The 7 Deadly Diseases of DevOps: #1 – “Invisible Work”

In a recent DevOps.com webinarAnders Wallgren (Electric Cloud CTO) and John Willis (Electric Cloud advisor and co-author of The DevOps Handbook) discussed the “7 Deadly Diseases of DevOps.” The topic was based on the 1982 best-selling book “Out of the Crisis” by W. Edwards Deming. In the book, Deming lists the most serious barriers to success management faces within an organization, aptly naming them the “seven deadly diseases.” During the webinar, Wallgren and Willis took their own spin on Deming’s diseases and applied them instead to IT operational success. What internal and external factors are inhibiting IT organizations from becoming high performers? What bottlenecks or roadblocks do organizations commonly face when going through a DevOps transformation? Through Wallgren and Willis’ own personal experiences in consulting, working closely with clients and other technical work, they have identified seven common factors that inhibit the success of IT in an organization.  

In this seven-part blog series, we will take a deep dive into each of the “diseases” laid out by Wallgren and Willis including common symptoms and remedies for each.

 

1) Invisible Work 

2) Management System Toil 

3) Tribal Knowledge 

4) Misalignment of Incentives 

5) Incongruent Organizational Design 

6) Managing Complexity 

7) Security and Compliance Theater 

 

The first disease, “invisible work” can be a tricky one to diagnose as it’s often hidden in plain sight, but hard to bring to light. Here’s what Wallgren and Willis had to say about this disease and how it is negatively impacting IT organizations today:  

Image result for invisible work 

Deadly DevOps Disease #1: Invisible Work   

Willis outlines his process of bringing invisible work to light: “The first thing I do when I go into an organization is address this first deadly disease, draw a box on a flipchart and ask, ‘Where does work start?’ What’s amazing is I usually get arguments for about an hour with people trying to tell me why that’s not a good question. However, after this mental, verbal battle what I find is most large companies only capture on average 50% of their work.”  

Wallgren adds by sharing some of his experiences with Electric Cloud customers: “I spent a bit of time last year with one of our largest financial customers and they had done a spectacular job in recording and capturing their processes, workflows, essentially their software delivery pipelines for how software gets written and out the door. And still, we spent a week together and discovered all the things that weren’t already captured in those documents. I say this with admiration for the fact that they got so far in terms of prepping for our arrival but still there was a lot of discovery that had to happen. And when we go into clients like this, somebody would pipe up and say, ‘Well wait, wait, before we actually do that, we have to do this other thing first otherwise…’ There was a lot of discovery and it led me to realize that invisible work is a human problem. It is an interpersonal thing that we’re engaged in and the communication, visibility, transparency is very important.”  

Willis expands on why invisible work is a labeled a disease: “You can read all the books in the world, like the ‘DevOps Handbook.’ You can run Kanban boards all day long. You can do automation. You can do all of this, but if you’re not seeing 50% of all the work that’s going on in your organization, you’re doing surgery in the dark. You’re on the dark side of the moon.” 

Wallgren shares whether AI and machine learning can help address invisible work: “AI doesn’t discover things, you have to tell it everything. If you only give AI 50% of the work that you’re doing, it’s not going to go discover the other 50%. You have to go talk to people across the organization to find out how work actually gets done, so that you can capture it. Then what you do with it once you discover it is kind of what happens next.” 

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For more insights into the 7 deadly diseases of DevOps, watch the full webinar 

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Gabriel Martinez

Director of Product Marketing at Electric Cloud
Gabriel Martinez is a friendly, neighborhood product marketer that likes DevOps and writes fancy words about it so others will like it too. Outside of his continuous delivery crusade; Gabriel is dad, Scrabble champion, and music lover.
Gabriel Martinez
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