Chapter 8 Summary: Inject Urgency

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What is DevOps?

What is DevOps?

DevOps is the continuous delivery of prioritised value to an organisation. For more click here.

Atlassian Fastrack

Post Highlight: This is a Summary of the “eighth” chapter of a book Daysha DevOps published titled 1Faat (one feature at a time). This chapter looks at the transition from waterfall to agile ways of working..

Transitioning from cumbersome project management to agile productivity entails overcoming resistance to change;

Consider the steps to be taken for a Waterfall Project to commence;

• Assess personnel and equipment needs for the upcoming project duration, estimated to be X months.
• Coordinate a meeting to finalize start dates and schedule teams using a Gantt chart.
• Establish a steering group and secure slots on the Change Advisory Board (CAB) schedule for release trains in X, X+1, and X+2 months.
• Gain consensus on the plan with the steering group and relevant department heads, detailing responsibilities through RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) matrices.
• Develop a Project Initiation Document outlining Risks, Assumptions, Issues, and Dependencies.
• Present project artifacts to the sponsor for approval and confirmation of the project’s start date.
• Collaborate with Finance to address any discrepancies in earlier approvals and acquire necessary project codes.

The lack of urgency in these tasks even if run in parallel fosters a culture of lethargy. The proposing team inflates estimates and contingencies to accommodate uncertainties, while reviewers aim to trim estimates and enforce strict deadlines, perpetuating a cycle of inefficient planning and leading to a similar patter when execution commences.

Due to the lengthy duration between project initiation and delivery where there are no regular ‘show and tell’s’ there’s a significant risk that business requirements may have evolved or shifted entirely during the project. While governance functions focus on ensuring adherence to the initial plan, there’s often a lack of measurement regarding the value delivered or the ongoing validity of the business case. In these scenarios, the synchronization of business and IT silos through governance structures often leads to a loss of focus on what truly matters: delivering customer value.

Despite potential derailments, individuals may hesitate to raise concerns or “pull an Andon Cord,” opting instead to concentrate solely on their individual responsibilities and concluding that their portion is progressing as intended rather than overall project success.

A notable example of the consequences of neglecting the Andon cord is Nokia’s failed attempt to transition their phone platform for the smartphone era, as outlined in Mik Kersten’s insightful book, “Project to Product.” Additionally, I’ve personally witnessed instances where projects persist despite being essentially “zombie projects,” either due to executive emotional attachment or reluctance to acknowledge failure.

By contrast, a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) should represent the validation of a hypothesis from the earlier discovery phase. A multidisciplinary team, including subject matter experts and a change specialist, work closely together to develop a small-scale, functional version of a hypothesis that is the core of the MVP.

This approach instills a sense of urgency. However, it requires empowered, self managing teams and adequate governance to ensure that ongoing work is:

a) Prioritized based on value, ensuring the right product is built.
b) Constructed optimally, ensuring the product is built correctly.
c) And for regulated business – compliant with existing and anticipated regulatory requirements.

Crucially, compliance checks should occur within the delivery team’s work cycles rather than through a separate compliance or security silo, which could disrupt team productivity. Pilot MVP teams can earn the opportunity to evolve into delivery teams through the Form-Storm-Norm-Perform process, allowing individuals to adapt to new collaborative ways of working together.

Progressing towards a 1FaaT™ approach depends on the level of automation in test and release processes. Once these automations are in place, engineers can deliver features to production as soon as the development(CD) is completed, enabling rapid testing of value propositions.

Business agility entails swiftly experimenting with new ideas and decisively adjusting investments based on outcomes. In this context, delivery teams are empowered to take the initiative on agreed-upon tasks minimising planning efforts beyond the next 6 – 8 weeks not the next 2 years. Since these tasks represent small bets, internal governance requirements are reduced, with customer feedback serving as the primary form of governance. Leaders focus on removing obstacles for teams rather than imposing barriers, fostering a sense of urgency by ensuring delivery teams encounter minimal wait times and can complete work without external dependencies within their two-week (sprint) timeframes.

For those accustomed to rule-based or power-oriented cultures, transitioning to this new approach to work may be concerning. The fear of owning failures stems from the worry of being scapegoated and innovative ideas being stifled. However, this apprehension can only be addressed through leading by example.

When mistakes occur, conducting blameless post-mortems is crucial. This involves conducting a root cause analysis, collaboratively devising solutions with the team to prevent recurrence, and empowering the delivery team to implement these solutions. Validating the effectiveness of these solutions with affected parties further reinforces trust.

By openly stating that blameless post-mortems are the standard procedure for handling errors and consistently following through on this commitment, leaders can gradually earn the trust of their teams.

It’s important not to fear losing existing staff who may be hesitant to embrace change. Instead, have a plan in place to capture their tacit knowledge. Delaying the extraction of tacit knowledge from reluctant individuals only kicks the can down the road.

To establish new ways of working as the standard, it’s crucial to maintain a clear understanding of what constitutes subpar practices(war stories) among colleagues. This ensures that enthusiasm for change remains high. The imperative to replace outdated processes with more urgent alternatives is fundamental to fostering the mindset necessary for organizations to deliver value rapidly.

Leaders play a pivotal role in removing obstacles that hinder team urgency, facilitating the transition towards more efficient and agile practices.

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