Are You Headed in the Right Direction with DevOps?
There is an interesting concept that I’ve explored over the past three years as a coach and product consultant for CNV1. That concept has tried to bridge the data between how much organizations are investing in Agile, DevOps and products that enable those practices, and their actual results on outcomes. We know that the common metric that private industry chases is profit; however, figuring out what metrics are key indicators that affect profit is a BIG struggle for many organizations. Even if those organizations figure out the right metrics to measure, they are commonly difficult to measure because of disparate processes and worse, poor culture.
There is a plethora of data on the subject and many books that suggest “how we are doing” and others that provide some great guidance to try to enable you (and hopefully your teams) to enable optimal behavior in your quest to transform your business and compete better with your competition. I would like to encourage you to stay learned on these subjects, and if interested in trying to find the right metrics and data, read books and reports that the DORA organization has published (i.e. Accelerate and each year’s State of DevOps reports).
If you are still with me, I would now like to focus us on the topic at hand: are we actually headed in the right direction? My perspective on this has changed in the last decade as we continue to see more organizations choose to start being Agile and doing DevOps. And I’ll admit, that my own “thought leadership” on the matter swings back and forth as more data is provided on what “Elite Performers” are doing to achieve excellent outcomes for their products. The real answer to the question is:
I know, how helpful of me to suggest this, but the data suggests this answer is correct. If we look at two key reports that have come out over the years, The State of DevOps Report by DORA and The CHAOS Report by The Standish Group, we can begin to paint a very interesting picture. The biggest one is this:
As organizations adopt DevOps, they are failing faster.
If this is true, the followup question that you typically will ask would be:
Is failing fast a good thing?
Well, if you sit back and think about the answer to that question, it depends again. It depends because you have a cognitive bias towards what failure actually implies. If we want to look at what elite performers do as reactions to failure, we will find that failure is merely a chance to learn or pivot. If we dig deeper, the reaction will most likely be biased based on sunk costs and culture. While I cannot help you determine how sunk costs should be handled here, I do want to address the culture of your teams and organizations.
Let’s be frank. Most of you reading this do not work for organizations that you would classify as having a Generative Culture (please see Ron Westrum’s culture model).
Why is that important to the failure topic? Because generative cultures have individual contributors and leaders who are unified on their organizational goals, the metrics to measure outcomes and therefore have key performance indicators to help them know if their failures are healthy. This leads them to be able to embrace the six indicators of that healthy culture.
Let’s add another dimension to this discussion. Are your Agile and DevOps transformations working well together? The anecdotal evidence that I have collected over the past three years, is that they typically are pretty disparate. This has many facets and dimensions in and of itself, but as an industry we must begin to focus on bridging these two transformation movements, as one of them is really just an extension of the other (DevOps extends Agile). Imagine building the capability of Agile working well together with DevOps in your organizations. We are pioneering a discipline called Value Stream Management that seeks to provide solutions with products and services to help you achieve the capability of being Agile and doing DevOps, together, in your organization.
In the age of digital transformation, we are seeing just how much money companies are willing to spend to fend off disrupters from capturing their business. It’s really time to ask yourselves whether you are ready to make the financial, political and personal investments to build a generative culture and bridging Agile and DevOps with Value Stream Management.
I have no doubt that you and your team and your organization will begin heading in the optimal direction if you focus on relentless improvement of your culture while working to improve your products.