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Scenario: Progress iteratively with feedback

Section of white computer keyboard on white table with coffee cup and coaster, clipboard, propelling pencil, marbled mapand bullbog clips

Scene 1: The work area.

Brent, the famous systems engineer from the Phoenix Project, is sitting behind his laptop – which is covered with DevOps enterprise summit stickers. On the wall behind him is a poster of the new corporate values ‘We delight our customers’ is one of the values. The posters were made by HR to support the IT Director’s Agile Transformation Culture initiative.  The poster is almost hidden behind a large pot plant discarding curled dead brown leaves. The plant clearly hasn’t seen any water for many days.  Probably the poster hasn’t been looked at in a long time too. There is an empty ‘[email protected]’ pizza box in the corner of the room, a left over from a Lunchtime team meeting.

There is a DevOps team poster also hanging on the dividing wall between Brent and the open plan area. The team name ‘Ka-Ching’ is on the top of the poster. Beneath this is the team purpose ‘Fir$t time right trump$ time to fail’ in bright green letters. The ‘$’ sign to signify the team’s connection to the retail product line. On the bottom half of the poster was the team’s interpretation of the 3 ways of DevOps, stating ‘FLOW’, ‘FEEDBACK’, ‘FAIL FAST and LEARN’. The IT Director wasn’t so impressed with the word ‘FAIL’ being so prominently displayed as a team intention!

The lunchtime meeting had been attended by the Product owner for a retail website application in which the latest ‘feature’ was prioritized, the Scrum/Agile coach also attended the meeting to coach the team on running a stand-up meeting. The Business Relationship Manager (BRM) for retail was also at the meeting going on about a ‘value map’ or some such thing, as too was the ITIL4 Service manager, responsible for the new ‘retail incident-to-restore service value stream’ who wanted to talk about problem management - adding to the list of problems that Brent and his DevOps team colleagues had to deal with.

Scene 2: The coffee machine.

On the notice board by the coffee machine are the latest ITIL ‘Guiding principles’ which the IT manager thought were a good idea to hang up to support the Agile transformation initiative.

Progress iteratively with feedback’, one of the guiding principles from ITIL4 had been splattered with coffee and read as ‘*r*gress iteratively’. It looks like ‘Regress iteratively’, which seems quite appropriate, thought the HR manager sipping a cardboard beaker of steaming vanilla flavored coffee.

Standing with the HR manager is the IT Director, who is concerned that the Agile transformation is taking too long with teams struggling at different levels of maturity. The IT director has told the teams on numerous occasions that they are ‘empowered’ to experiment and ‘Do DevOps’. Sometimes the blank team stares he sees reminds him of rabbits caught in the headlights. If they don’t improve soon they will be run over by the unstoppable transformation juggernaut thought the IT Director, eying suspiciously the grey-brown liquid posing as coffee in his plastic beaker.

Next to the IT Director is the Product owner who is getting a little tired of the Service manager going on about SLAs and open tickets. As far as the Product owner is concerned it is all about getting the business ‘features’ out fast. All this ITIL stuff seems to be deliberately engineered to slow things down and create more bureaucracy, and now the Service manager is trying to convince everybody that ITIL4 is the answer! To add to this the Product manager now has a BRM who keeps wanting to attend team meetings to talk about value maps.

Standing to one side of the coffee machine is the Agile coach who is still concerned about the way the team communicates. The stand-ups are still littered with ‘yehbuts’ and assumptions, and there still seem to be too many defects rolling out into production. The Agile coach thumps the coffee machine that doesn’t seem to want to release into production.

The BRM, standing next to the ITIL Service manager, is concerned about the Product owner's focus on ‘features’ rather than ‘business outcomes’, and at the same time the BRM is concerned about the ‘Internally focused’ ITIL practices that pump out lots of metrics that have no relationship to business impact. The BRM wants the whole team to understand about ‘value creation’ such as the features that need to lead to a better customer experience and improved business outcomes, and ‘value leakage’ such as outages causing poor customer satisfaction and ultimately damaging customer loyalty and growth!

The ITIL Service manager, nursing a half full – or is it half empty – beaker of bitter expresso, is worried about the ‘them and us’ attitude between the DevOps team and the ITIL practice owners, one concern being the unnecessary duplication of information between Jira and Service Now, another being the lack of attention given to the backlog of Incidents, many of them seem repeat Incidents that could have been avoided. The DevOps teams don’t seem to be taking their role in the ‘Incident-to-restore value stream’ very seriously.

Next to this huddle around the coffee machine is the Ka-Ching team ‘visual management board’, with the latest feature hanging on the top of the so called ‘sprint backlog’. At the bottom under ‘impediments’ is one sticker ‘JIRA/ServiceNow mismatches’ – nothing more. Across the hall next to the bean-bag stool is the CSI (Continual Service Improvement) register hung up by the Service manager a few months ago. The end column on the register is ‘Impact on Value, Outcomes, Costs, Risks’? The only entry on the board is ‘automate SLA reporting’ with impact ‘reduce time and costs making reports’.

Scene 3: Action speaks louder than words

The coffee machine huddle all together see Brent, the systems engineer, pick up a direct call from an angry retail customer. The angry customer saying if this issue happens again it could seriously impact end user satisfaction. It also means lost revenue because no orders can be made. Brent moans ‘this should be solved by the database specialist’. It was an error that should have been picked up by the DB specialist in the test, thinks Brent. It is the third time this has happened in the last two months. Brent solves the issue with a flurry of key strokes and loudly proclaims ‘Ka-Ching’ as he presses send. He then goes on with his work. An engineer in the team sees Brent solve the issue one more time and says ‘Captain America to the rescue again’. The DB specialist walks past carrying a tray with 4 empty stained coffee cups, and calls out ‘Hey Brent are you going to that Phoenix Project simulation game this afternoon’?

Nah’ says Brent ‘Got too much stuff to catch up on’.

 What happens next? What should happen next? Who does what?

This is all about individual attitudes, individual and team behaviours and cultural values that drive corporate wide behaviors…or not!

Describe your scenario of what happens next and comment below!

Current rating: 4.7 (3 ratings)


21 Mar 2019 Jakob Diness
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Excellent reading. Very nerdy in a good way.

A sort of continuation:

I wonder if Brent need to go to Continuous sleeping phase, since he is still playing a hero, thougth DB Dan.

"We do not have hero´s in DevOps", he yelled in the hallway.

"No, but we do have the opposite", replied Brent to the DB specialist.

Meanwhile the the Ka-Ching team thought about applying Automatic pay-rise to the Employment pipeline product, that they were working on, which management did not entirely agreed upon - but hey, they had no say since the team was very autonomous in their decision-making.
23 Mar 2019 Mr Fabulous
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Scene 4: IT manager gets an epiphany!

The IT manager, who considers himself a wise man, realizes that he has put a lot of prestige in his Agile initiative and that he has forgotten a lot of things he actually knows are important for a transformation and value creation. He will stop pushing for the agile transformation himself and hand responsibility for the Agile concept over to one of the Architects.
After consulting some other experienced colleagues and a consultant he trusts, he decides that the first persons to change must be himself and his management team. They are not enabling the potential in their organisation and must act differently compared to what they did before. (Darn, do I need to change myself? Can't everyone els change instead)
He calls his management team to a meeting and discusses what the desired behavior we need looks like. The management team feels strengthened by the discussion but are worried they don’t have enough knowledge how to handle all the different opinions, culture and strong personalities they have in the organization.

- Everyone is just pushing their own agenda all the time, the Operations Team leader says! I don’t have the knowledge or time to handle this!

The IT manager gets a little irritated over his comment!
– You are not showing me a desired behavior right know. As a Team manager your job is to take time for your staff and enable, motivate and support them! If you have an issue with that and you need support with this you and I need to have a talk about priorities!
I will arrange a continuous leadership training program for the entire management team – including myself, and we must start acting as modern leaders.
We have a lot of models, methods and frameworks as tools for doing the right and good stuff for our customers, none of the models will solve our problems, our staff will solve our problems with the use of them, we must take our responsibility as management team. We need to be better in guiding, supporting and motivating our staff to use the tools available to create value for our customers.

Scene 5: Benefits (Consequences??) of the leadership training program

What happens next? Benifits, results or consequences of the continuous leadership training program? Is the light in the tunnel the end or the train coming?
24 Mar 2019 Paul Wilkinson
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This is a comment from William Harrison left on my Linkedin Post relating to this blog:

"...Expanding on this topic is good Paul Wilkinson...thanks for making the effort. Feedback only works if there is a loop to it. Otherwise they [the feedback] are just comments that disappear once shared. If an organization does not enable the feedback loop, then to offer feedback could be a career ending move. In other words, feedback only adds value when the environment and those within it are open to it and desire it...and then it becomes constructive to growth and improvement. In the scenario you shared, the company certainly needs feedback; however, no one is empowered to initiate it...."
24 Mar 2019 Paul Wilkinson
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This is a comment left by Christophe De Boeck keft on my Linkedin Post relating to this blog:

"....Paul, I think what we need next is a good old crisis of some sorts. A multitude of bad things coming together like Brent having to leave immediately for his kid was taken to the hospital at the same time that the senior DBA is attending a dentist appointment and just at that moment several systems stop working because certificates hadn't been renewed.

In your scenario, I don't see anyone providing feedback now (or they would have done that already) and the only way these actors will stop, think and learn is if disaster strikes very hard. It is quite a coincidence that my follow up presentation on "diary of a servant leader" that I am working on will be titled "serving with feedback". I will keep you informed of the progress....."
31 Mar 2019 Kay Bickell
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I have to be honest first thing I'd be inclined to do, is promise to get a new coffee machine the minute they put their heads together to figure out a way they can all start moving in the same direction. And promise to remove the coffee machine altogether if they don't start communicating with each other by end of the day :)

Harsh, but surprisingly effective!
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