Q&A with John Willis - The 7 Deadly Diseases of DevOps

Written by: Electric Bee
6 min read
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DevOps aims to define a set of practices and patterns to turn human capital into high performance organizational capital. As a trifecta of people, process and technology, the DevOps movement is flourishing but there is still a lot of work to be done to create and enable high performance, particularly on the human side of the equation. One of the many heroes that we all hold in high regard in business is none other than W. Edwards Deming. In Deming’s 1982 book – “Out of the Crisis ” – he outlined the seven deadly diseases of management that still shapes modern business practices today. We recently caught up with John Willis, founder of Botchagalupe Technologies and co-author of The DevOps Handbook , to discuss these ideas from Deming, and learn more about his ideas on the “7 Deadly Diseases of DevOps ,” which will be covered in-depth during an upcoming DevOps.com webinar on January 30 (sign up for free at https://webinars.devops.com/the-7-deadly-diseases-of-devops ).

Q: John, you’re a big fan of Deming. How did Deming come up with his list of 7 deadly diseases, what were they, and why were they so important ?

A: In Deming’s book “Out of the Crisis,” he breaks down the need for why it is critical that people understand the principles of quality management system in a list of what he called the “14 Points.” In addition to these 14 principles, he outlined the Seven Deadly Diseases, which describe the most serious barriers that management can face within an organization. Outlined below are his Seven Deadly Diseases of Management, as well as an explanation of each.

  1. Lack of constancy of purpose – without such, management does not have long-range plans for staying in business, they are simply only thinking of the next quarter.

  2. Emphasis on short-term profits – this is fed by fear and often controlled by financial stakeholders. But, as Deming used to say, “Paper profits do not make the pie bigger.”

  3. Evaluation of performance, merit rating, or annual reviews – some would call this management by fear or management by objectives (MBO). Merit ratings tend to increase the variability in performance and the effects can be demoralizing.

  4. Mobility of top management – a serious problem, especially if it is the reflection of the dissatisfaction with the job at hand. Mobility from one company to another also creates incentives for short-term results. The emphasis shifts from learning how to work together.

  5. Running a company on visible figures alone – just counting the money doesn’t always paint the bigger picture. Sales don’t always equate to customer satisfaction, or quality improvement of the products.****

  6. Excessive medical costs – Health care costs continue to rise and will only add to the cost of doing business. The effect is gradually pushing the business into state of crisis.

  7. Excessive costs of liability and driven by lawyers that work on contingency fees – As these costs rise as a business fights with (or try to avoid) litigation, it gets distracted from the main purpose of serving its customers.

Q: John, how did you come up with your list of 7 deadly diseases for DevOps?

A: **** Heading in to meet with enterprise IT teams, I realized there are these systemic things that we don’t uncover when we hand over materials and learning resources, like The DevOps Handbook. These problems tend to circle around institutional human behavior. Because I believe the most meaningful work being done by humanity is born out of creating the learning blocks for individuals to support a greater cause, in IT we need to uncover where and how human capital intersects with technology. This is where the idea of uncovering disease with organizational forensics comes into play. We try to uncover these problems in a very low-tech, conversational manner – with no laptops or smart boards – and have people explain how work is captured in their day to day lives. The goal then is to be able to ballpark the percentage of work being done that is not being captured anywhere in the system. This is why I developed the list of deadly diseases of DevOps because we can figure out the amount of work not being captured and then use prescriptive patterns and practices from people like Dominica DeGrandis, Eliyahu M. Goldratt, Melvin Conway, and many others to address them.

Q: John, how would an organi z ation know if they have one (or more) of the 7 deadly diseases of DevOps?

A: ** Organizations can’t Lean, Agile, SAFe or DevOps their way around a poor organizational culture.** There are ways to overcome the deadly diseases of DevOps, but it all starts with an organizational discovery process. In other words, the first step to solving any problem is recognizing there is one. Businesses need simple forensics and discovery at the edge of the organization because whenever there are change or improvement goals, the business is relying on human beings to make this happen. And, if humans haven’t been a part of figuring out how to do it, change efforts are likely to fall dead upon arrival. Thwarting the deadly diseases of DevOps is no easy task, but there are discernible antidotes to fighting them off. Regardless of any role within an organization, all can stand to benefit from the examples that Anders and I will discuss in the upcoming discussion.

A dd it to Your Calendars!

We invite you to join Anders Wallgren, CTO of CloudBees, and John Willis for a riveting discussion on what the seven deadly diseases of DevOps are, and solutions on how to eliminate them from an IT transformation journey.

Register for the webinar at: https://webinars.devops.com/the-7-deadly-diseases-of-devops ****

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ John Willis, Founder, Botchagalupe John Willis has worked in the IT management industry for more than 35 years. Currently John is founder of Botchagalupe Technologies. John was Director of Ecosystem Development for Docker, he joined Docker when the company he co-founded (SocketPlane, which focused on SDN for containers) was acquired in March 2015. Previous to founding SocketPlane in Fall 2014, John was the Chief DevOps Evangelist at Dell, which he joined following the Enstratius acquisition in May 2013. He has also held past executive roles at Opscode/Chef and Canonical/Ubuntu. John is the author of 7 IBM Redbooks and is co-author of the “Devops Handbook” along with authors Gene Kim, Patrick Dubois and Jez Humble. Anders Wallgren Chief Technology Officer, CloudBees Anders Wallgren is Chief Technology Officer of CloudBees . Anders brings with him over 25 years of in-depth experience designing and building commercial software. Prior to joining CloudBees, Anders held executive positions at Aceva, Archistra, and Impresse. Anders also held management positions at Macromedia (MACR), Common Ground Software and Verity (VRTY), where he played critical technical leadership roles in delivering award winning technologies such as Macromedia’s Director 7 and various Shockwave products.

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