Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Explaining the DevOps Hype

I recently did a deep dive into DevOps to create a DevOps Foundation training. I thought it would be an uneventful journey, but while doing some research to complement my own experience I uncovered something much bigger than what I was prepared for. As if there suddenly was this major unavoidable thing popping up in front of me (“this is no moon, this is …a space station!”).

It’s only common sense!?

Having worked with agile for quite a while, my view on DevOps was basically this: DevOps is about delivering the right service/product by shortening and improving the communication channels and feedback loops between the different units, teams and specialists in a value stream. In other words, e.g. “Infra” and “sec” must be involved from the start, operations engineers have as much excellent input from day one than any other application engineer and everyone must be involved to maintain and evolve the service/product. 

Wake up! There is more a Stake here!

While this is true, what really surprised me was how much deeper the DevOps movement goes: DevOps is far more than an alternative mindset, it really encompasses the work culture you must adopt if you want to be successful in the cloud. And, as there is a cloud in your future (whether you like it or not), it means that you will be working with DevOps or you will not work at all! 

This is how I see it: DevOps is the re-writing of the IT services development and maintenance handbooks so that the services can be fit for the cloud. 

This is worth looking further into, so let me elaborate on that a moment. 

From the Enterprise to the Cloud

To understand what is happening, I strongly recommend you watch Mary Poppendieck´s fantastic talk “The Future of Software Development” (Berlin’s GoTo Conference, November 2016). She summarizes the evolution of our industry from “the Enterprise” model (golden age in the 90’s) to Internet/“the Cloud”. Mary is always excellent, but this must be the most insightful talk I have seen about our industry, by large, go and watch it now! I have created two figures that try to summarize some of her key points (directly extracted from Aim 4 Knowledge’s “DevOps Foundation”). 

 Figure 1: the forces pushing for the cloud (click for larger)

Figure 2: DevOps as a reaction to these forces (click for larger)

These two figures summarize the forces behind the emergence of DevOps (Why DevOps?), and the DevOps main components as a result (Infrastructure as code, Micro Services, Cross-functional teams, automation, feedback, continuous delivery and resilience engineering).

In Figure 2 you only see the result (DevOps emerging), but it is interesting to understand how it came to be: the real engine of transformation has been the survival instincts of the people in Dev and Ops. The existing development and maintenance handbooks (ITIL, PM body of knowledge, etc.) were fit for the Enterprise model and cannot cope with the level of scaling, complexity, and speed needed in the cloud. This made it unsustainable for the people tasked to develop and maintain these services. Quite bluntly, they had to adapt and re-invent the handbooks or quit (utterly dejected in the process). So, they pulled in everything that could help: agile, lean, automation, modern management methods, etc. The result is an adapted handbook, and its appropriate culture, that is “fit for purpose” (effective and sustainable) for the cloud. We call it “DevOps”.

Wait, should I throw out everything I’ve learned because it is not fit for the Cloud?

Well, yes and no! I believe that the way the practices and taught and communicated are more at fault than their essence. Take for example the ITIL. The way ITIL is described, taught and implemented is very much anchored in the Enterprise model. Control is established by having many loosely-coupled processes, slow by design, implemented by-the-letter in silos. It is not surprising then that the very people that should be helped by these processes are the first to reject them once scale, speed and complexity are cranked up. Therefore, ITIL is proven to “not work” with DevOps. Well, on the contrary, we need it more than ever! But it should be reformed, adapted to better fit this new context we are rushing headlong into. We must change the way it is described, taught and implemented. Thankfully, there are efforts to make this happen, for example with Gene Kim staunchly defending ITIL for DevOps, or Pelle Råstock with his lightweight and service-centered TRIM model.

Re-write your own Handbook, Now!

Go and learn what DevOps is about, for real. Don’t go for tool vendor X’s “we have you covered” sales pitch. DevOps is much more than tools: it is about re-writing your service/product creation and maintenance handbooks. This requires new practices that are fit for the cloud. These require new ways of thinking and new mindsets: a new culture! As you can imagine this will take some time. 

As everything accelerates, my advice to you is: start now!

Friday, March 10, 2017

10 Tips on How To Best Start your Kanban Journey

Are you thinking to start using Kanban but are unsure how and where to start? Here are 10 tips to help you get going on your Kanban journey!

1. Start with a small “Team”

An easy way to gain experience with Kanban is to introduce it to a team that already delivers a well-understood service. These teams usually have a clear purpose, goals, and customers, which makes creating a meaningful Kanban system easier. It is also easier to start with small teams (2-8 persons) than bigger ones. For example, a small project team, an application maintenance team, a small function (process managers, operation, communication, etc.).
(The coach’s comments) Kanban delivers spectacular results (100-700% efficiency increase) when applied to whole value streams involving several teams, functions and specialists. But You’ll need to get some Kanban experience under your belt before venturing there. For the moment focus on a single existing team.

2. Make sure the Team’s lead or manager is on board

The team’s lead/manager must want to introduce Kanban. This is the most important person as he/she is setting the tone for all other team members. If the team-lead does not understand the benefits, is skeptical or against, then don’t bother and look for another team as you will waste everybody’s time, including your own.
(The coach’s comments) You may want to have separated preparation meetings with the team-lead to get buy-in. 

3. Make the team’s purpose clear

Clarity of purpose is key for succeeding with improvements in general and with Kanban in particular. A meaningful Kanban system can only be created when the purpose is clear. So before introducing Kanban, the team should be able to answer the questions: “What service(s) are we providing, to whom?” and “When do we succeed?”. This step is included in the Kanban Kick-start workshop.
(The coach’s comments) Not all organization groups - especially in larger organizations - have a common purpose. Groups are usually put together to manage people. Kanban can be used to bring clarity to those groups as well but it requires more coaching effort, so let them on the side for the moment and focus on smaller service-focused teams.

4. Start where you are

Start where you are” is one of the main principles of the Kanban method. Done correctly, introducing Kanban should create very little friction and almost no resistance to change. Make sure that you follow this principle too by not introducing anything new when adopting Kanban: no new ways of working, new roles, meetings, interfaces or artifacts. Just focus on making the current way of working clear and explicit.
(The coach’s comments) This is plenty enough as a first step, as team members often realize that they have been working very differently all along and need to agree on a common way of working. This may be a change in itself for some team members, but it usually does not create resistance as it comes from the team. After some time, the team will have a much better understanding about how the work works. The team itself will then propose some changes to its own way-of-working (and, yes, that’s totally OK to do the change then!).

5. Establish Pull

Actually, there is one important change to make a.s.a.p: to adopt Pull!
When starting with Kanban, “Pull” is mainly about letting team members pull ready-work when they have capacity, instead of having the manager pushing work onto individuals (regardless of how much work-in-progress they have). In effect, this rule removes a lot of the micro-management from the manager and gives it to the team. This may require a difficult behavioral change for some managers.
(The coach’s comments) Discuss this with the manager on beforehand and make sure to participate to the Kanban meetings to give feedback and support. Eventually “Pull” will encompass other aspects like balancing demand with capacity, replenishment policies, making demands refutable and flow efficiency. But, you have time to get there.

6. Give the team the authority it needs

Kanban is about making the team fully aware and in control of its work. It allows the team to assume full responsibility. For this to succeed, the team must have the authority it needs to decide about its own way of working. It must be up to the team, not the manager or anyone else, to decide the rules and policies about how to handle work.
(The coach’s comments) Of course, this must happen within the boundaries set by the organization (legal, safety, etc.).

7. Make everything explicit and transparent

The key to success with Kanban is to give everyone (team members, customers, and stakeholders) a perfect understanding about the current situation, policies, and past performance (statistics). Everyone should be able to provide input - based on facts - to the question “what is the smartest thing to do for us right now?”.
(The coach’s comments) Makes this as visual, and accessible, as possible (think “stickies in the corridor”).

8. Keep it simple

Regardless of how much time you’ve spend creating your Kanban system, it will be wrong. It’s only by using the system that you will be able to make it right. So, do not spend too much time upfront (keep it simple), start early and keep adapting.
(The coach’s comments) The team will soon realize that “the board doesn’t work anymore!”. That is excellent news! It doesn’t mean that you’ve done a poor job, it simply means that the team has matured and better understands how the work works. Help the team adapt its system (visualization and policies) and off you go!

9. Don’t do this alone

Kanban is much more than stickies on a wall! It looks deceptively simple, but in order to reap the benefits of Kanban (100-700% efficiency increase) you may need help. Learn from others in your organization and elsewhere. Share experience by inviting other teams to your Kanban meetings, go and see for yourself what others are doing, go to “Lean Coffees” and conferences. A Lean/Agile coach can be a good investment to help you go further and make your team(s) succeed in the long term.
(The coach’s comments) Strength in numbers!

10. Spread out!

When you start to be confident with your first implementation, try to expand your Kanban “bubble” upstream and/or downstream in your value stream. Involve customer(s), other units, teams, and specialists that you are depending on. Re-design your interfaces with them by establishing regular meetings to discuss what works and what doesn’t, what you need from them, what you can do better for them, etc. Create a bigger Kanban system with everyone needed to deliver value from concept to cash. Soon, you will have given control of a whole value stream to the individuals working in it, and great things will happen!

Bon Voyage!

Monday, January 2, 2017

New Aim: Knowledge!

Today, I am starting a new chapter in my Lean/Agile journey! After focusing on bringing more agility and flexibility to an Enterprise, I will now go back to what I feel are my roots: a small company.

I am now working for Aim 4 Knowledge, a Stockholm-based company delivering training solution to IT organizations. My new role is officially ‘Product Owner’ for the Lean and Agile area. I will work to bring, create and deliver excellent training and education on:
  • Lean for knowledge work
  • Kanban for end-to-end value streams, portfolio and teams
  • DevOps
  • Agile development
  • Lean Startup & User eXperience
The idea is a to support companies (you?) in creating an iterative, incremental and streamlined value creation stream from customer to production.

Why does this matter? Because more than ever before we are in a fast moving, highly competitive environment where those who win can simply deliver more value, earlier.

Don’t hesitate to contact me at christophe.achouiantz@aim4knowledge.se

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

From Good-enough to Great: LKFR16 Presentation

Here are the slides I've been using to present "From Good-enough to Great" at the Lean Kanban France 2016 conference (LKFR16).

In this presentation, I speak about some the patterns I have observed when coaching many Kanban team. Especially regarding how teams mature and how to help team better succeed. I introduce for the first time the "Kanban Quantum Mechanics" model that I intend to flesh-out in future posts.

You will also find the templates I presented in this practical hand-out format.

Update: The session has been recorded by InfoQ and is available on their french site (the presentation is in english).

Now, go slain your Dragons!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Speaking at Lean Kanban France 2016

I will - finally - be speaking at Lean Kanban France 2016 this year.

Being French, it should perhaps falls naturally to present at a French conference. Life as had other plans for me so far, but this year the stars are in the right position and it is happening. Though, I have to confess that I've never actually discuss Lean, Kanban and Agile in French. So, I'll do my talk in ...english. Yes, it's weird!

My talk will be about my RPG-inspired "From Good-Enough to Great", a very condensed version of the workshop that I've run at LKNA16 last May. I'll upload the slides just in time for the conference.

From Good-Enough to Great 
You’ve had some success with your Kanban System: you’ve managed flow and quickly increased your capability. But now the energy goes down, your Kanban system – (r)evolutionary at first - becomes the new normal. How do you keep momentum? How do you keep succeeding in the long term? 
Building on the insights gathered by starting and following more than 70 Kanban implementations, this talk presents a set of tools designed to discover the real purpose of your Kanban system. You will understand your quest, your origin story, your strengths and weaknesses. Having found your “Why”, you will be able to create a plan to lift your Kanban system from good-enough to great. You will have unity and alignment around a strong sense of purpose: the bases to make you Kanban system resilient!
Actually, the more I work on this presentation, the more I find stuff to speak about. Which is making it very hard to keep it under 45 min. I'll really need to write some blog posts to fill the gaps!

See you in Paris!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Fast Feedback is Back!

The Fast Feedback conference is back this year in Stockholm on the 21-22 of September.

It’s my great pleasure this year to assist Håkan Forss and Mattias Skarin -  two of the most influencial Lean/Agile coaches in Scandinavia - in setting up this year’s conference.

The theme is “Strategy – Turning Insight into Action”.
I think that we’ve succeeded in setting up a very exciting program.

Look at that:
  • Stephen Bungay. I’ve had the privilege to attend some of Stephen keynotes at various conferences and it’s always been entertaining and mind-blowing in equal measure. His work on applying the military concept of “mission command” to business is essential to strategy planning and execution.
  • We then have speakers from a bunch of extremely innovative companies/startups: Simon Marcus (Spotify), Arne Roock (Jimdo), Sami Honkonen (Reaktor) . They will share how these dynamic companies form their strategies and apply them. If you are not familiar with Sami’s excellent podcast “Boss Level” do yourself a favor and check it out right away!
  • We also have the true and tried companies sharing their experience: Lego (Eik Thyrsted & Mattias Skarin), Ericsson (Erik Schön & Jonas Plantin) and Volvo Trucks (Amer Catic).
  • Finally we have a set of speakers that know what it means to take insight into actions outside of the board rooms: Lottie Knutson (with experience in managing a travel agency's reaction to the catastrophic events of the 2004 tsunami in south-east asia) and Marcus Hammarberg (with a very human and emotional journey to save a hospital in Indonesia).

Join us in Stockholm! 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Won the Brickell Key Award 2016!

Wow, just Wow!
I am very honored to have won the Brickell Key Award 2016!

Actually, very glad, surprised and humbled. The competition was impressive, if possible even more so than two years ago when I was first nominated. I want to thanks the Kanban community, David Anderson for his inspiration, Sandvik IT for their trust and my wife and kids for their support.