I heard this story from my friend Dave whose fifteen year old daughter, Jenny, used to come home every day from college and throw off her socks in the living room and then go to bed leaving them there. Dave would pick up the socks and put them in a laundry basket. He kept doing this every day for a couple of years. As a result, Jenny never learned to pick up her socks and put them in the right place. This is how together they built the wrong habit and the wrong culture.
Now, imagine what would have happened if Dave had explained to her on day one the importance of putting the socks in the right place. She would likely have resisted the change. On the second day she would have probably have failed once more to put them in the laundry basket. Dave would have again explained. She would have again resisted. But after five or six days it is likely that she would have accepted what Dave was telling her and changed her habit accordingly.
Most big organisations are like Jenny. They will resist change but once they understand the value they are likely to try adopt the change to their habits. Here are the Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Enterprises which need changing:
Habit 1 Trying to fix everything – Accept we cannot fix everything and don’t attempt to do so; instead work on the principle of Minimal Viable Product (MVP). This is the most difficult habit to shake off as it is deeply ingrained in most enterprises’ cultures.
Habit 2 Getting burnt out – A common observation I make is that there is so much focus and visibility for every small thing that individuals create a habit of overworking and exhausting themselves. It is impossible to think straight and smart when you have being working for sixteen hours a day. The amount of damage you can do to a system outweighs the value you may add by staying late.
Habit 3 Being afraid to tell bad news – Many enterprises have what I call “Green Syndrome”: everyone wants to see status as “Green” only. This is the first sign of failure. As soon as anything goes “Amber”, forget “Red”, they panic. They make the life of the person reporting the problem hell by asking him inane questions and asking him to do more work in producing reports. I remember once I reported status “Amber” and out of all the absurd suggestions my best or should we say worst one was “Have you prioritised all the issues which you have?”. I was almost about to answer: “No, we randomly pick up issues to resolve and we focus on issues which are fun rather than those which are important.” Of course, I did not…
Habit 4 Being afraid to say no – As these organisations are hierarchical, most of the time it is extremely difficult to say “No” to leadership. As leadership wants to gain more control, they keep asking for more and more things. We need to learn to say “No” and provide a proper rationale and risk assessment. Yes, the decision may still get overturned but as far as you are convinced it is not the right thing, you should go with all the conviction and put the points across.
Habit 5 Being contented with known issues – Always, always try to look out for “Unknowns”. In enterprises I typically uncover three to five new issues every week. I encourage people to be open to those issues and not to hide them- face them head on and try to come up with more of these “Unknowns”.
Habit 6 Trying to hide the elephant – There will be big known issues which nobody wants to discuss, such as a senior stakeholder having a requirement which cannot be delivered or a big gap in design which will impact on future rollout or someone senior being too demotivated to work. Always discuss the elephant in the room.
Habit 7 Constantly revisiting decisions – A common challenge in enterprises is that, as a result of multiple stakeholders, it is difficult to keep everyone aligned. So if a decision is made by one stakeholder, another one may not agree with it and he will reopen it for further discussion. This can waste a lot of time. Try and get the two stakeholders talking to each other rather than everyone involved in debating this again.
Eliminating these habits is a first step in the direction of achieving a DevOps vision but changing habits is difficult. If it were simple, overeaters would all be thin, alcoholics would never relapse, and everyone would be up early enough to eat a healthy breakfast before work.
Surprisingly though, I have read that: “changing the habit will take 30 days, re-affirming it further for another 30 days will definitely fix it and you’ll have no problem to continue from there on.”So why not give it a go What do you think? Are there habits that you have observed in enterprises that we have not mentioned here? What are they?