As I’ve discussed in a previous blog, DevOps Dojos are immersive physical learning spaces where development teams can learn DevOps principles and techniques and reinforce team trust, collaboration, and transparency. DevOps Dojos enable teams to learn DevOps practices and technologies, cultivating the cultural change needed to build new skills and capabilities.
Here, I’ll describe the staffing and logistical requirements for setting up a DevOps Dojo. In particular, I’ll talk about Dojo roles and responsibilities, as well as criteria for creating an optimal Dojo environment. My aim is to help enterprise organizations understand how they can implement a Dojo that enables their internal product teams to learn DevOps culture, tools, and pipelines. The greater goal is to help enterprises become modern, technologically advanced, continuously improving organizations and enable teams to develop a new way of working.
The DevOps Dojo has two main roles: Master and Coach.
The Dojo Master is an expert facilitator who can train Dojo coaches and run product teams through immersive learning and uplift in such areas as product planning, development, automation, and quality, ultimately enabling them to accelerate delivery. They run the Dojo and are responsible for end-to-end execution of the Dojo, helping teams learn DevOps principles and orchestrate day-to-day delivery. They play a major role in preparing the teams coming through the Dojo and adjust the Dojo curriculum and flow to best fit the needs of the team.
Two Dojo Coaches, in turn, help the product team move through a Dojo transformation experience. They are typically an expert in a specific area of focus. They are less focused on end-to-end execution; instead, they usually have either an engineering focus or a cultural (DevOps way of working) focus, provide hands-on support, and guide teams in their journey. They also often aspire to train other coaches and rise to the level of Master.
A Dojo may also have a Dojo Apprentice, who shadows Dojo sessions, seeks to increase DevOps experience, aspires to become a Coach or Master. The Apprentice should possess a strong engineering or DevOps cultural skill set and have an open mind in order to properly embrace the experience.
Finally, Dojo Participants are members of the engineering team (Architects, Engineers, Product Owners, Scrum Masters, Managers/Leaders, etc.) who learn DevOps principles by joining the Master and Coaches in a dedicated workspace to iteratively work through and improve product planning, development, automation, and delivery. These team members are empowered to take responsibility for quality while driving towards better, faster, and higher quality products.
DevOps Dojo training length varies depending on the kinds of problems that need to be solved. The two Dojo Coaches are split between engineering and agile/lean expertise, and their areas of expertise should align with the needs of the team. For example, the team may need more engineering uplift or more agile/lean methodologies uplift or more tools/pipeline uplift. What’s most important is that the Master and the Coaches live and breathe the DevOps way of working. They should excel at helping teams learn DevOps principles by emphasizing lean practices, small batch-style working, fast feedback, and automation.
For example, say a 7-week Dojo is focused on DevOps culture, tools, and pipeline execution. During the first 3 weeks, one Master, two Coaches, and Participants come together in a shared physical space to focus on hands-on activities and team-based labs that simulate real-world environments. During the final 4 weeks, the Participants would operate in 1-week (or shorter) sprints that allow them to practice their new way of working. During those 4 weeks, one of the Coaches would be embedded in the team (this is called the embedded coaching phase).
All Dojo Masters and Coaches should have multi-year experience in software engineering in order to understand the concepts and inner workings of software delivery, as well as have experience working on, in, and with product teams. They should have an appetite for learning and adapting, along with strong communication, listening, and observation skills. Finally, they should be dedicated to the Dojo experience and strive to learn from multiple team uplifts.
Apprentices will observe the Masters and Coaches to learn how teams are uplifted through the Dojo experience. They shadow and help facilitate various Dojo activities, learn and practice different facilitation techniques during Dojo iterations, and learn about DevOps culture, process, tools, and pipelines. Furthermore, they stay on with the team after a Dojo iteration for at least 4 additional weeks to continue their own internal growth with a Coach.
There are some simple rules organizations should keep in mind when organizing a Dojo. It is important to evaluate every Dojo when it’s done. First and foremost, there’s always room for change and improvement. The Master and Coaches should make sure everyone understands each step, and they should encourage Participants to do their thinking out loud so they can clearly understand the problem and move collaboratively towards the solution.
Dojo Working Environment
Once the Master, Coaches, and Apprentice are in place, an organization needs to create a safe space for learning, practice, and mentorship. An ideal Dojo environment includes the learning, working, and meeting space needed to set a product team up for success.
The Dojo working environment should be able to accommodate at least 15 team members for both seated lab exercises and group activities. What works best is a dedicated, configurable open space that can support day-to-day learning, hands-on labs, and other collaborative activities. In addition, it helps to have a large conference room for daily ceremonies, along with small breakout rooms or areas for paired sessions and heads-down design and engineering activities.
Dojos Uplift Teams and Help Them Learn DevOps Principles
At its core, a DevOps Dojo is a cultural movement involving learning, the spreading of knowledge, and the application of that knowledge to improve organizations.
When it comes to DevOps Dojos, it’s important to assess what the team needs and then customize training in accordance with those needs. DevOps Dojos do more than help teams learn DevOps principles -- they can uplift teams and their leadership to new heights so that over time they can transform their way of working and continue their Enterprise Delivery Acceleration on their own.
A special shout out to Target Dojo, a pioneer in Dojo-style uplift and team upskilling. Their distinctive Dojos have inspired other enterprises like Walmart, Delta, and Capital One to design and run their own Dojos.
In my next post in the Dojo series, I’ll have more to say on this subject, and I’ll share details about what happens inside the Dojo. Until then, reach out if you’d like to learn more!
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.