Results Not Instant: Why Organizations Need To Be Patient With Agile/DevOps Transformations

We’ve kicked off DevOps transformation in the last few months and recently we started getting some feedback coming in.  For example, “We’re not seeing anything.” The initial reaction was to intensify the publicity and branding, but thankfully cooler heads prevailed, and we stuck to our game plan. DevOps and Agile go hand-in-hand, like lightning and thunder.  You see one, and hear (and even feel) the other. And that’s not saying the Agile transformation is all flash. It just means that not seeing “anything” doesn’t mean something isn’t happening.

The more I thought about this feedback, the more I saw similarities with another situation where initial results are not always visible though good things are happening just below the surface.

It’s like a middle-aged adult, who has s never worked out or lived healthy getting a health scare, and now has to make changes, on doctor’s orders, to ensure a long and healthy future. Similarly, an IS unit of a successful company has to get agile (diet) and adopt DevOps (exercise) for a long, healthy and prosperous future.

Expecting to see “something” is like the adult running for two weeks and expecting to see six-pack abs. Adopting DevOps is like the lifestyle change of adding a workout regime to the adult’s life. The six-pack may not be visible immediately, but every action taken contributes to living longer and getting healthier. Eventually clothes start to fit better, the back and knees hurt less and the ab muscles may start to show. Likewise, in the IS organization, we start to ship code faster, provision servers and resources faster, improve quality and delivery, and collaborate better. At some point, this impacts our bottom line and makes us more competitive in the market place.

Eventually the will lead to dollar results, the six-pack. And not just the six-pack, a better frame, better sleep at night, better experience with leisure activities, increase in strength, and more.

However, it doesn’t end there. There’s really no end date to DevOps. Even if we manage to conclude adoption, we will still need to enhance maturity. The now-fit adult doesn’t stop working and eating healthy, just because he is now fit. He continues to improve on their workout, lift heavier, run farther and push his physical limits for life, and make a true lifestyle change.

The feedbacks are a good thing, and they are not in a vacuum. They make their way up to management, to get the support needed to stay the course. As a team we’re deliberately avoiding the fate of hollow success. The first couple of weeks some people work out, they lose about 10-15 pounds. Most of this is water, however, because of this seemingly dramatic weight loss at such a fast pace, they feel they have accomplished “something” and may go back to an unhealthy lifestyle of eating unhealthy foods or not working out anymore altogether. We too can easily have hollow success, buy shiny new tools, invite exciting speakers, have workshops and demos, put up banners, that lead to fanfare, enthusiasm and little to no change.

Real success is doing things now that will lead to long-term wins, counting current caloric intake, clearing out the fridge of unhealthy foods, making the time to work out serveral times a week. In the IS organization, measuring lead times, outages, asking the hard questions, identifying and eliminating bottlenecks, providing training and feedback.

While goals are accomplished and milestones may be celebrated, the work is never done and lifestyle changes are for life.

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