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John Willis Talks DevOps Superpatterns at DOES17 London

| by Helen Beal Follow 5 Followers on Jun 26, 2017. Estimated reading time: 3 minutes |

John Willis, co-author of The DevOps Handbook, spoke about the emerging DevOps Superpattern at the 2017 DevOps Enterprise Summit June 5th and 6th in London.

Willis is also known for originating the CALMS elevator acronym, which stands for culture, automation, lean (from Jez Humble) measurement, and sharing.

InfoQ took the opportunity to ask Willis some questions.

InfoQ: What is a DevOps superpattern?

John Willis: DevOps started in 2009 with Patrick Debois and the one-day DevOpsDays event he created that then spread across the world. We just saw patterns that looked new. Over time, as more people got involved, we learned early on that lean and what came from Toyota Production Systems was a big part of what we call DevOps today. It’s not an accident that in The DevOps Handbook there are a lot of references to lean. Gene Kim was putting in a lot of references to Steven Spears – one of the authors of Harvard Business Review’s ‘Decoding the DNA of the Toyota Production System’.

Then John Allspaw started introducing into the DevOps body of knowledge (BoK) lots of references from safety and showing a lot of interesting work from air-crash, plant, and hospital investigation and how we can apply their learnings to what we do in IT. There is whole body of work that has lots of these frameworks all contributing to this, things like Holacracy – it’s exciting to be able to say ‘look, this is really good for DevOps’ but actually what we are seeing is patterns.

InfoQ: Why is this important or relevant?

Willis: There are two things; firstly, it condenses the discussion. We are trying to help people to work more efficiently and be better at what they do. If we all come at it from a different angle it can be very dislocating for the audience – it’s better for the community that we bring these patterns together to try and avoid confusing things.

The other thing is that it can be really overwhelming for people – originally we’d tell people to go and buy The Phoenix Project when they were embarking on a DevOps journey. It was a kind of hack; we’d say buy a physical copy and give it to your boss. He or she won’t read it. Check in a month. They still won’t have read it. The third time you ask they will feel guilty that you spent $20 on a book and they will read it. The problem now with The DevOps Handbook, is that there are now two books to buy and read. But what about Lean Enterprise, Continuous Delivery, Safety Differently… you know, there are just lists and lists of books we could recommend. And it’s a disservice to say to people, just read these five books and have a nice life. We do a better job if we condense the concepts and then people can choose to read more into a particular subject if they want.

InfoQ: Where are you seeing these patterns?

Willis: You see them everywhere and one of the core things you see is that they all have a culture component. In lean we see, derived from Toyota, this innate collaboration. Even though Toyota hadn’t labelled it this way, you see psychological safety; what we culture in IT in the form of ‘blameless post-mortems’ or generally referred to blamelessness. We also see the idea of Toyota’s andon cord in our software delivery pipelines. In the manufacturing example anyone could pull the chord and stop the line and the first thing the manager would say when he went over to investigate the problem is ‘thank you’ because it’s a learning opportunity. When there are issues and investigators are searching for blame people won’t be honest – they need psychological safety.

Google did some great research on what makes a great team (and the answer was psychological safety) and actively training people in the dialogue of blamelessness.

InfoQ: How can organisations take advantage of this?

Willis: Let’s start having a conversation about this – we are really interested to know whether this interests you and whether there are other frameworks you would add to the superpattern or other patterns you have seen. Let us know by commenting on this article.

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