Getting collaboration right in Agile & DevOps – Press Pass

I don’t do press passes as much as I did when I was an analyst, but here’s one from a recent email interview for a ProjectsAtWork story:

Q: What’s your favorite tip to improve collaboration when an organization moves to agile and DevOps?

A: I think the core DevOps thing with collaboration is getting people to trust each other. Most corporate cultures are not built on people trusting each other and feeling comfortable: they’re based in competitive, zero sum structures or command and control management at best.

Organizations that are looking to DevOps for help are likely trying to innovate new software and services and so they have to shift to a mode of operating that encourages collaboration and creativity. Realizing that is a critical step: we want to create and run new software, so we need to understand and become a software producing organization.

In contrast, if you operate differently if you’re just driving down costs each quarter and not creating much with IT. We’d counter-argue that if you’re a large organization and you’re not worrying about software then you’ll be creamed by your competition who is becoming a software organization.

If forced to pick one tip to increase collaboration I would say: do it by starting to work. How you do this is to pick a series of small projects and slowly expand the size of the projects. These projects should be low profile, but have direct customer/revenue impact so that they’re real. It’s important for these projects to be actual applications that people use, not just infrastructure and back-end stuff. It will help the team understand the new way of operating and at the same time help build up momentum and success for company wide transformation later down the road.

As a basic tactic, Andrew Shafer has a fun, effective tactic about having each people on the team wrote fantasy press releases about each other to start to build trust.

(See the full piece by Will Kelly over on the site.)

They dubbed it Slack and released it in August 2013. Since then, Slack has grown swiftly: more than 300,000 people use it each day, and the company has more than 73,000 paid users. The company has also raised a lot of venture capital funding—about $163 million since the company switched its focus to Slack.

http://www.technologyreview.com/news/532606/three-questions-with-slacks-ceo/

Jimminy-fuck-crickets that’s a of lot of cash to raise. People do talk about Slack a lot. Any of you knuckleheads out there use it?

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “Yeah, this should definitely be in 3D.”

No, what he said was, “[T]he test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” That’s what you have to do: you have to be confident in your potential, and aware of your inexperience. And that’s really tough. There are moments when you’ll have a different point of view because you’re a fresh set of eyes; because you don’t care how it’s been done before; because you’re sharp and creative; because there is another way, a better way. But there will also be moments when you have a different point of view because you’re wrong, because you’re 23 and you should shut up and listen to somebody who’s been around the block.

Life Lessons in Fighting the Culture of Bullshit, Jon Lovett

It’s a good speech, no matter how old you are, for how to cope with working with other people which, we know, is hell.

Hoarding and trading information as currency in the enterprise

I don’t know about counterintuitive, but there was a great piece of insight that Sam Zell, the real estate mogul from Chicago, said to me that really made me rethink what a big organization is really about. He said, as an entrepreneur, [he needs] as much information as possible. In a big corporation, people use information as currency. So they trade it. The more information a person has, the more power that person has in a big organization. But, he said, in a small company or an entrepreneurial environment, if you’re keeping a piece of information away from [him], then you’re damaging [his] company because [he needs] to make decisions quickly and [he needs] to make them with as much information as possible.

He told me a story about a woman who he hired from a major corporation. He said she was an overachiever. He said she was a star all the way through her career. Nine months after she joined his organization, he fired her. He said it was because she used the same practice of using information as currency. When he told me that, I thought, “Geez, how many big companies have I worked for where I have seen that happen?” I have done the same thing. I have committed the same crime of using information to get information from other people and using information and hoarding it so that I have power over colleagues. I thought, “That is such a great observation, and I need to check myself….” Organizations talk about transparency, but it’s the execution of it that really matters.

Some good insights on how big companies work (that is, the people in them!), there, and how to work adjust per the size of the company and team.

Hoarding and trading information as currency in the enterprise

My feeling with the bad groups is that coming into office hours, they’ve already decided what they’re going to do and everything I say is being put through an internal process in their heads, which either desperately tries to munge what I’ve said into something that conforms with their decision or just outright dismisses it and creates a rationalization for doing so. They may not even be conscious of this process but that’s what I think is happening when you say something to bad groups and they have that glazed over look. I don’t think it’s confusion or lack of understanding per se, it’s this internal process at work. With the good groups, you can tell that everything you say is being looked at with fresh eyes and even if it’s dismissed, it’s because of some logical reason e.g. “we already tried that” or “from speaking to our users that isn’t what they’d like,” etc. Those groups never have that glazed over look.