The Three Ways - the DevOps Principles and Why Other Teams in a Company Could Benefit from Them

nine Team May 23, 2018
The Three Ways - the DevOps Principles and Why Other Teams in a Company Could Benefit from Them

DevOps as a corporate culture was originally created for use in software development. But teams in other sectors can also benefit from this approach, which moves away from traditional management (command & control) towards self-organized teams with a strong feedback culture.

DevOps as an organizational and leadership culture is based on three principles: "The Three Ways". These three ways are a core part of implementations, in order to achieve the overarching goal of getting better and faster. The three ways serve as a framework for processes, procedures and practices that are clearly focused on streamlining collaboration.

Would you like to learn more about the basics of DevOps and the application outside of software development? Then we recommend our blog post
«What is DevOps and can this approach also be applied outside of IT?».

This blog post deals with the "Three Ways", taken out of the context of software development, for application in any other area where people work together.

Way 1: The Flow Principle


The first principle focuses on increasing the flow between two processes - originally development and operations - in order to achieve faster delivery of software to the customer. The term "flow" refers to smooth, direct collaboration, which is also referred to as a value stream.

The flow can be increased using the following measures

  • Making work visible
    Using visual work boards (e.g. Kanban boards or Sprint planning boards), tasks are made "visible." This means that every person in a team can see which tasks are current, are being processed and where there are problems, and can then act based on this information.
  • Reduce the number of bundled tasks
    The size of bundles of tasks should be reduced. By having a smaller number of tasks in a group, the risk of errors can be reduced. In addition, quality assurance is simplified and the overall procedure leads to a faster feedback loop, which also leads to a faster first result.
  • Reduce dependencies and handovers
    By redesigning the team organization and automating certain work processes (e.g. automatic quality assurance), misunderstandings or loss of information during handovers can be prevented.
  • Eliminate the superfluous
    All tools, processes or intermediate steps that have no value for the end user are eliminated. This includes everything that consumes time, generates work or costs and does not directly contribute to the achievement of goals.
  • Limit the number of orders
    In order to be able to process orders completely, correctly and within the fixed deadlines, only a certain number of orders are assigned. These are tracked using a visual work board, which helps the team to focus on current work and pending tasks.

In summary, the flow principle is used to achieve better collaboration (understanding of work flows) and to improve the value stream (detection and elimination of constraints). The focus is on the bigger picture, with local improvements not being permitted to have negative effects on the overall situation.

Way 2: The Feedback Principle


The feedback principle builds on the first way (flow - see above). It is focused on having rapid, constant feedback along the path to achieving goals. Feedback becomes an integral part of all processes, used to find and resolve errors more quickly, and to nip in the bud any recurrence of a problem.

The goal is to understand feedback, respond to it and implement improvements based on it. By doing so, shorter (and therefore valuable) feedback loops are used to make necessary changes on a continuous basis.

The following measures can support the feedback principle:

  • Recognize problems as soon as they appear
    Through feedback loops, individual components, connections and process steps can be measured quickly and their functionality can be checked. Defects can be detected quickly and deviations can be resolved immediately. This way, feedback serves as a fixed intermediate step that not only increases the flow of information, but also improves collaboration.
  • Solve problems immediately (and together)
    As soon as a problem emerges, the ongoing process is stopped and all team members involved help to solve the problem immediately. For example, the problem may be the absence of an important factor or a pending task that needs to be finished before completion is possible. Work on the entire process does not resume until a solution to the problem has been found. This not only motivates the team to solve problems immediately - it also prevents errors from recurring, which has an impact on the final result.
  • Ensure quality from the ground up
    As part of their daily work, employees should ensure that the quality of "their" work steps is sound. This means not only that the employee's commitment to the process is significantly more responsible, but the process remains lean, avoiding a complex system, which in turn reduces the likelihood of errors.
  • Thinking yourself into other people's roles
    By imagining yourself in various roles, you are not only ensuring quality but also increasing your sense of responsibility towards your team mates. The focus here should be on the users and those involved in the processes of the subsequent steps, in order to create empathy with the people who will use the product.

The second principle relies totally on a healthy feedback culture, which is essential to achieve quality, reliability and certainty. Errors and defects must be identified and considered honestly in a first step before they can be resolved.

Way 3: The Principle of Continuous Learning and Experimentation


The third principle focuses on learning through experimentation. Here, building a culture of trust should increase both the ability to learn and the ability to perform. The environment plays an important role in this, because it encourages employees to try out new ways and learn from them. This means that the entire team can benefit from their successes and failures and implement improvements based on "real" results.

The third principle ensures that an organization and its teams remain constantly able to adapt and act efficiently and independently of the environment. This is only possible if all employees are given the opportunity to try things and learn continuously.

The following steps can serve as support measures:

  • Schedule specific times for improvements
    Teams should schedule specific times during which existing processes - regardless of their size and scope - are constantly improved. These are primarily the processes that form part of the team's daily work and which therefore need to be effective and efficient.
  • Experimentation helps with improvement
    In addition to the specific scheduling of improvements, there needs to be experimentation with creating different scenarios during development, in order to uncover sources of errors, close gaps and find the optimum solution. Without this experimentation, alternatives that may work better than the current approach will never be found, resulting in both time savings and learning.
  • Share individual expertise
    In order to develop comprehensive understanding and uniform expertise, it is important that the knowledge held by individual employees is shared with the team members. This results in everyone benefiting from the team's collective knowledge, which contributes to improved collaboration within the framework of the flow principle.
  • Motivate employees to work independently
    In order to ensure that the organizational culture described in DevOps works against the traditional management model, managers must also change their thinking as necessary. No more managers handing out instructions. Instead, managers become coaches who act as sounding boards and encourage employees to think for themselves. This means encouraging team members to take the initiative in identifying and resolving problems independently in their daily work.

Although DevOps was originally used for collaboration in software development, this approach can also help other organizations in their efforts to make improvements. Employees are the most important component here, because without motivated employees, the entire model is of little use.

DevOps offers a variety of practices to implement these three principles successfully. We will cover all the key information on this topic in a separate blog post.

Would you like to know how you can increase the speed in your company with agile working methods? Then we recommend our latest white paper "Agile Working Methods in the Age of Digital Transformation".

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