How DevOps Dojos Enable Organizational Transformation

DevOps Dojos (Innovation Labs) lead to better products, more rapid deliveries, and higher team engagement – a whole new way of working.

In a Dell EMC World conference breakout session in 2017, Dell EMC’s Emily Kaiser introduced the company’s DevOps Dojo. The purpose of a Dojo is to gather employees to learn to work together, think together, and solve real-world problems together in a safe space. Since then, Dojos have become a popular trend among tech enthusiasts and entrepreneurs.

Why all the hype? Let’s dig in and cover everything you need to know about Dojos.

What Are DevOps Dojos?

A dōjō (道場) is a Japanese word for a hall or space for immersive learning or meditation. The term has traditionally been used in the field of martial arts, but it has been increasingly applied in schools (“ClassDojos”) and software development organizations (“CoderDojos” and “AgileCoachingDojos”).

Much like the Japanese style of learning, DevOps Dojos are a physical learning space where teams can form habits of collaboration, trust, and transparency in a new way of working. At its core, a Dojo is a cultural movement involving learning, the spreading of knowledge, and the application of that knowledge to improve organizations. In the tech world, Dojos focus on the principles and techniques for such technology-related areas as Product Planning, Product Development, Automation, Quality Engineering, Delivery, and Operations

How Do DevOps Dojos Work?

DevOps Dojos focus on a team goal or capability, cultivating cultural change and the new practices and technologies needed to achieve that goal or capability. Engineers join experts (coaches and masters) in a dedicated workspace to iteratively work through and improve product planning, development, automation, and delivery. Teams are empowered to take responsibility for quality while driving towards better, faster, and higher quality products.

For example, a process that seems difficult to implement might be solved with ease by a group trained to collaborate closely. As another example, employees each tasked to handle different problems might produce limited output, whereas encouraging those employees to share their experiences and challenges with each other can result in more efficient – and better – solutions.

DevOps Dojos – Liatrio’s Approach

Liatrio builds holistic, intensive DevOps Dojo environments that help teams focus on learning and problem-solving. A team of coaches from a variety of disciplines use group activities, presentations, paired work, and hands-on labs to level set, problem solve, and context switch, all while reinforcing the importance of open communication.

Our Innovation Lab offering, which contains the Dojo capability, begins with a 2-3 week baseline. We basically take a look under the hood, engineering wise, performing value stream mapping to examine process flows and assess technology (toolsets, pipelines, etc.). We interview teams to gain an in-depth understanding of their structure and roles, agile practices and cadence, system architecture, branching strategy, release cadence, and current challenges.

From there, we launch an immersive, custom, high-touch boot camp focused on DevOps culture, tools, and pipeline execution. Our goal is to identify opportunities to restructure team roles so they can become truly cross-functional and capable of rapid, quality deployment.

At Liatrio, we believe all cross-functional disciplines should collaborate closely to develop skills that make work more engaging and fun. Simply put, better teams build and deliver better products.

DevOps Dojo training may vary from a few hours to weeks depending on the kinds of problems that need to be solved. Let’s say a Dojo is focused on DevOps culture, tools, and pipeline execution. During weeks 1-3, we might come together in a shared physical space to focus on icebreaker activities, hands-on activities, and team-based labs that simulate real-world environments. During weeks 4-7, the team might operate in 1-week sprints that allow them to practice their new way of working.

Here’s what a 7-week immersive, high-touch boot camp might look like:

  • Week 1 – Product, Culture, and Architecture: Focus on DevOps concepts, pillars, and culture; lean practices; product management; and better backlog and story writing.
  • Week 2 – Pipeline and Agile: Onboard new tools with a focus on automation and continuous integration and testing. Prepare to work on backlogs and applications in coming weeks.
  • Week 3 – Real-World Practice: Start short, 1-2-day iterations, enabling the team to use new tools on their applications and reinforce learning.
  • Weeks 4-7 – New Way of Working: Begin mini-sprints, flushing out backlogs and defining and executing technical runway tasks. Team members return to their regular workspace. Coaches are embedded into the team to provide high-touch guidance and help eliminate bottlenecks.

DevOps Dojos – Scaling Strategy

DevOps isn’t simply about following standard steps or using technology that increases efficiency. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Our Innovation Lab offering kicks off the Dojo and the pipelines and provides a good framework to showcase the new way of working. The extension of this idea is getting the entire enterprise to take advantage of this new way of working.

When it comes to DevOps Dojos, we assess what the team needs and then customize training according to those needs in order to raise up the entire team. What tools does the client have? What tools can they support? How is the team structured (contractors, FTEs, onshore, offshore, colocation, etc.)? As part of our lighthouse strategy, we start with a basic pipeline and toolset and work with 4-5 teams initially as a baseline to assess how they’re currently working and evolve processes and efficiencies. We then develop an intentional scaling strategy for implementation throughout the organization.

DevOps Dojos – Outcomes

Successfully designed and implemented DevOps Dojos can help your organization:

  • Evolve your culture and norms to boost teamwork and camaraderie.
  • Improve accountability and communication, enabling individuals to take on and solve bigger problems in the future.
  • Implement better processes and tools, solve complex problems that previously seemed insurmountable, and transform the way teams operate.

Liatrio gives teams a path forward, putting an environment in place that enables team members to take ownership over their work while also quickly adapting to unexpected changes and communicating more effectively.

Ready for a New Way of Working?

DevOps Dojos can improve critical thinking capacity, collaboration, and workplace satisfaction. Most importantly, they can lead to better products, more rapid deliveries, and significantly higher team engagement – a whole new way of working.

I’ll talk more about Dojos in future blogs to help guide you through successful and scalable Dojo implementations. Stay tuned!

Bjorn Edwin
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About Liatrio

Liatrio is a collaborative, end-to-end Enterprise Delivery Acceleration consulting firm that helps enterprises transform the way they work. We work as boots-on-the-ground change agents, helping our clients improve their development practices, react more quickly to market shifts, and get better at delivering value from conception to deployment.

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