My notes from the DevOps Handbook

by Gene Kim, Jez Humble, Patrick Debois, John Willis

62. Reserve Time to Create Organizational Learning and Improvement

Improvement blitz (or sometimes a kaizen blitz) - dedicated and concentrated period of time to address a particular issue, often over the course of several days. Blitzes often take this form: A group is gathered to focus intently on a process with problems... The blitz lasts a few days, the objective is process improvement, and the means are the concentrated use of people from outside the process to advise those normally inside the process.

Output of the improvement blitz team will often be a new approach to solving a problem.

Institutionalize rituals to pay down technical debt

Dev and Ops time for improvement work, such as nonfunctional requirements, automation, etc. One of the easiest ways to do this is to schedule and conduct day or week long improvement blitzes, where everyone on a team (or in the entire organization) self organizes to fix problems they care about, no feature work is allowed.

Our goal during these blitzes is to improve our daily work, such as solving our daily workarounds. Improvement blitzes are very focused on solving specific problems we encounter in our daily work.

These improvement blitzes are simple to administer: One week is selected where everyone in the technology organization works on an improvement activity at the same time. At the end of the period, each team makes a presentation to their peers that discusses the problem they were tackling and what they built. This practice reinforces a culture in which engineers work across the entire value stream to solve problems. Furthermore, it reinforces fixing problems as part of our daily work and demonstrates that we value paying down technical debt.

Enable everyone to teach and learn

A dynamic culture of learning creates conditions so that everyone can not only learn, but also teach, whether through traditional didactic methods or more experiential or open methods. One way that we can foster this teaching and learning is to dedicate organizational time to it.

Share your experiences from devops conferences

To help build a learning organization, we should encourage our engineers (both from Development and Operations) to attend conferences, give talks at them, and, when necessary create and organize internal or external conferences themselves.

Create internal consulting and coaches to spread practices

Creating an internal coaching and consulting organization is a method commonly used to spread expertise across an organization. This can come in many different forms. At Capital One, designated subject matter experts hold office hours where anyone can consult with them, ask questions, etc.