The DevOps Gardener.
There has been a big push in my organization to understand DevOps. What is it? How can we use this "thing" to improve our processes and teams? If there was a DevOps team, what would they do day one? I've made it my personal mission within my organization to answer these questions and help implement DevsOps. So what is DevOps? John E Vincent has mentioned in a blog post, "Devops means giving a shit about your job enough to not pass the buck. Devops means giving a shit about your job enough to want to learn all the parts and not just your little world." What a great way to explain DevOps! This explains it quite well in my opinion. While it doesn't go into the day-to-day implementation, the tools behind the magic, or the steps to make things happen, it does set the tone of what is expected.
So, I've set out to be The DevOps Gardener in my organization planting one seed at a time. So what's my first seed? Well, being I'm a System Administrator, I might as well start with myself and my IT group. My group has a tendency to begin small discussions in our area about things we want to change, could improve, or pains we face. This is all fine and dandy but when the conversation becomes so lengthy and I look at the time on my computer and see I've spent the majority of my morning in this conversation, I feel as though I've done the company a disservice. Don't get me wrong, discussion is a good thing as long as it doesn't take forever and it stays focused. To help alleviate this issue a little, I've setup a discussion I like to call the IT OSD or IT Open Space Discussion. This is an idea cultivated out of the DevOpsDays events. Open space is the simplest meeting format that seems to work for the DevOpsDays groups so I figured..."Hey, I bet I could do *something* similar." The open space rallying cry is Prepare to be Surprised! I intend to.
The basic principles of an Open Space discussion are:
- Whoever comes, are the right people.
- Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.
- Whenever it starts is the right time.
- When it's over, it's over.
While these are fantastic, typical organizations won't allow long open discussions even though we all wish they would. What will they allow? Some of you may say "Oh my, he's botching the Open Space discussion ideals! Stop it!" You know what? I am, I am botching them to make them work inside an organization where these ideas and discussions often matter most. Enter the IT Open Space Discussion. My team has a handful of great thinkers that really enjoy digging into a conversation that can sometimes derail and deflate a discussion. This is the only reason I've set *some* time-based limitations. Also, don't invite your boss. Make sure they know it's nothing personal, it just helps the discussion when there isn't an "executive figure" there to immediately shoot down ideas or the like.
Mechanics of the IT Open Space Discussion:
- Brainstorm as usual: Before each session and throughout the week, each of the team members will discuss ideas, thoughts, issues, and concerns. We already do this in our areas. Limit these discussions so we can stay focused on our current daily tasks and push them to this open discussion session. This doesn't mean don't bring up a great idea, it just means write it down and remember it!
- Post Your Ideas! At the start of the session, each team member will write down on Post-It notes the ideas, suggestions, thoughts, issues or concerns from #1 and stick them to the whiteboard. This gives each individual a voice. Introverts will love this! You have a voice make it heard!
- Elevator Ideas! After the ideas have been posted, one-by-one each team member will explain the issue and why it should be focused on. (Limit of 2 minutes.) If you can't explain it in 2 minutes or less, the idea probably isn't in its simplest form.
- The Vote. As a team we will select the top topic we would like to focus on for this session and determine its conclusion. (Ex: Is there a final solution by the end of the session, or will the discussion need to continue?)
- The topics not selected will roll to the next Open Space session. (Delegate someone to keep track of these!)
- The BSCluster. The brainstorm cluster! Open the discussion to all team members to brainstorm ideas and solutions about the topic. Try to limit the amount of interruptions during this time. It is precious, make sure it's respected, lock the doors if you have to! Make sure each person is heard! Ask from the quiet ones. Even if their opinion is "I agree.", make sure to do this.
- Define the problem.
- Come up with the solution. Figure out tasks, build a to-do list, setup a new project, etc.
- Delegate someone to take extensive notes, you need someone who writes or types fast!
- Stop! Conclude the session. Allow every team member to make a final statement on proposed tasks, thoughts on the discussion, and closing arguments. (Limit of 2 minutes.)
The Golden Rules of the Open Space Discussion:
- Everyone should be heard.
- Respect each other's opinions.
- Keep it simple and short.
- Do not interrupt a team member.
- Keep the discussion focused.
So far I've facilitated one of these meetings. The ideas and suggestions presented were amazing and will be looked into more. Not everyone attended which was expected and honestly shouldn't matter, but those that did, excitement was in their voice, communication was increased, and people were heard and felt as such. I will continue to update you on these sessions. Try this out and let me know if it works for you and your team. Please feel free to shoot me your thoughts, suggestions, comments, rebuttals here: firstname.lastname@example.org