Posts Tagged ‘systems’

The Phoenix Project: A Novel About #IT, #DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win

October 3, 2013

It’s a business fable. And, I loved it anyway! Remember reading “The Goal” by Eli Goldratt back in B school? This is the DevOps twin.  Written by Gene Kim @RealGeneKim, Kevin Behr @kevinbehr AND George Spafford @gspaff.

What is DevOps?

It’s a concept that signifies tight, systems collaboration between Development and Operations (IT). As this post on Dev2Ops explains, “DevOps is a response to the growing awareness that there is a disconnect between what is traditionally considered development activity and what is traditionally considered operations activity.”

One of my favorite quotes from the book is in reference to an IT department:

“You’ve just described ‘technical debt’ that is not being paid down. It comes from taking shortcuts, which may make sense in the short-term. But like financial debt, the compounding interest costs grow over time. If an organization doesn’t pay down its technical debt, every calorie in the organization can be spent just paying interest, in the form of unplanned work.” “As you know, unplanned work is not free,” he continues. “Quite the opposite. It’s very expensive, because unplanned work comes at the expense of…” He looks around professorially for an answer. Wes finally speaks up, “Planned work?” “Precisely!” Erik says jovially. “Yes, that’s exactly right, Chester. Bill mentioned the four types of work: business projects, IT Operations projects, changes, and unplanned work. Left unchecked…”

If your business includes deploying any type of code to a website or other online access, and uptime and security matter. Then you will relate to this story. And be inspired to work towards positive change!


Lenses and Landscapes

May 28, 2013

Following an inspiring talk last week by Lyssa Adkins and Michel Spayd of the Agile Coaching Institute  at SV-ALN, I started to think about lenses. Frames of reference. Perspectives. As usual, their ideas resonated and inspired me. The very next day, we were already putting one of the models (lenses of I, We, IT, ITS)  into practice– collaborating with a colleague who had also attended the same meetup. I am so happy also that from my new company, five of us attended the meetup. Five of us drove to San Jose to be part of this agile learning community.  A very good sign!


And since I am a new employee, joining a large company. I wanted to apply this idea of lenses more broadly to my onboarding. In the book, The First 90 Days, Michael Watkins talks about areas of focus and structured learning.  Combining the ideas from Lyssa and Michael with the ideas from this book – I have the following learning lenses: people, interactions, place, technology, software architecture, market, processes, tools, product, strategy, cadence and timing, All of these are ways of understanding my new systems.


Back in my Xerox days, I was part of a research project on work process and culture. There were many interesting things I learned from PARC, including the notion of anthropological research; approaching customers as though I were an anthropologist. And after a year of being exposed to PARC as a place and as a community, the anthropolists on that research project coined a new term to describe me — they pegged me as a “landscaper.”


At the time, I was a young manager of a team of devs members of the technical staff, developing a sytem to receive compressed streams of objects ready to print onto rapidly moving sheets of paper. You can read more about the technologies in these patents.  Color was all new to most of us. We were experts at black-and-white digital printing and scanning. So it was exciting to create space, vision, and community for learning and developing color technologies. I could see that we could become SMEs in this whole new area. And we did!


As a landscaper, I am someone who studies a system , and then maps out future visions for the system. A field of possibilities. As an agilist, I have added collaborative to that mix. Collaboratively mapping out future vision.


A system can be a community, a complex software system, a loosely coupled group of people, a team of teams, a product portfolio, a federation of competitors and cooperators.


I have lots to learn about the new systems that I am now a part of J so that we can collaboratively develop this field of possibilities…


The system, seeing from a different angle #agile #coaching #systemsthinking

March 2, 2013

Do you ever wonder why people are doing and saying things that seem to not make sense? That seem illogical? Seem irrational? And not, of course, what I would do in the same situation?

Welcome to life. Welcome to “we are all different” and coming from different perspectives. Different places. Different needs and expectations.

One way to help make sense of it all is a systems perspective.  We are all connected and all part of many systems. And each system is coachable. The system can change. Change is always possible.  I was honored to be a student of Lyssa Adkins (@lyssaadkins ), Michael Spayd (@mspayd ), and Marita Fridjhon  (@MaritaFridjhon ) in the Nov 2012 pilot session of Leading from the Next Level: Systems-Oriented Leadership™ for Agile Coaches.  It was a very important class for me, one that I learned so much from. It has taken me a few months just to process some of the learning enough to be able to write and share about it here.

As a senior leader in a global, high tech corporation I run across lots of situations that seem to be incongruous. That appear broken. And most of the time, in a traditional corporate sense, these are not “my issues.” They usually don’t fall cleanly within my “span of control.” They are generally systems challenges. Meaning that they are cross-functional, cross-silo, cross-organization…  Such challenges are often the systemic, entrenched, and the “way we do things around here.”

Even a new project or a new integration or new acquisition can run into these systemic challenges.

New meets old. And tension is created. Which brings us back to systems perspectives.

Here are the types of questions that I ask myself and others to employ this perspective…

What is trying to happen here?

Who are the players (stakeholders)?

What are the needs and expectations of each player (each part of the system)?

What are the relationships of the players to one another?

The organization is also a player – what are the needs and expectations of the organization?

It’s like a giant chess board. A game of empathy. Listening. Who needs what from whom? What matters to each part of the system?  Now, what questions, what open-ended questions can I ask to help the system repair. Repair, flow, change, move forward. What possibilities do I see? What are the possible highest dream outcomes. Notice the “s.”  We need lots of possibilities. Lots of Plan A, B, C, and D’s…and space for more outcomes to emerge.  What outcomes that *might* be possible? What else? What else? And if those outcomes are possible, what else might be true? Can I share some hunches (guesses)  with some of the stakeholders?  Can I reveal more of the system to itself? Without being too entrenched in one outcome myself?

One practical – that I learned long ago from Don Rossmoore, a student of Chris Argyris, is to start by interviewing stakeholders. Asking them what’s working well and what needs to work better…. Longer conversations. Lots of listening.  The question “what needs to work better” is especially important…it focuses forward. Much like Marshall Goldsmith’s Feed-forward.

Systems are all around us. Webs of relationships. Differing perspectives, needs, challenges. A systems perspective is valuable (critical, invaluable) in coaching a system to change, to flow, to be dynamic.