business team joining hands teamwork solidarity partnership 000003660617Analyzing the historical progress of the successful companies, we can see that the front-runners are the ones that achieved the tightest integration between all of the groups in the organization. They’ve reduced the friction between the teams and eliminated the waste in the communications throughout the organization starting with the business, through the development organization and Operations, all the way to the customers and the end users. This became their primary focus and concern. At the end, it became their business differentiating factor and their competitive advantage on the market. This concept is at the root of the science of the Lean companies.

Although it’s sounds simple and “bloody obvious” to many, it leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Companies are working hard to enable clear and frequent communications from the management and the business to the rest of the org. Many of them are missing the most important and fundamental part of the Lean communications — the Feedback loop.

It is the most important and fundamental part without which the whole system doesn’t work. The scientific method of “trial, learn and adopt” is based on the feedback. You can succeed only when you’re not afraid to try quickly a lot of different things and strategies and learn from them. You can learn ONLY if you’re looking for and willing to adopt the feedback.

Some of the companies are honestly looking for a feedback, but they are not feeding it back to the beginning of the cycle – i.e. ideation. They may even have a partial feedback, but the feedback loops are sparse and are not proliferating throughout all of the steps of the delivery cycle.

In many cases there is misunderstanding what the feedback is. The successful companies taking the feedback not only from how the customers are reacting to the change in the product or a service, but they are using an overarching feedback that encompasses everything what got into play in the company during the process of delivering value to the customers.

If you’re looking only for the customer reaction, you can only adjust for the customer reaction. But if you’re looking into the whole delivery pipeline end-to-end – you can adjust the whole system, optimize it and use it as a tool for achieving your competitive advantage on the tight market.

I really enjoyed Gene Kim’s article “The Three Ways: The Principles Underpinning DevOps” and the book “The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win” where he is talking about the DevOps and the Three Ways that describe the values, interactions and philosophies that frame the processes, procedures and practices of DevOps.

All of the three ways/principles are directly interconnected and sound like this: introduce system thinking (1) and feedback loops (2) throughout the process to enable culture (3) of continuous education and learning.

In Gene Kim’s article all of the three principles represented by this diagram:


The way this diagram is shown, to my opinion, is not fully representing the idea. It looks like only Devs and Ops are involved in the delivery of the value to the customers, where, in fact, we want to achieve the all-inclusive culture of experimentation and learning for the whole company. This should not look like “local optimization within a boundary context”.

I’d like the companies to see this principle more like this:


It is important to have open and truthful channels throughout every step of the way, up and down the corporate hierarchy and across all the business units and departments.

The truthful and honest channels imply a couple of things:

  1. Prime for feedback and look for it everywhere (inside and outside of your company).
  2. Have a “non-blaming” culture. Don’t shoot the messenger and be thankful for any information he or she delivers.
  3. Be open to admit the failure and have an open conversation about possible ways to mitigate the situation.
  4. Be open and transparent on everything that is going on in the organization and what are the plans and the progress on different issues and collected feedback.

So I can simplify this as “four pillars of open communication”:

  1. Discover
  2. Prime
  3. Be open
  4. Be thankful

If any of these pillars will disappear, the flow of the feedback will stop. People will loose faith and trust.

  • If you’re not actively looking for the feedback – you’re not going to get a comprehensive and complete picture
  • If you’re going to punish someone that caused the problem – people will start to hide and cover the truth instead of feeling safe to come forward and get full support from the organization to quickly mitigate the problem.
  • If you’re not open and transparent about the progress on the reported issues – people will not see a reason and benefit of speaking up. They’ll loose the trust and wave the problems away: “There is nothing you can do about it. We’ve tried. This is how the things are here”. You’re going to cultivate the culture of complacency.
  • If you’re not thankful – people are going to loose motivation.

I’d like you, for a moment, to think about how you driving your car – while the car is moving, you’re constantly looking around (monitoring & feedback) and constantly adjusting the wheel (reaction and adjustments). Now can you imagine what will happen if we’ll take the feedback away? What will happen if you can see the road once in 30 minutes? Once a day? A month? A year?

How is running your business is different than driving a car? It’s not. Your business is much bigger and more expensive car with a lot of passengers in it (your employees) and a lot of pedestrians around (your customers).

I love the joke: the wheel and the breaks were invented by cowards. Getting feedback and constantly checking the pulse of the organization is not about being coward but is the most responsible thing to do. It allows you to “drive” your business faster and more predictably.

While we’re talking about feedback we should not forget about the other part of it – sharing. Feedback and Sharing should go hand by hand with each other. Sharing is no less important than feedback. They are like twin brothers. Sharing is crucial for fueling culture in the organization.

Sharing has a direct impact on:

  1. Flow
  2. Trust
  3. Collaboration
  4. Knowledge
  5. Efficiency
  6. Delivery speeds
  7. Quality
  8. Happiness
  9. Satisfaction
  10. Talent
  11. Customers

All of these are tightly interconnected and bring tremendous benefit for the whole organization both internally and externally:

  • Constantly shared news and plans create trust and transparency in the organization
  • Increase in trust drives increase in levels of collaboration
  • Increase in collaboration leads to reduction in communication waste
  • Better collaboration and communication increase the flow
  • Increase in sharing leads to spreading of the tribal knowledge
  • Spreading of the tribal knowledge leads to overall increase of efficiency
  • Increase in efficiency leads to increase of the flow
  • Sharing is crucial for breaking knowledge and responsibility silos
  • Sharing knowledge of failures leads to better understating of the flow and its pitfalls, reduces possibility of others failing the same way
  • Sharing increases visibility into what it takes to produce your end product
  • Giving heads up helps tribes down the pipeline to plan appropriately ahead of the upcoming changes
  • Planning ahead leads to less unplanned work or rushed changes
  • Less wasted work leads to better productivity, efficiency and increase of the flow and delivery speeds
  • Better flow leads to overall satisfaction
  • Satisfaction leads to happiness
  • Happy employees are bringing better talent and create a great company’s public image
  • Better talent creates better product
  • Better product and great company image leads to more satisfied customers and more incoming business

Hopefully you can see now, you should not dismiss the importance of fostering a community and culture of sharing inside and outside of your company, department, tribe or a team.

I hope I made a compelling case for the “open culture”. This is the basic block for building a successful corporate culture. If you have it as part of your organizational principles, it creates a solid foundation for building the rest of your corporate culture on. This is a prerequisite for a true and successful DevOps implementation in your organization.

Would like to hear from you about your thoughts and experience.