Feedback on “Those first few steps”

On twitter & Skype I received lots of great feedback on dealing with anxiety – and not just anxiety on public speaking, but any kind of anxiety & triggers.

One of the web links that resonated with me the most with public speaking, anxiety and the buildup of fear was sent over by @UberGeekGirl, seriouspony – The method described here is awesome in that it isn’t trying to sell me something, isn’t trying to get me to deliver in a specific way or copy a pattern, it’s about changing the frame of mind and how you think of your presentation and what you do.  I’ve book marked the page and added it to my talk “kanban” I use so that every talk I do, I re-read that post so I don’t focus on everything I don’t need to focus on (what a stress reliever!). I wish I had thought of this myself and thank Jessica for sending me that link.

Some other suggestions I really liked were from @SoberBuildEng.  This one just make so much sense to me I wonder why I haven’t been practicing it. These little things you can do on a daily basis add up over time…  Practice Practice & Practice.

A great Book recommendation from Will – already purchased on my kindle :) I’ve seen this pop up quite a bit.

And more friendly advice from @UberGeekGirl – an excellent talk on great talks.  I know this is somewhat contrary to the Seriouspony link mentioned above of trying to focus too much on me and my talk style but in many ways, having a known formula that works is a huge piece of mind and definitely worth sharing!
I also enjoyed seeing this on my timeline as I know I need to remind myself to take some time off.

Sometimes I seriously feel some of my anxiety stems not just from perfection/workaholic mindsets but from the fact that having a work-life balance is hard when you have a day job & you’re concerned about working all night on talks (or whatever the engagement is)..  Being afraid of success is a weird thing to think of, but I do believe that if I’m honest to myself it probably is one of those factors in the anxiety. I haven’t been putting as much effort into “me time” as I should that I let the fear of having no “me time” prevent me from doing awesome. (please note, I work for and I think its awesome they did this video as its just as fitting for the public as it is for its own employees)

I’ve promised myself (and my family) to use those vacation days, step away from it all and enjoy life and not let “yet another fear” make me that much more worried.  I’ve even planned out my calendar of “Me” days and tentative vacation plans well out through the next  year so as I do talks / CFPs and extra activities after work, they not only come second to my day job, but second to *me* and my family..  In a way, I’m already at ease as I feel a sense of relief  in planning this out that I know the “me” i’m concerned about is the “happy me” as I need to be, not the “me” I think I need to be for everyone else.

Thanks everyone for the great discussions and as always, if you have any advice or suggestions – i’m all ears!  In hindsight some of this seems so simple.. Hopefully some of what I shared helps you too!

Still working on it and I’ll provide more feedback after I do my next talks & speaking engagements!

Those first few steps..

Hey world, I get nervous as crap when I speak in public. I have an irrational fear of public speaking that takes over my body and does funny things.  If you see me holding the mic close to my chest, its probably because there is no other way to stop that automatic fight or flight response my body is shooting through me and I have a death grip on the mic against my chest to cover that unstoppable shaky hand of mine.

I have no idea where this fight or flight response is coming from. I can’t really think of a situation that changed me from the kid who grew up in participating in school plays and student council to the adult who has something to say but has an irrational fear of speaking in public, but whatever it was, I’m here to win it over and destroy that fear.

Slowly but surely, I honestly feel better about it. Having started to see the changes in myself I guess I felt it was time to share this with the world, to sort of close this chapter of my life so I could get it out of my head once and for all and just maybe, help someone else.

There is no hiding it, the first few talks I gave I was so full of dread & fear.  The first time I grabbed the mic and walked up on the stage I thought I was going to pass out, then that shake started.. oh dear that (&#!n* shake.

I know my subject matter, I can speak about it all day long with friends and people I work with and get tons of great feedback and positive support.. but for some reason when I step up to the podium or stand in front of a large team my body just throws my brain under the bus and overloads my system.

With some practice though. I’m starting to notice changes.  The second time I gave a public talk, I noticed I was remembering more about the experience..  The 3rd time I was actually able to sit back down in the same room after giving the talk.  But something still triggers my fight or flight response..  Not sure what it is..

So with all of this said, I love sharing.. I love talking with people. I love connecting with peers, talking through things and what I do.  I’ve been given the opportunities to speak and have enjoyed every one of them immensely – even through my anxiety attacks. I’m determined to beat this.

When I first started writing this post over a year ago, I just sort of left it as a private reminder but something happened recently that really got me thinking about this. (or maybe procrastination is my problem.. :) )

What really got me thinking about this in a round-about sort of way was John Willis’s article on burnout in IT and especially at startups.. It got me thinking about the pressures people face – to be on top of the world, to be everywhere, to speak, share & present at events, to know & learn everything, to have friends and family (work life balance) and it got me thinking about my fears and concerns and how I react. I actually felt the same nervousness in my gut just reading his post that I feel when I get in front of a large crowd.  I even feel some of the same nervous energy just post *this* post.

Is my anxiety an manifestation of burnout? Irrational fear of letting people down? Concern that I may succeed and have to do this more and spend more time working on work when I should have a better life balance? Am I trying to do and achieve so much that I’m failing at all of it? I want to succeed, provide for my family and flourish – are the demands simply too much and I show it through channeled anxiety?

Again, I don’t know the answers..

What I have learned though is that the community is out there who does want to help and that whatever our fears, concerns and emotions may be that we often internalize and let take the best of us, we can overcome them  – Personally and as a Community.  I appreciate John for reminding us that real people are doing real work and we should be in the now and in the present to help each other. It took a lot of courage to write something like that – In a way, just seeing John put his soul out there on a platter gave me the courage I needed to finally share this post before I let it get the best of me.

Always looking forward to hearing what others may have done to cope and grow or push through these responses.

Does exercise work for you to alleviate rush of adrenaline? Do you do breathing exercises? Have you been able to do better as you talk and share more? Did you have to result to beta blockers or any medication to assist while re-training your brain & body?  Vacation? Holiday?  break from everything? Yoga? (i’ve had lots of recommendations for yoga…)

More to come as I explore and learn..   (nervously awaiting hitting the publish button…)

After all, I enjoy sharing.. I enjoy hearing other people tell their stories.  I don’t know what I’m really afraid of.. other then maybe I always felt alone in this adventure at times (anxiety does that to a person!) but again, I’ve seen some great response from the community as of late that has lit that fire under me to speak up, share and do what I love to do – to have a passion for something and learn to live my life without that fear and not let it turn into burnout or something worse.

oh btw, I hope to see everyone at another #DOES,  PuppetConf, DevOpsDays or other conference.. Talks are out  Be sure to say hi!  I may look nervous but I promise I’m still nice.

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A day of Puppet! – Tuesday March 10th 2015!

Austin will get a double dose of Puppet this month on March 10th.   Puppet Labs will be in town hosting their 2nd Puppet Camp Austin and afterward we will continue the evening with the Austin Puppet Users Group meetup.

Austin Puppet Users Group –

Hurry up and register for the Puppet Camp!

You’re invited to Puppet Camp Austin 2015!
8:30 – 9:00: Check in / Registration
9:00 – 10:00: Puppet Keynote (Beginner) – Deepak Giridharagopal, Puppet Labs
10:00 – 10:45: Getting Started with Puppet – Byron Miller, HomeAway
10:45 – 11:00: Break
11:00 – 11:45: Embracing Roles and Profiles – Greg Swift, Rackspace
11:45 – 12:30: Automating the network with Puppet netdev – Peter Sprygada, Arista Networks
12:30 – 1:30: Lunch
1:30 – 2:15: O/S Provisioning with Razor – Gavin Scott, Dell, Inc
2:15 – 3:15: Puppet Demo (Beginner) – David Roberts, Puppet Labs
3:15 – 3:30: Break
3:30 – 4:15: Puppet for Everybody! Federated and Hierarchical Puppet Enterprise – Chris Bowles, UT at Austin
4:15 – 5:00: How I learned to stop worrying and love the ENC – Shaun Mouton
5:00 – 6:30: Reception – Norris Conference Center Lobby

Puppet Camps are one-day, regional events held around the world for people who are currently using or interested in using Puppet. You will have the opportunity to talk to a diverse group of Puppet users, benefit from presentations delivered by prominent community members, share experiences, and discuss potential implementations of Puppet with your peers.

While both new and experienced Puppet users are welcome to attend, the presentations are geared slightly more toward beginners. More experienced users can still benefit from the presentations and networking with other Puppet users.


Austin Puppet User Group – #puppethack Meet-up. Collaborate, Share & Learn.

I would like to invite you to join us at HomeAway for #puppethack, a collaborative, informal online (and onsite for those who register) Puppet community hack day! #puppethack is an opportunity for Puppet community members and Puppet Labs’ employees to tackle interesting or fun Puppet projects.

This is a great opportunity to get hands on with puppet, peer program, share/collaborate and network with people from puppet labs at the same time.

We will have Wifi, Power, whiteboards/post-it-notes & plenty of snacks and an abundant supply of coffee & lunch provided.

Click through the site and reserve your spot today!

Puppet #Hackday @ HomeAway – Collaborate, Share & Network with local puppeteers

Thursday, Dec 4, 2014, 10:00 AM

HomeAway North @ Domain
11800 Domain Blvd., Suite 300 Austin, TX

7 Puppeteers Attending

I would like to invite you to join us at HomeAway for #puppethack, a collaborative, informal online Puppet community hack day! #puppethack is an opportunity for Puppet community members (US) and Puppet Labs’ employees to tackle interesting or fun Puppet projects.This is a great opportunity to get hands on with puppet, peer program, share/collabora…

Check out this Meetup →

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Peaks and Valleys of empathy

This topic has been sitting in my post queue for ages and I don’t feel I did it justice quite as well as I wanted, but it will never get anywhere unless it is published, so better imperfect than never ;)

Lots of talk on the net about DevOps and empathy and it’s got me thinking and reading a lot lately. I’m curious as to what success others have in bringing up empathy in regards to work and how successful they are in trying to create an environment where we convey empathy.  It strikes me as a complex issue in the sense that I correlate empathy to our moral compass and having sympathy and shared values as a foundation, yet, as a society and as an industry, we don’t really talk about this in any quantifiable way.

I’ve been reading papers on empathy, morality and the scientific understanding thereof as well as the books and blogs such as “The Moral Landscape” by Sam Harris and I’ve sort of come to a realization that the call for empathy in the tech industry is mostly describing the end result of empathy in specific frames.  It’s like we’re cheerleading the symptom we describe as empathy but throwing up barriers to the actors and methods to convey empathy (or at least recognize it).

How does one adjust their moral compass to have empathy for one another? How do we get over political, ideological and seemingly more critically religious dispositions of morality and come to an agreement or at least discover shared concerns? Can one really “design” in empathy through force by merely describing how people should perceive it or show it? Does talking about empathy as an end result actually mean anything or fix anything?

One very simplistic but very common theme I see discussed everywhere is this common us vs them thing, its pervasive in almost everything tech from software to devices and choice of gaming platforms. For example,  some people will be altruistic about Open Source, others see value in commercial enterprises or the freedom to choose products and services that we see fit. How can we be empathetic towards people making these decisions on their own if we stand on our beliefs on ideological platforms vs. having a rational foundation? Could we not borrow what Sam Harris talks about and say that both are just as valid and offer “peaks” in the moral landscape?  I bring this up because we often talk about technology, services, software and ideas in these absolutes and in doing so, it seems to train our minds to accept them and take pride in them essentially further removing us from empathy.

I sort of see this pride barrier as being pervasive in the industry and bleeding out as a cultural value. I see it in how people respond or interact with the feminism movement, as if it’s “Us vs Feminists” and not actually feminists out to improve the whole world for everyone. It’s almost like we have learned responses and trained values and that we’re actually pushing empathy further and further away but only talking about empathy in ways and places where empathy is accepted as appropriate and not seeing how universal it could be.

A simple but pervasive example is the “peaks” and “valleys” of software and human interactions and our disdain for empathy is Microsoft. One could say Microsoft really screwed the pooch with Internet explorer and PC lock-in, but now that Microsoft has adjusted and released IE 10 and IE 11 and is now moving on to cyclic monthly updates on most of their platforms and opening up their technologies, can people learn to show a little empathy and recognize that Microsoft of all companies has “left the valley” and is “climbing the peak”?  Do we ever have discussions like this or will people perpetually write off Microsoft because they sat on their laurels for too long and had a lack of vision?  It’s a low on the totem pole discussion of empathy for sure, but if you ask me, it’s the very form that drives so much angst, fear, uncertainty and doubt in the industry that its simply an easy target for such discussions. It seems these simple things are what train us to avoid the complex ones or not just avoid them but set our response thereof.

One could target the ideals of the GNU licensing and how it works and what the beliefs behind it are but instead of talking about it in “peaks and valleys” compared to other licenses and software models, we often choose to hold it as the gold standard ideologically.  Is that really building up an understanding of empathy? Does Open Source or Commercial software have to win absolutely? Is the GNU license built to be divisive and should that be held up as a superior way to achieve empathy (or anything)?

Outside of software, how does one talk about empathy when business is purely a “win it or lose” it concept? It’s fiercely competitive and predatory.  In one aspect this is how people see capitalism as a positive aspect of society but at the same time, if we really want to have empathy for one another, isn’t the preferential system the one that is a little bit less competitive for competitive sake but more altruistic in the human aspect? I’ve read some papers that cite wealthy and successful people have a tough time with empathy yet, we often cherish these people and the notion one day we might be wealthy too as a reason for our drive and passion for what we do. Is our system of work designed to drive out empathy?

I’m often hearing people say we need to take more risk and “don’t do things because you have always done them that way”, yet, we don’t seem to look at work, empathy, and morality as “peaks” and “valleys” but rather ideological absolute points that are driven or accepted by a specific few –  there doesn’t seem to be a process or pattern by which I or anyone can do something separate but equal. Without actually having the discussion of the peaks and valleys how do we know whatever it is that we’re doing is actually working? Do we only get acceptance of peaks when recognized by people apparently more “Superior” to us recognize them – such as executives, board members and C-teams?  In the case of some of my jobs, the compass of the company was set by the CEO and Sr. Management and if you didn’t live up to those “peaks” you were out of your job – regardless of how passionate, moral or empathetic you were. In many ways it seems we’re often predisposed to peaks without actually discussing what these peaks actually are.

How do we change this? How do we grow?  How do we really talk about empathy in the DevOps world and really talk about it? I don’t mean standing up as speakers in conferences and saying “I’ll probably get fired for this” because you’re talking to other humans like human beings but actually talking about the unwritten rules that appear to make us uncomfortable or wrong in having empathy for one another?

I see my friends in the feminist movement saying to stop treating women as if their different and don’t defend them for being women or put them on a pedestal but treat them as equals. Maybe ideas like this should be universal – our managers, CEO’s and executives probably shouldn’t be on a pedestal but seen for the human beings they are not that they deserve more or less than anyone else.  Wouldn’t this help alleviate the concept of wealthy or privileged people having low compassion for others? Wouldn’t this help women generally feel more empowered and respected?  (pillars of empathy?) Do we ever discuss these parallels or will we always see them as movements?  The feminist movement is a constant reminder women need our support, not to be treated like damsels in distress yet the same could be said for every human being. We  males often have a very tough time recognizing or accepting our distress as if that is a cultural and prideful norm so we often write off other movements because of our failure to recognize our own parallels. The feminist movement isn’t separate from us when seen through the eyes of empathy but rather something that empowers us all. Do we ever talk about this?

I for one thank our “nerd culture” because prior to it being accepted I was an outcast shunned from society destined to be a dirty grungy basement dweller who plays D&D (in the publics eye) yet something changed and society seems to embrace this culture but in hindsight only “apparently so” and very superficially..  Maybe its embraced because of TV shows, marketing, branding and rich people getting rich from .COMs and such. Do people really have empathy for my passions in what I do in life or is it merely acceptable because everyone wants in because its apparently cool now? The last thing I want is for everything we work on, from DevOps to feminism to culture and building successful businesses to become passe because we forget it’s really about us in the end.

Should we not talk about our brains? How some people are wired differently? How religion, faith and personal views shape our morality and how that drives our compass and empathy responses? How can we as society learn to disconnect our personal preferences and personal emotions to understand one another if we don’t “map” and visualize our collective “well being” and actually respect those decisions?  If all we talk about is empathy in such a superficial context, are we not perpetuating the ignorance and simply buying what others are saying as true without actually dissecting those truths?

It’s a big question and I don’t expect a black and white response. I just hope people are actually thinking through these concepts in a hundred-foot view and not through their own biases. That is terribly hard for us humans to do, especially when a lot of our biases, ethics, morals and empathetic responses are more cultural, religious and ideologically based rather then derivative of actual study and research.  I’m not the first nor the last but it certainly seem that discussing our moral landscape (thanks Sam Harris)  seems to cause much hate and angst towards us as if we’re trespassing beliefs that shouldn’t be trespassed.  Is that another unwritten rule biting us in the ass keeping us from growing up?

Put on your thinking caps and think about empathy and your moral compass and what you share with others and how you can give credit to different “peaks” and “Valleys”. Look at your choices, your decisions and think for a bit about how you feel, how you act, how you shop, how you live, what you choose to do in your life and why. Is empathy really a driving factor in any of this? If not, how do you make it so? In making it so, are we not recognizing how to better our society, our way of life, our work and our shared feelings? I’m extremely thrilled that many people in the DevOps movement are talking about empathy and there is a huge sense of pride in merely having this discussion.

I don’t have the answers. In this case, I think reminding ourselves to ask the question is the real solution. I don’t think the answer is my peaks and valleys, but that we all have shared peaks and valleys even if we view them differently.

Quick References:

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#DOES14 Conference Notes

DevOps is a thing in the Enterprise and DevOps Enterprise Summit #DOES14 certainly made the case showing organizations such as Disney, GE, Target and groups within the US Government working on DevOps styled initiatives.

I got home super late and i’m super drained from too much allergy/sinus meds but I wanted to share some thoughts here and express my enthusiasm and gratitude for such a fantastic event.  Expect more soon, but a quick summary follows:

Common aspects of DevOps in the enterprise:

Agile – Lots of Agile transformations and Agile team development. Seemed to be one of the most consistent messages that enterprises feel the need to adopt Agile methodologies to achieve DevOps goals.

Tools – Enterprises aren’t just doing unit tests and artifact management through  CI / CD systems but they’re using them to solve challenges such as code reviews, security, audit, compliance,  risk analysis, security analysis and much more. I was excited to see so much discussion on this topic not just from a developer /operations perspective but how management and auditors see opportunity to drive value here as well.

Case Studies – If you needed/wanted case studies, you simply should have been here. Be sure to watch the #DOES14 website and youtube for release of speaker decks and Videos.

Some common concerns that stuck out were definitely:

User Acceptance Testing – This issue was almost universal regardless if your app is in house or a commercial off the shelf system (COTS) – now that you can empower your development and operations team to automate much of the grunt work of CI / CD and development testing the “UAT” part of QA is still very manual & hands on setting the takt time for your entire organization.

Audits – Lots of concerns/questions on Audit. There may need to be an entire day track to cover the issues of Enterprise Audits.  Maybe next year? We didn’t even scratch the surface on this topic and yet, it was an open question with so many speakers and attendees curious as to what others do here.

Personal Thoughts:

To be honest, I was impressed with the depth and breadth that some of these organizations have adopted Lean / Agile and DevOps values.  If Gene Kim accomplished anything with this conference it was making a bold statement that DevOps is in the Enterprise and backing that up with three days of solid evidence for that.

One thing I hope to see next year is how more organizations derive the value and do value stream mapping. I love the enthusiasm and love seeing what people have done but sometimes I felt people were too enthusiastic about trying to do “DevOps” to be like others that do “DevOps” and spend so much to measure how they compare against others in that regard. I’m not sure that this competitive notion of who can DevOp better than everyone else is wrong per se, but I do feel sometimes people do things to lead an idea more than they do things to solve problems.  A local optimization gone mad if you will ;)   (In a way I have a fear of Applied DevOps..  hehe)

I’m still recovering and getting all of my notes together. If you have any specific questions/comments or if you were at the conference and want to discuss particular topics, get in touch!  More posts to come, especially when I can link in videos / slides to share as they get released/published!

Edit:  Update at 3:18 PM – We discussed the conference a bit on HangOps this afternoon.  Feel free to watch the discussion on YouTube below!

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Austin Puppet Users Group – Join our Meetup!

It’s been too long since our initial meetup so i’m thrilled to be getting some dates on the calendar. Right now, we plan on having the meetup be the 2nd Tuesday of each month  from 6:30 pm until 8ish with a special meetup on the 28th of October so we can have a PuppetConf 2015 recap and talk about some of the rather massive changes coming to Puppet over the next release cycles.

The Meetup will be hosted at HomeAway’s new Domain office in  Austin – fairly easy access off Mo-Pac right next door to Whole Foods.

You can register for the Austin Puppet Users Group here:

Austin Puppet User Group

Austin, TX
11 Puppeteers

Welcome to the Austin Puppet User Group! We meet most months to discuss configuration management, meet other Puppet users, listen to talks on Puppet, and learn from each other…

Check out this Meetup Group →

The event schedule and calendar should be going up by 10/17. Please be sure to register if you plan on coming and note if you will be bringing along any buddies (we highly recommend coming with a friend or co-worker!)

If you would like to present, request topics or share anything with the group, please join the discussion and let us know!

Update: Heading to DevOps Enterprise Summit!

Thanks to contributions from friends & family, support from the conference and support from my new place of work, I’ll be able to attend the DevOps Enterprise Summit in San Francisco next week!  I really appreciate everyone helping make such a short notice trip possible!

I look forward to joining a panel discussion with some great talent to discuss the work we did on our DevOps audit defense toolkit.

Check out the conference and speakers here,  catch me on twitter if you will be there, would love to meet in person!

Good Bye Luminex, Hello HomeAway

October was a month of change for me. I’ve said good-bye to my great friends at Luminex Corporation and started a new job with working in the cloud engineering team. This opportunity will afford me more time to dive deeper into large scale platforms, distributed systems and more DevOps patterns & processes but I still plan on completing much of the work I started with my blog about Enterprise DevOps Patterns and Enterprise DevOps Audit Defense.

I have a huge back-log of posts i’ve written up that I just need to cleanup and get published and I look forward to continuing the discussion of large “Enterprise” applications in a “DevOps” flow.

More to come and I hope with a lot more frequency :)

DevOps in the Enterprise – Oracle Financials “Flow”

Is your eBusiness suite environment full of multiple development instances all running their own mini projects of sorts with unique efforts and no alignment?  Do you catch yourself thinking that you need more environments because you have more projects that need to go on? Are you adding more projects to the mix because you’re stuffing your projects with fill time and dependencies and seeing that as idle time to do more?

Lets talk about FLOW.

In my experience, the typical Oracle Financials flow is chaos, managed chaos. Its heavily based upon very inflexible and highly managed plans and projects. These plans and projects often have layers of people management, process management, requirements, expectations, deadlines, goals and ambitions that are based upon assumptions and waste – processes that add no value to our end goal of delivering or supporting the financials applications stack. Come to think of it, I’ve been in this industry for 10+ years and its always been a struggle against unrecognized waste! We build our procedures on waste without really knowing it.. almost habitually!

15 Years of eBusiness suite deployments and the bulk of my work has been waste.

Let that settle in. (I feel anxious just thinking about it!)

I’m not here to point fingers, lay blame or say it was all wrong, I just need this to sink in before you can move to understanding flow, understanding your own waste and understand what it means to operate with “DevOps” value or “lean” operations. We can’t possibly work towards DevOps patterns in Enterprise systems until you realize what your own “Flow” of work is and what waste really is.

So about this waste, lets get into more details so you understand why its called “waste”.


Warning: This is mostly thoughts flowing out of my head.. maybe not the most cohesive.. most grammatically or syntactically correct, but just thoughts & experiences & ideas. I hope these get you thinking about your “waste” more than they are meant to document all waste.

Learned helplessness – Procedures are in place to trigger punishment, there is no reward for stopping production to do things right, there is no value consensus in the project or collaboration & reflection on getting things done.  Someone else has planned things out according to someone’s idea of a deliverable that someone else forecast and the core value sold to the business it that the project will be done by a specified time and budget. Where is the value in this?

Overproduction – The tendency of projects to keep people busy by losing focus on what the customer has requirements for.  In general over production is producing goods for which there are no orders, but in an Enterprise IT shop, this could translate to having too many environments operating that doesn’t fit your main flow essentially overproducing in order to keep the appearance of utilization.  This also contains Excess Inventory, adding new expensive instances that you then have to have capital appropriations for because the storage, CPU and memory is expensive.  You start passing those costs on to your customers or absorbing them as cost of doing the project / business. You start building Unnecessary movement with too many flows of work because now you have to maintain, patch and clone these environments on disparate schedules thus, creating more slippage in projects, more waste time in cycles.  All of which adds up to Big Buffers,  Defects, and Unused Employee Creativity.  I’ll let those speak for themselves :)

With poor flow you build insurmountable technical debt;  we start choosing the “least” concerning option, the “least” risky option, the “safest” route – and generally, not even based upon a consensus but someone actually signing off on the risk as a personal responsibility or PUSHING responsibility up/down the “People who are paid enough” chain. I quote all these “safe” and “least” routes because they’re often done on assumptions and learned behaviors more than they are chosen on  facts and the discussions thereof.

How then do you then start to approach your eBusiness suite flow?

The conceptual practices that people generally speak of in DevOps circles stem from the works of Kevin Behr, Gene Kim & George Spafford (and many.. many others!) through the metaphor of the Three ways they hint of in the Phoenix Project.  I say metaphors because conceptualizing these is fairly simple, but applying them is a different story and they don’t really “Speak” to the typical “Enterprise” shop. (if you ask me..) – BTW, let me be clear, this is mostly paraphrasing the Three ways!

  • The First Way – Create a fast flow of work that moves from development into IT.
  • The Second Way – Amplify feedback loops, so we can fix quality at the source and avoid rework.
  • The Third Way – Create a culture that simultaneously fosters experimentation, learning from failures, and understanding that repetition and practice are the prerequisites to mastery.

I believe the approach to thoughtfully applying and understanding these three ways successfully is to learn from Operations Management, Lean processes and to borrow heavily from lean JIT manufacturing and the Toyota Production System (TPS).

How does Lean workflow improve our flow?

Here are seven traits of lean operations, made possible by well studied and observed lean practitioners..

  1. Builds in Quality
  2. Flexibility
  3. Higher Productivity
  4. Frees up floor space
  5. Improves Safety
  6. Improves Morale
  7. Reduces cost of inventory

Did you read those and ponder on them a bit? Did you think about them in your own environment? I wanted to get them out there to get you thinking about them so the next part makes more sense.. It can be confusing to talk principles, culture and concepts when you don’t feel any bearing to them yourself.

Developing lean / DevOps values & principles.

Principle 1.  Long term philosophy even at the expense of short term goals. If your goal is to generate value to your customers then you can’t achieve that by taking short cuts to appease near term goals. I had a big paragraph describing concepts here, but deleted it because this will make more sense as you get through the rest of the principles. Simply put, your financial application investment is a HUGE long term investment, don’t put it at risk for near term gain! Keep that in mind as you build your values & culture!

Principle 2. Create continuous process flow to bring problems to the surface.  Those project plans, are they full of hand-offs, waits & idle time? (Waste?) Make flow evident in your organization so the project itself is improved iteratively to optimize its own value.  In a continuous flow, you don’t promote your problems to the next “Cell” for them to work on, you surface them to fix them!

Principle 3. Use Pull systems to avoid overproduction Provide your customers with what they want, when they want it and in the amount they want.  Minimize your WIP (Work in Progress/Process) so you can be responsive to day-by-day shifts in demand rather than relying on schedules.  Too much WIP and you start losing your flow and spiral out of control.

Principle 4. level out the workload Eliminate waste, eliminate overburden.  Remove the painful “start & stop” of implementations – strive to work through to completion smaller, more iterative processes.  The more you start and stop work because you have so many inter-dependencies, the more you’re breaking up the workload, the more you’re adding waste & re-work. Projects & WIP generally get out of hand if you don’t value the leveling out of workloads!

Principle 5. Build a culture of stopping to fix problems – get quality right the first time. Don’t build up technical debt! The quality of service we provide is our value proposition to our customers and the business.  Use quality assurance methods available to help get quality right.  This is one of the areas where I’ll mention tools as you can build a process around tools to remove complexity, remove dependencies (decouple!), remove guess work and improve the flow.  Continuous integration environments, Unit testing, Desired State Configs. These are all concepts that embrace the culture of getting quality right the first time and embracing a culture of stopping to fix problems.  “Prod” is no longer just the production instance of your financials application, it is the entire flow!

Principle 6. Standardize tasks Build foundations for continuous improvement and employee empowerment.  Use stable, repeatable methods everywhere to maintain the predictability, regular timing and output of your processes.  Those “controls” you have in place that you thought did this, actually get in the way.  Rethink those!  The tasks are more important than the controls because the tasks empower people to improve them, collaborate on them, test them and analyze them. Obviously I’m not saying to throw out controls, companies have them in place for Audit, legislative, legal and financial accountability reasons, but use them wisely.  Look at your values and see how your “controls” are part of the value chain!

Principle 7. Use visual controls so no problems are hidden. Many people recommend Kanban style “pull” visuals so you can visually represent the flow, but you can expand these into providing visual data across your flows. We often call them “KPI’s”, we call them “Dashboards”,  We call them “Portals”, They’re representations of flow!  Don’t hide problems by keeping people unaware from them, shoving them off to other groups or pushing the blame around, keep them front and center so you know what you have to apply your efforts on!

Principle 8. Use reliable and thoroughly tested technology that serve your people and processes. Isn’t this the expectation we have in buying and paying for Oracle eBusiness Suite? We often imply reliability and thoroughness by forcing long lead times, forcing compliance, forcing validation, forcing checkpoints and buffering time in our projects. We’re doing it wrong!  Build up reliable OS platforms, so you can do OS patching without your Business Analyst having to approve something they have no bearing on. (You know, those change requests that get promoted to 5 different people!).  Build up reliable infrastructure so you can have alerting, collect metrics, analyze data and visualize your flow.  You want to have the trust to do things right as well as the trust to be able to fix things that break. If you’re not innovating, its time to review your process!

Principle 9 – Grow leaders who thoroughly understand the work, live the philosophy and teach it to others. I personally believe that growing an agile / lean / DevOps culture is much more powerful than buying one. The best way to grow people is to empower them and the best way to empower them is to motivate them by making them part of the process, showing them how they contribute to the process and reflecting their value.

Principle 10. Develop exceptional people and teams who follow your company’s philosophy What is your goal? Are you working with these values? Are you looking to “iterate to innovate”?   Do you have a policy of “If you’re not innovating, its time to review your process”? Are you understanding these values? Are you developing them in your teams & company culture?

Principle 11. Respect your extended network of partners and suppliers by challenging them and helping them improve Work with your partners, help them understand your requirements and your flow. Make sure Oracle knows your patterns, make sure your OS vendor knows your strategy, make sure you’re choosing people who support YOUR business.  Don’t let “best practices” or other buzz phrases get in the way. Your best practices are the practices you foster, you measure, you analyze, you validate, you test and you improve. Validate what your partners are doing through the same process you validate your own organization!

Principle 12. Go and see for your self to thoroughly understand the situation! Don’t leave people hanging! Simple as that. If there is a problem, go and discuss it. If something breaks, you should go and stop the flow, see the problem for yourself, get the right people involved to fix it and take ownership.

Principle 13. Make decisions slowly by consensuses, thoroughly considering all options; implement decisions rapidly. If you ask me, this is the best principle ever because its a complete reversal of experience I’ve had where there is very little discussion on doing this well.  Reverse your patterns by striving for excellence in design & implementation, increase your flow so the implementation of decisions is rapid! Often times people assume a project manager has done all of this in advance and the entire project is implementation, that seems entirely backwards and counter productive to me but a trap I see all to often! Make sure stakeholders are holding their stake! :D

Principal 14. Become a learning organization through relentless reflection and continuous improvement This is it folks. The culture you develop should be based on relentless reflection and continuous improvement. This means experimentation, A/B Analysis, trial and error. This means blameless postmortems. This means collaboration. This means cross domain participation.  This is “DevOps” folks!

What do these principals do for your flow?

These principals help you develop new values and new learned behaviors.  They really have clarity when you tie them back to those seven traits I bullet pointed earlier.

Builds in Quality – Your principals create a work ethic based on quality products to your customer.  Smaller batch sizes, lower risk, automated testing, easier to verify. You’re actually increasing your throughput even through a single flow!

Flexibility – Reduced lead times, faster deployments, faster fixes.  You’re now empowering people to be creative, flexible because the process is creative.

Higher Productivity – Single flow means that the work is getting done and done right. You have less over production, less environment/instances, less coordination, less process management, more focus on agility and very little non value add work.

Frees up floor space – While we don’t typically have “floor space” in the manufacturing sense, we do have “floor” space in the technology.  Single flow means less VM sprawl, server sprawl, less capital tied up in idle hardware. We’re no local focusing on local optimums of optimizing infrastructure use and VM use by using MORE of it to make it appear utilized.

Improves Safety – People usually don’t get hurt physically in eBusiness suite deployments and upgrades but safety can be distilled in many ways. Safety can be seen as stability, Safety can be seen as respect,  partnerships.  Safety can be the protocol by which you solve the insatiable appetite of managers to strive for consistency.

Improves Morale – People are focused on single flows, people feel empowered to make a difference, people are challenged to do better, people feel the reward of a job well done.  People appreciate adding value and creating value!

Reduces cost of inventory – Just like freeing up floor space, you can reduce sprawl, hardware, processes and controls, reducing the cost of inventory, reducing the cost of WIP and reducing the cost of your flow. You don’t need to have environments on standby, don’t need to have excess capacity just in case.  You can use these excess capacities for other purposes that add value!  Use them to experiment, test, verify. Use them for proof of concepts.  The idle time you measure should be idle time you allocate to improvement. If there is one thing you want to stock up on, its an excess of pride, excess of trust, excess of ownership. The ROI on that is through the roof!

The Three ways

Once you start understanding the metaphors, values and principals of lean operations you can start building your own metaphor for the “Three ways”.  Understand your flow,  make feedback part of your process and wrap it all up with culture!

My Story

If after reading my opening statements you feel I’m being snarky in a way, it’s probably because I am.  Not only have I ran into exceedingly costly and ever failing efforts and projects but as a person in this failure loop, its hurt me personally.  Its built up bad behaviors, bad experiences, bad attitudes and so much more!  Poor flow projects turn collaboration inside out, people don’t want to talk, they don’t want to work together, blame takes over, people fight for the wrong types of responsibility and the demands on your technical staff to pull of thankless miracle after miracle become detrimental to not only their attitudes, but their behaviors and even their health. We start striving for the wrong goals, we start striving for deadlines and dates, we hide risk behind the successes of deadlines, we build technical debt not creating a process that allows us to improve our deficiencies and do things “The right way” and when we say the “right way” – that doesn’t mean “My way as I see fit” but the “Collaborative way with continuous improvement in mind so that we know we’re all working towards creating and adding value”.

The end result of determining your flow isn’t just a beautiful “Self-healing”, “self-maturing”,”reflective” project and infrastructure – it’s a cultural shift for your organization that is downright empowering!

I don’t have all the answers, but what I wanted to do was offer an honest critique of where we are failing and ways that we can fix it, building upon the successful values of others. Isn’t that really where our flow stems from? I didn’t invent this, don’t claim to be a master of it, and i’m always having to practice it and think about it.  I believe in sharing it and writing about it since that is part of my philosophy and how I learn as well!

As always, comments/feedback is HIGHLY appreciated! I know this was a long one so thanks for staying with it!


The Phoenix Project

The Toyota Way

Taiichi Ohno

Too many great resources to list, but that is of course, a great start!


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