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Thursday, September 25, 2014

DevOps and the Theory of Constraints

The Theory of Constraints was first introduced in the business novel The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt.   The main character of The Goal is Alex, a plant manager who is challenged to increase the output of his factory in a short period of time or face shutdown.  Alex embarks on a journey to understand systems thinking and relies on a mentoring relationship with an elusive Jonah to help him understand how to improve his production processes.

One of Alex’s key realizations occurs during a hike with his son’s scout troop.   Herbie, a less than athletic scout, is having a difficult time keeping up with the other boys.  Alex observes that it is actually not Herbie who has to keep pace with the troop, but rather the troop that has to keep pace with Herbie.   Poor Herbie is a constraint that affects the rest of the system. 

This example illustrates the basis of the Theory of Constraints – a well-respected model for systems management.  Every process is an end-to-end system that has one or more constraints affecting its outcome.  The process will therefore only meet the capacity of its weakest link.  If the constraint is improved or removed, the flow of the entire end to end system will also be improved.   The key is being able to analyze, identify and improve the constraints. 

Gene Kim’s best-selling novel, The Phoenix Project, builds on the same premise in an IT context.  Constraints are interwoven throughout the story and form the basis for improving flow in the First Way.  As more bottlenecks are overcome, the entire end to end flow between Dev and Ops is improved.

Bottlenecks may not always be apparent since work slows down but does not necessarily stop.   Good practices for process analysis and identification of constraints are starting to emerge.   The soon-to-be-published DevOps Cookbook by Gene Kim and colleagues will provide better guidance.

I believe that understanding and applying the Theory of Constraints will be a key practice to help transform a DevOps culture.  Analyzing the bottlenecks and constraints that exist in and through Dev, Ops and ITSM will help to eliminate waste, identify collaborative and opportunities and streamline the flow of work downstream and upstream.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Culture of Trust

(also posted on

Trust is by far the most critical element of a DevOps culture.  It is also the most difficult to achieve.  IT was not built for trust.  The silo structure that is common in most IT organizations was built for specialization and territorial ownership.  The silo walls are thick.

While DevOps may not be able to break down the silos, but it can encourage and groom a culture of trust.

Trust is difficult to define.  We know when we feel it, we know when we don't.   In 1993, Dr. Duane C. Tway, Jr. published a dissertation called "A Construct of Trust".  In it, Dr. Tway defines trust as
“The state of readiness for unguarded interaction with someone or something.”

Dr. Tway believes that trust is actually "constructed" from three basic elements:
  • The capacity for trusting
  • The perception of competence
  • The perception of intentions
The capacity for trusting is how your total life experiences have developed your current capacity and willingness to risk trusting others.

The perception of competence is your perception of your ability and the ability of others with whom you work to perform competently at whatever is needed in the current situation.

The perception of intentions is your perception that the actions, words, direction, mission and decisions are motivated by mutually-serving rather than self-serving motives.

While trust is individual, a culture of trust is organizational.   Both are earned.  DevOps is a great opportunity to look at Dr. Tway's construct of trust and identify small but meaningful opportunities to steadily increase the trust between Dev and Ops including
  • Improved and honest communications
  • Increased personal interaction
  • Honored commitments
  • More listening than talking
  • Frequent knowledge sharing
  • Welcomed input and feedback
  • Admitted mistakes
  • Intolerance of blame
  • Mutual respect
  • A celebration of mutual achievements
What else can you do to create a “state of readiness for unguarded interaction with someone or something” in your organization?  How can you increase a mutual capacity for trusting, perception of competence and perception of intentions?   Perhaps you can start with an honest dialog with and between your Dev and Ops teams.  The answers may be surprising and insightful.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Service Management Fusion Conference 2014

As we ring in September, we also ring in the start of the fall conference season.

It's hard to believe but the itSMF/HDI Fusion 2014 conference is next month!   

As always, members of the ITSM crew will be among the many experienced service management professionals sharing insight, knowledge and experiences at the event.

Donna Knapp will be co-presenting with Anthony Orr at a Breakfast Briefing: How to Pass Your MALC Exam on Monday, October 20th at 7:30 am

I will be leading Session 606: Practical Problem Management: The Courage to Ask Why on Tuesday, October 21 at 2:45 PM.

I will also be participating in Session 704: Expert Focus on Practical DevOps with Brandon Gillis of Bank of NY Mellon on Wednesday, October 22 at 9:00 am.

You can register for Fusion14 at

Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Join me at the DevOps IT Culture Cocktail Party session at Fruition Partners' FruDevCon

I am very flattered to have been asked to present at Fruition Partners’ fruDevCon14 conference in Chicago, IL October  5-9.  In it’s second year, fruDevCon offers the unique perspective of uniting development and process on a ServiceNow platform.   Attendees will not only learn more about “what” and “how” to develop within ServiceNow, they also will get insight into “why” they are doing what they do and how good process contributes to overall business success.   
I am particularly excited about this approach since the unity of development and process lies at the heart of the emerging DevOps movement.  DevOps does not rely solely on automating tasks – it is as a much a cultural initiative as it is a technical opportunity. Culture is nurtured from the top down and bottom up.  It starts with changing the way individuals think and behave.  

Culture is actually the focus of my presentation, “The IT Culture Cocktail Party” which will be part of the fruDevCon opening keynote session.  During our time together, we will explore the basics of DevOps and discuss how the integration of service management processes with Agile and Lean concepts can foster a culture of better collaboration and faster deployments between Dev and Ops.  We will also have a little fun mixing up a DevOps Culture Cocktail with best practice ingredients from multiple frameworks.  Since DevOps touches everyone in IT, it is my hope that the message of cultural unity will resonate equally with developers, operators and executives.

If your organization is utilizing a ServiceNow platform, I highly encourage you to attend fruDevCon.    In fact, if you register quickly, there is a 20% discount using promo code ANRBJ3.    I hope to meet you there.