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Friday, August 15, 2014

The DevOps Diet (Getting Lean)

(Also posted on

IT has gotten fat – fat silos, fat processes, fat procedures.  Adopting DevOps is a great opportunity to look at some of our unhealthy habits and identify where we can eliminate unproductive waste from our process diets.  DevOps will ultimately teach IT how to exercise more with less effort, trim the fat and get lean.

According to lean principles, the seven main areas of waste are:
  • Defects –  variations from requirements that result in interruptions and re-work
  • Overproduction – delivering something more or before it is required
  • Inventory  –  carrying excess raw materials, work in progress (WIP) or finished goods
  • Over-processing – doing more work than is required
  • Motion – moving people or equipment more than is required
  • Transportation – moving products from one location to another
  • Waiting – doing nothing or moving slowly while waiting on a previous step
What are the greatest sources of waste in your IT organization?  Are defects being regularly passed downstream? Are ITSM processes overproducing through complexity and bureaucracy?  Are Agile teams  dealing with excessive work in progress and less finished product?  Are unresolved bottlenecks resulting in frequent delays while waiting for something to get done or someone to be available?  Could automation reduce "motion sickness" and make transportation nonstop? These questions will hopefully facilitate dialog between Dev and Ops about analyzing and streamlining existing workflows.

While waste is fattening, it is not necessarily ineffective.  Projects and other tasks are still getting done and therefore some areas of waste may be difficult to recognize.  To become leaner, start simple by identifying and eliminating one unhealthy habit from your IT diet.   Engage stakeholders from Dev, Ops, customers and suppliers (if appropriate).  Discuss ways to improve the work with healthier habits.  Agree on what to do next or what not to do anymore.

Every diet should be supported by recipes for success.  The upcoming DevOps Cookbook by Gene Kim, et al. will provide more tangible guidance and recipes for healthy IT habits.  More on that in future blogs.

Most of all,  identifying and eliminating waste through Lean DevOps is a great opportunity for collaboration.  After all,  it's always better to diet with a friend.

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