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A centered icon of a DevOps Dojo surrounded by a dark blue to lighter blue gradient and the Liatrio logo in the bottom right corner.
January 31, 2024

You're Doing DevOps Dojos Wrong: Liatrio's Approach to Effective Transformation

Discover Liatrio's unique approach to DevOps Dojos in our latest blog. We talk about common missteps enterprises make with dojos and illustrate how our holistic strategy effectively drives real transformation.

Many enterprise IT organizations enthusiastically adopt the concept of 'Dojos' as part of their transformation strategy. However, a critical observation from Liatrio’s experience with numerous Fortune 500 companies reveals a harsh truth: most are doing Dojos wrong. This blog talks about the common pitfalls and how Liatrio does Dojos the right way.

What is a DevOps Dojo?

DevOps Dojos represent a transformative learning environment where teams develop and strengthen collaboration, trust, and transparency, essential for a modern work culture.

A Dojo is a place of immersive learning. It is the full product team (PO, scrum master (if one), developers/engineers and testers (if any) join in person, remotely, or in a hybrid model to improve and learn. That is done by having the team work together with technical (and product) coaches all day for several weeks or more learning new ways of working alongside the delivery of the REAL product work.

Central to a Dojo is the cultural evolution that emphasizes learning, knowledge dissemination, and applying this knowledge to enhance organizational effectiveness. In the realm of technology, Dojos concentrate on imparting and practicing key principles and techniques across various domains, including Product Planning, Development, Automation, Quality Engineering, as well as Delivery and Operations.

Missteps in Current DevOps Dojo Practices

Traditionally, enterprises view Dojos as isolated training or development sessions, disconnected from broader organizational goals and pressures. This approach often results in a lack of alignment with the company's actual transformation needs or goals. It's not uncommon to see enterprises repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results, or implementing changes without fully understanding the unique capabilities or readiness of their development teams.

So what are the companies doing wrong with their Dojo’s? Let's take a look at some specific examples of how Dojo’s were used by different industries/sectors…..

Liatrio's Holistic Approach to Transformation & DevOps Dojos

Identifying and Understanding Pressures

Liatrio begins by recognizing the unique pressures each enterprise faces. Whether it's the need for quicker software delivery, market pressures, or improving software quality, understanding these challenges is crucial. We believe that constant communication about the 'why' behind transformations is essential for success.

The criticality of establishing your company’s top level goal/mission/transformation that is understood, shared continually, and adapted into the work of inside the Dojos and outside the Dojos is step one in ensuring success of those critical goals for the company!

Liatrio Dojos are meant for learning and with that comes the power to do development work at new levels and Dojos can be, and with Liatrio, are often more than a stand alone development immersive learning experiences. They are often a vehicle to:

  • Bring the company's transformation strategy to reality
  • Improvement in development work
  • Ability to respond faster to business needs
  • Ability to support new or other initiatives aimed at improving software/platform delivery speed, quality, and safety.
  • Uncover organizational, portfolio, product, and team level friction to action on
Liatrio leading a DevOps Dojo

Learning from Failures

Unlike traditional approaches, Liatrio views failures as learning opportunities. Embracing the philosophy of 'fail fast, learn fast,' we help organizations adapt and evolve their strategies based on feedback and results, avoiding the stagnation that plagues many transformation efforts.

Fostering Leadership and Community

Crucial to any successful transformation is the alignment of leadership with transformation goals. Liatrio works to ensure that all levels of leadership are not only aligned but also actively supporting these goals. We also emphasize the importance of building a vibrant developer community. This community becomes a breeding ground for innovation and change, driving grassroots adoption of new tools and methodologies.

The Role of Dojos in Transformation

Liatrio redefines Dojos from mere training sessions to catalysts of change. Our Dojos are immersive experiences that align closely with the company's transformation objectives. They provide a safe environment for experimentation, fostering a culture of continuous learning and adaptation.

Building the Transformation Team

A key differentiator in Liatrio's approach is the establishment of a dedicated transformation team. This team, often comprising a mix of HR, product/business leaders as well as technical leaders, is responsible for aligning product and IT teams with the transformation vision. This structured approach ensures that the transformation is not just a set of disjointed initiatives but a coordinated effort moving towards a common goal.

DevOps Dojo Case 1: Financial Services Company

Goal: This organization aimed for a transformation-focused approach, initially without technical coaching but with agile coaches in place. Before our engagement, there was no established Dojo or immersive learning practice.

Challenges: The transition to remote work during the pandemic accelerated the end of our on-site engagement. Our goal was to hand over the Dojo practice to internal coaches trained by Liatrio.

Outcome: As of late 2023, the Dojo practice continues in an ad hoc model, scaled down from the initial format Liatrio established, demonstrating sustainability beyond our direct involvement. This was a successful Dojo practice!

DevOps Dojo Case 2: Aerospace and Defense Contractor

Goal: The objective was to experiment with different Dojo styles as part of a comparison trial with multiple consulting firms.

Challenges: Post-trial, funding Dojos became a significant task, requiring each consulting company to secure team participation and funding for Dojo sessions.

Outcome: Following the trial, Liatrio's Dojo model was extended, highlighting our success in the comparative assessment. However, internal funding and coordination challenges were noted. The Dojo model proved viable and effective, and the need for investment is necessary to continue the Dojo model for more teams to participate and develop new skills, and learning to work in small batches over large batch waterfall projects. This was a partially successful Dojo practice!

DevOps Dojo Case 3: Small Defense Contractor

Goal: Establish a Dojo practice to transition the development team from a Department of Defense waterfall development project to a DevOps/Lean model.

Challenges: The company's small size and existing DoD contract constraints posed some funding challenges initially for the Dojo initiative which illustrated a need for development learning to be built in/negotiated as part of the initial contracts, as adjusting them afterwards are immensely challenging to not possible at all.

Outcome: The Dojo focused on fundamentals, then moved into automation, creating platform and delivery pipelines for hardware (drones/control units) and software that did not exist. From that, additional deliverables like testing end to end and automating that was introduced. The successes from this Dojo led to the company attempting to replicate on their own with other teams. This led to some partial successes without coaches to help complete those dojos with teams. The Dojos are dynamic and not a set of pre-structured step by step experiences, so replicating it in this fashion was not effective for this company. This was a successful Dojo for the team, but the process of moving the Dojo practice into the company and sustaining it was not successful.

DevOps Dojo Case 4: Large Industrial Supply Company

Goal: To initiate a transformation through Dojos, with Liatrio creating the practice and later transitioning it to internal teams.

Challenges: This engagement was smooth, with no significant blockers, thanks to strong leadership alignment and support.

Outcome: The Dojo led to improved delivery speeds, skill-building among developers, and better alignment of product and IT goals. Dojo practice (Liatrio led) trained technical and product level coaches and the Dojo practice has been established and continues to deliver immersive learning for development teams! This was a successful Dojo practice!

DevOps Dojo Case 5: Major Airline

Goal: To build a Dojo practice as a foundation for a broader transformation planned for the following year.

Challenges: Financial challenges and leadership turnover created hurdles in maintaining momentum and focus on the Dojo-led transformation.

Outcome: The Dojo practice faced obstacles due to changes in sponsorship and direction, illustrating the impact of leadership stability on transformation efforts. However, the Dojo practice was established and scaled to handle 6 teams at once, and is still in use today, using client coaches who were trained by Liatrio to help drive team's successes in the Liatrio Dojo model. This was a successful/partially successful Dojo practice as it was scaled to handle 6+ teams at once, but results and impact to the entire organization were thwarted by the organization not creating that primary vision/mission/transformation to drive and adopt change..

Liatrio's Role in Driving Transformation

In each case, Liatrio’s expertise in establishing, running, and transitioning Dojo practices played a critical role. Our approach focuses on understanding each organization’s unique challenges and aligning the Dojos objectives with the company’s broader transformation goals. We emphasize the importance of leadership alignment, community building, and effective communication to ensure the long-term success and sustainability of transformation initiatives.

These stories exemplify the complexities and varying contexts of implementing Dojos across different industries. Liatrio's adaptability and commitment to aligning Dojo practices with organizational goals have been pivotal in navigating these challenges and contributing to the success of our clients' transformation journeys.

Conclusion - So HOW are Dojos Done Right?

The way most enterprises approach Dojos today is flawed, often leading to ineffective and costly transformations. Liatrio's approach to Dojos and transformations is holistic, aligning closely with the unique pressures and capabilities of each organization. We focus on building a strong foundation of leadership support, community engagement, and learning from failures. By reimagining Dojos as integral components of the transformation journey, Liatrio is helping enterprises realize their transformation goals, turning challenges into opportunities for growth and innovation.

What Makes a Dojo Successful, or ‘right’?

These five areas are crucial to doing Dojos right’! Missing one one or more of these key areas will result in partial or complete failures of achieving the organization’s technical or transformation goals!

  1. Identifying your company goals/needs for transformation or changes (strategy - top level goals)
  2. Determine where/how learning needs to take place to improve skills, delivery, quality, safety (Dojo practice, creating offerings)
  3. Top level buy-in and alignment/communication of the vision/mission and mandates that encourage change throughout the organization (strategy - top level mandates/mission)
  4. Development teams need an immersive place to learn new skills, strategies, that develops all the new culture and skilling that goes together with successful software/platform delivery (team - development)
  5. Funding, funding, funding! Learning in technology is not a one and done activity, it takes a continual, long term effort to create and maintain the Dojo learning practice for teams to continually improve, which improves the speed, safety and quality of the value we send to our customers.

In essence, you're not just doing Dojos with Liatrio; you're transforming your entire approach to development, innovation, and company culture!

Ready to Transform Your Dojos?

At Liatrio, we understand that transformation is more than just a buzzword – it's a crucial journey for any forward-thinking enterprise. Our approach to Dojos goes beyond conventional methods, focusing on immersive learning experiences, fostering a culture of innovation, and driving real, lasting change.

We believe in empowering developers, aligning leadership, and building vibrant communities that resonate with your organization's unique challenges and objectives. With our proven track record across Fortune 500 companies, we don't just lead transformations; we embed ourselves within them, ensuring your journey is tailored, effective, and sustainable.

Don't let your transformation efforts be part of the statistic of failed attempts. Partner with Liatrio and experience a Dojo that truly transforms, aligns, and excels. Connect with us today to start your transformation journey the right way.

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