences in the Dojo, learning and delivering something new each time.
The 30 day challenge
The most popular offering in the Dojo is the 30-day challenge. A team enters the Dojo for 6 weeks (30 work days) with a real-world goal (like creating a new app). However, completing the goal is secondary to the challenge. The primary goal is to help the team learn some new skills, rooted in the mindsets that are important to Target. The drive to learn in a hyper-paced environment is the key. Where a typical sprint is 1 - 2 weeks, in the Dojo, they are 2 days. This intense pace helps teams quickly organize, break down the work, realize success and build muscle memory so they can take their new skills with them when the challenge is over.
That’s the story… so far
We’ve made great progress so far, but there is more to do. Since the Dojo started we have added new services such as including non-technology teams, Product workshops, flexible formats to Challenges, and even a new support form called “Yellow Brick Road” to helps teams identify exactly what they need to learn as well as to start leveraging other teams like security, cloud platform, and architecture. It takes courage and risk to admit what has worked in the past will not work in the future, but we are always driving to learn, to grow and to change.