Monthly Archives: March 2015

What computer games can teach us about maturity models – Choose your own DevOps Adventure

To use maturity models or not is an eternal question that Agile and DevOps coaches struggle with. We all know that maturity models have some weaknesses, they can easily be gamed if they are used to incentivise and/or punish people, they are very prone to the Dunning-Kruger effect and often they are vague. Of course on the flipside, maturity models allow you to position yourself, your team or your company across a set of increasingly good practices and striving for the next level could be the required motivation to push ahead and implement the next improvement.

Clearly there are different reasons behind different kinds of maturity models. For a self-assessment and to set a roadmap, a traditional maturity model like the Accenture DevOps maturity model is what it takes to get these done. There are many others available on the internet, so feel free to choose the one you like best.

At one of my recent clients we performed many maturity assessments across a wide variety of teams, technologies and applications. Of course such large scope means that we did not spend a lot of time with each team to assess the maturity and not surprisingly the result was that we got very different levels of response. We heard things like “Of course we do Continuous Integration, we have Jenkins installed and it runs every Saturday”, had this team not mentioned the second part of the sentence we would have probably ticked the Continuous Integration box on the maturity sheet.

A few months later we were back in the same situation and needed to find a way to help teams self-assess their maturity in an environment where a lot of DevOps concepts are not well known and different vendors and client teams are involved which means the actual maturity rating becomes somewhat political. I was worrying about this for a while and then one night while playing on my PC, inspiration hit me – I remembered the good old Civilisation game and the technology tree:


Now if I could come up with a technology tree just like this for DevOps I might be able to use this with teams to document the practices they have in place and what it takes to get the next practice enabled. Enter the DevOps technology dependency tree (sample below):

CD Technical Dependencies Tree

In this tree for each leaf we created a definition and related metrics and now each team could go off and use this tree to chart where they are and how they progress. This way each team chooses their own DevOps adventure. We also marked capabilities that the company needed to provide so that each team could leverage common practices that are strategically aligned (like a common test automation framework or deployment framework). This tree has been hugely successful at this specific client and we continue to update it whenever we find a better representation and believe new practices should be represented.

Who would have thought that playing hours of computer games would come in handy one day…

One on Ones or “Get to Know Your Team”

adviceAfter blogging about advice for individual contributors and performance rating preparation, I will spend the next few months blogging about good practices for supervisors. This is close to my heart as I fully subscribe to what a former boss once told me: “There is no point complaining about our work culture, start with your part of the organisation and make it a great place to work. The further you get up the ladder and the more people you influence the more you can influence the work culture for the better”. I think this is a fantastic point of view and over the next few months I will share with you what I think makes a good supervisor and how certain supervisor behaviours can
help make your company a great place to work for their direct reports. Hopefully these posts will reach many supervisors and help them to be more effective while improving the team’s performance and satisfaction.

Here is a quick overview of the upcoming blog posts:
1. One on Ones (this post)
2. Feedback (TBD)
3. Coaching (TBD)
4. Delegation (TBD)
5. Principles for success (TBD)
6. Pitfalls for supervisors (TBD)

All these posts are heavily influenced by my friends over at Go check them out for more details on how to be great supervisor.

Okay, let’s get into One on Ones. In my view this is one of the most important practices for a supervisor. Having a good relationship with the people in your team is very important. One-on-ones give you the chance to get to know your team, to learn about them as an individual and to help them get better on a regular basis. This regular touch point will also mean that you will have a better chance to identify when something is not right, perhaps a problem at home or at work that impacts the individual. Because you speak to them one on one, you will be better able to recognise if their behaviour changes or if they start talking differently about work. Take an interest in the person you are working with, it will pay back many times during your career. People don’t leave companies, people leave supervisors. Reflect on this and understand how important your relationship is.

The purpose of the one-on-one is to get to know your team better and to build strong relationships with the individuals in the team. It is NOT a status meeting but yes you will often talk about work, after all this is what you both have in common, but the one-on-ones you spend investing in the relationship will be the ones that really count. Remember that the focus is on your direct report and what they want to talk about, not on you and what you would like to tell them. This can be difficult at times and hence the format should start with the individual, which will force you to focus on their concerns first.

The format is 30 min every week – 10 min for your direct report, 10 min for you, 10 min for coaching/feedback or in general looking forward to what is happening next. In reality you will spend most one-on-ones with your direct report’s topic and your section and won’t get to the coaching/feedback part.

So how do you do it: Schedule a weekly 30 minutes meeting with each of your direct reports. Make it recurring so that it is always in your calendar. Take notes during the meeting. These
notes will come in handy between meetings to follow up on action items and they can also become helpful when it is performance evaluation time as a record of their achievements and the feedback you have given. I sometimes struggle to focus on the non-work aspects, so for me it is a conscious effort to make small talk. I use a feedback form to take notes, which also acts as a reminder in these sessions to focus on the individual and not the work. I also write reminders for myself to focus on listening over talking. It does help! (If you are interested reach out to me directly and I will send you my form). Make sure you remember your direct report’s family names and any other personal details they share. The agenda should always start with your direct report given a chance to talk about whatever they want to talk about. You get the second half of the one-on-one and if your direct report runs over time, that’s okay. It’s important that you make this time regularly. Don’t cancel it regularly and don’t move it around too often – this sends a clear message of the priority of these meetings if you don’t make the time for them. Show them that these one-on-ones are important to you.

Frequently asked questions:
Q:What if my direct report just keeps talking and I don’t get the chance to tell him
the things I need to tell him?
A: Don’t sweat it, let him have the time. You are his supervisor after all so you can always grab him another time during the day to talk to him about what you want.

Q: My direct treats the one-on-ones as a status meeting and does not share anything
A: That’s okay, give it some time. Over time he might get more comfortable in these meetings and will start becoming more informal. If not, then this is still a meeting that improves your relationship and shows that you are there to listen.

Q: I am not in the same city as my direct report or I am travelling intermittingly?
A: You can definitely do this over the phone or even better over video conference.

Continue reading more about my advice to improve your performance and the performance of your team:
20 principles for a successful start to a career