availability: September 2013
One of the strong pillars of devops (if not the strongest) is the collaboration/communication. For the talk about Devops Metrics for Velocity 2011 I researched how to prove collaboration is a good thing: while discussing devops to people it sometimes comes to believe that it makes sense to collaborate more or that all this collaboration is overkill. I think at time I came across Design Thinking and read how it evolved from 1 person doing the design to listening to user requirements to participatory design. In the book Design Thinking - Understanding Designers Think Nigel Cross writes that design used to be collaborative thing (like guilds trying to push their craft forward).
One of the concepts introduced was the symmetry of ignorance PDF
Complex design problems require more knowledge than any one single person can possess, and the knowledge relevant to a problem is often distributed and controversial. Rather than being a limiting factor, “symmetry of ignorance” can provide the foundation for social creativity. Bringing different points of view together and trying to create a shared understanding among all stakeholders can lead to new insights, new ideas, and new artifacts. Social creativity can be supported by new media that allow owners of problems to contribute to framing and solving these problems. These new media need to be designed from a meta-design perspective by creating environments in which stakeholders can act as designers and be more than consumers.
Sounds like systems thinking and reminded me of the knowledge divide within the devops problem space. When you spend time with each group/silo individually they would of think themselves superior to the other group: "ha those devs they don't know anything about the systems, ha those ops don't anything about coding". So it seems more about the symmetry of arrogance . That arrogance symmetry reminded "We judge others by their behavior, we judge ourselves by our intentions". We might think we know more/can do better, but that often not visible in our actions.
This kind of got me intrigued and I wanted to explore the subject more for the next Cutter Summit 2012.
Part of the designing thinking and this symmetry of ignorance is related to the concept of wicked problems
Rittel and Webber's (1973) formulation of wicked problems specifies ten characteristics:
I'll let you judge if you think devops (or even monitoring sucks :) is a wicked problem
More readings to explore:
The whole discission on what is a wicked problem or not reminded me of a talk by Dave Snowden. He helped creating the Cynefin model.
The Cynefin framework has five domains.The first four domains are:
Note this a sense making framework, not a ordering framework: it's not always that exact to put your problems in each of the spaces, but it gets you thinking about which solutions to apply to which problems. And it fits in nicely with other frameworks as explained in A Tour of Adoption and Transformation models
So devops in my opinion, falls into the complex problem space.
A great video explaining it was recorded at the ALE 2011:
He explains many things, but here a few things that resonated with me:
that last point reminded me of the Debt Metaphor - Ward Cunningham. @littleidea explained that Ward was using a different concept for Technical Debt that most people use: he explains technical debt as the difference between the implementation and the ideal implementation on hinsight. Not because of bad implementation, or deliberate shortcuts, but because of new insights gathered during the discovery/problem solving process.
More research can be found at:
The fact that problems don't always stay/match one of the locations on the diagram is greatly visualized by adding dimensions to the diagram (a thing that got lost in the initial publication)
To tackle complex problems he suggests using three principles of complexity based management:
This could result in the Resilient Organisation
Because in complex systems it's hard to predict the exact behavior, Dave Snowden also talks about going From Robustness to Resiliance. It almost sounded like the difference between MTBF and MTTR like John Allspaw explains in Outages Post-Mortems and Human Error 101.
I came across those articles but never put them into the light of the Snowden perspective. More to explore so.
The final document I'd like to highlight is about Reducing the impact of Organisational Silos on Resilience.
Stone quotes five questions suggested by Angela Drummond (a practitioner in the area of silo breaking and organisational change) to help executives identify and overcome silos.
Quoting from the article:
Resilience cannot be achieved in isolation of other units and organisations. In summary, there is a need to recognise:
Leadership is the key to bringing these elements together. Leadership is needed to reduce and mitigate risks before crises occur.
It was fascinating to read the collaboration and resilience go hand in hand. And breaking the silos is really a must there and requires collaboration. Also the inter-company silos fits in nicely with The Agile Executive - A new Context for Agile presentation on how we come to rely on external services in a SAAS model and this will be another silo to tackle.
This is all research in progress, but it's exciting to see a lot of different concepts fit in nicely. I apologize that this isn't yet a complete polished train of thought, but it might be useful to explore more on the subject.