The Art of Continuous Cleansing in DevOps

The Art of Continuous Cleansing

A few months back I happened to travel in a bus with a Vedic scholar down south India. He was an energetic and enthusiastic personality in his late 40’s and his eyes seemed to have a positive outlook at life. Among many other topics that we discussed, one was about Veda’s insistence on purification of mind and body on daily basis. He verbalized some hymns almost for 2 hours. Most of them were quite intense to me, but the following point struck me.

By very nature we accumulate dirt or junk both physically and mentally. Vedas focus on how to clean and remove waste on day to day basis. We end up having health issues if the dirt is not removed continuously.

I started contemplating on this that night. I felt this is quite applicable both in life and at work and is fundamental for the DevOps journey.

As we build software, we accumulate dirt in the form of cultural and technical debt that do not bring value to both the organizations and clients. The unfortunate part is that it gets added, like fat in our body, without notice. One fine day you feel heavy to sprint. How can we cleanse on continuous basis?

Value Stream Mapping as a Cleansing Tool

Few weeks back I was consulting with an American Fortune 500 company which was adopting DevOps. My first step was to understand the current state of IT Value Stream. Most of the participants were new to Lean and Value Stream Mapping. Initially, for the participants, I presented the concept of “What is Value stream mapping and how it is relevant to DevOps?”  

As the session started, I said, “I’m here with you to cleanse”. Participants threw me a doubtful grin. I continued, “for the next two days you will be identifying the waste that impedes you to add value to your customer.” Participants was skeptical about my approach, but gave their 100% to build the IT value stream.

For Two days, the exercise was very intense and interesting. Our first “Ah ha” moment came, when the team visualized the Value add efficiency and type of wastes that are slowing them down. For instance, Inventory (partial work done), was one of the major challenges. They maintained around 450 items in the form of change request, features, and defects starting from 2014. It was a herculean task for the product team to track, prioritize, check if they are duplicates and then document them. Team had a huge relief they cleansed irrelevant tickets and brought the backlog down to less than 100. 

Other techniques for continuous cleansing