From being strangers to being a team in just a few days!

January 20–24 I had the opportunity to experience the best training I’ve ever had. DevOps Culture and Practices Enablement, or DO500 in short.

DevOps Culture and Practices Enablement — January 20–24, 2020 — Utrecht, The Netherlands

Let me start by saying I am a Red Hat associate and this being a Red Hat course you could assume that I’m biased to some extend :)

We kicked off on Monday morning at a training location in Nieuwegein near the city of Utrecht. As a group of 20+ people we were asked to sit down on the chairs who had been neatly positioned in a big circle. Being mostly strangers to each other we started with the introduction round and quickly learned the basics about each other, name, job, why are you here? Who could have thought that only after a few days we would leave the room as collaborative team members and even friends!

During the 5 days of training we were exposed to a great number of practices all mapping to the above Mobius loop including its foundation. What I learned early on during the course is that working hard can go hand-in-hand with having tons of fun!

Foundational practices around culture and collaboration like the Social Contract, Real-time Retrospective and Visualisation of Work as well as technical practices like Continuous Delivery, Test Automation and Configuration as Code provided the foundation for the Mobius loop of continuous discovery and continuous delivery.

While learning about the different practices I started reflecting on past experiences. I knew, and had previously experienced, most of the delivery loop practices, but what about the discovery loop practices? Of course I knew continuous discovery is essential and goes hand in hand with continuous delivery but little did I know about all the great practices that are out there to make this process a lot more effective. During the week we went through around 40 practices part of the Open Practice Library getting a better understanding of the individual practices and how they work together.

The course is very well balanced between theory and hands-on exercises. Many games are part of the course to support the understanding of the theory and science behind practices. Games are executed in pairs, in your team (we had 4), or the entire group. The fun and laughs I had during the execution of the games definitely helped in the fast adoption and understanding of the practices.

My personal takeaway from this training is that you do not have to be a Dev or Ops person to make use of these open practices. The practices demonstrated can be utilised in any field. I work in sales as a Solution Specialist, and doing continuous discovery with my customer is one of my more important tasks. Applying open practices will make me collaborate with my customer more effectively.

During the training, whilst paying attention and absorbing all that was shared, I started thinking about how these open practices could be valuable during my sales conversations.

In the above photo I’ve laid out some of the practices I have selected to utilise together with my customers. Of course one would not have to apply all these practices together all the time but this gives an idea of a possible flow for continuous discovery. So how would this work? Let’s dive in.

After having done our round of introduction and an ice-breaker game like the face game or animal drawing we start building our social contract; some basic rules around our way of working we agree upon building a constructive, fun team culture. Before we start working on action items it’s a good idea to have shared knowledge and understanding regarding what it means for a work item to be done by the team; the Definition of Done.

Almost forgot, the visualisation of work. We build information radiators displaying our work and progress, for example a KanBan, the social contract, and more. Check out the photo earlier in this post with all the sticky notes. Next up is the Burndown, a visualisation of work left to do within a specified time period, displayed as a chart. Almost done preparing we finish with the realtime retrospective practice. We want to get feedback as fast as possible and continuously improve the experience of our meeting.

Applying these practices will set the scene. Agreeing on how you want to work together in a meeting, agreeing on what you want to achieve, visualising and measuring progress and having the ability to continuously provide feedback to improve the quality of the meeting seems essential for every effective meeting. The level of detail you are able to cover will of course depend on the length of the meeting.

Having set the scene we jump into the emerging phase of our meeting. As a starting point I would kick-off the start-at-the-end practice describing what success looks like and use this to define our goal. We would use this goal as input for our next exercise the Impact Mapping. Impact Mapping is a strategic planning technique which shifts the conversation from what (output) to why (outcome). We start this exercise by making sure our goal defined earlier is SMART. Next up we identify relevant stakeholders (the actors, who), the impact (how) we want to make on them and finally what our deliverables (output, what) should be to realise the defined impact. Impact mapping is an easy to use, but very powerful technique, providing quick insights. A hypothesis to check our work can be build from right to left. For example; by delivering A does this provide impact B for stakeholder C achieving our goal D?

Continuing our session we could apply the Priority Sliders practice to get the conversation going around relative priorities to get a clear focus on upcoming activities.

Often we find ourselves in a situation were we want to have a better understanding of existing processes. For example; every IT-bit of each step in a workflow has been automated but still the workflow is slow. What’s happening? Applying Value Stream and Process Mapping can give us the insights we need. We might discover that the manual approval steps between various departments are slowing us down. Furthermore it could help us design a new, faster process. This practice helps us identify bottlenecks and gives use a way to measure improvement. A very powerful technique to demonstrate that what you’re doing is actually worth it!

Working towards the end of the first(!) session Target Outcomes is a great practice to capture and articulate the goals and outcomes a team is striving to deliver. Our final activity before doing a retrospective and checking if we have achieved our meetings goals is the User Story Mapping. User Story Mapping is tightly coupled with Value Slicing. As a team we map out our story using sticky notes and get quick insights in all the parts of the story. The second step would be to Value Slice this output against our previously defined Target Outcomes getting quick insights into the most important activities.

All of the output gathered during the execution of these practices is output for our transition to, and the execution of, the continuous delivery phase. The part of the Mobius loop where we refine our backlog, do our planning and start executing our sprints continuously improving our solution. Inherent to the working of the Mobius loop, output of the continuous delivery is input for our continuous discovery, helping us learn and improve. Reapplying the practices described before, or any of the other practices out there, to continuously improve our services and helping us achieving our business/IT goals.

I’m super excited about the stuff I learned, the people I met and all the fun and laughs I had during the week. This Medium post is a repost of my LinkedIn article and the second step (LinkedIn post being the first step) after having finished the training late January to write up my experiences and making sure I maximise the effect of this training.

During the next few weeks I will more and more incorporate the practices in my day-to-day job and start accelerating customer conversations by applying these freshly learned practices. Looking forward to sharing with my customers what I’ve learned and seeing how applying these practices can make our conversations mutually more effective.

The DevOps Culture and Practices Enablement course is an immersive 5-day learning experience for everyone who wants to improve his collaboration skills and understanding of modern practices. Loads of fun and learning are guaranteed. Best training ever by a landslide!

Chief Digital Advisor at Red Hat | Creating organizational impact through Open Transformation

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store