Learning is an integral part of the DevOps process. Dojos can be critical in transforming the process.
With so many new and evolving technologies, practices and approaches to product delivery, how can organizations possibly keep up? From infrastructure as code to cloud-native and microservices through product thinking (and don’t forget testing!) as well as chaos engineering, how can teams possibly adopt and benefit?
Courses and training are fine but rarely result in the impact that today’s enterprise organizations had hoped for. Sometimes what is practiced and learned in courses doesn’t quite work in our organizations. Other times, people come back from courses with great ideas that are not shared and spread across their various teams. And in most cases, the learning is a special event, and when the people come back to work, there is no time or space to try and apply those learnings.
Traditional approaches to training are weak and never transformational.
So what is an enterprise organization to do? The answer is simple: Embrace learning. Make it part of what we do every day. Gene Kim, one of the authors of “The DevOps Handbook,” mentions embracing “The Third Way”—the path of continual learning and improvement. In this book, Kim explains how The Third Way is about creating a culture that fosters two things: continual experimentation, which involves taking risks, and learning from failure. Being able to recognize that and practice are prerequisites to mastering DevOps practices.
It all sounds great, but are any companies actually doing this? And if so, how?
This is where an approach like the Dojo, an immersive environment where whole teams come to learn a variety of skills all while delivering their real work, can play a critical role. In this dojo environment, teams “learn by doing” and are guided by dojo coaches. These coaches aren’t the typical drive-by, tell-you-something-and-leave-materials type; these coaches sit with each individual, teach when needed and help teams learn by doing. These coaches need to be from within the organization.
Teams leave this type of learning environment with not just new skills and better code, but also with an approach to move their learning forward. They can also share this knowledge with others as well as a way to continue learning as a team. This dojo-type of environment doesn’t have a standard curriculum—it is pragmatic by nature and meets teams where they are. For example, one team may learn TDD and product thinking along with a pipeline to production while another may learn how to migrate batch work to the cloud. Another team might learn DDD and microservices. But the teams all learn in the context of their work.
Learning isn’t only for the team, though. Organizations learn by having their teams in the dojo. All of the friction that team members are experiencing becomes very visible. The dojo works with leadership to help resolve organizational friction that is frustrating teams and impeding their delivery flow.
Today’s digital markets are moving so quickly that traditional course-based training does not scale both in terms of time and cost. Certification programs do not always provide enough information and can be very costly. Additionally, these types of programs are not always attuned to your company’s specific product development needs. To increase the effectiveness of your digital development teams, today’s enterprise organizations need to deliver high-quality, hands-on learning that takes place within the context of your own company. Further, this environment must be able to focus on your products, geared to your processes and driven by your market imperatives. The payoff includes shorter cycle times, reduction of production incidents, better overall products and a happier, more engaged team. It’s great to see more and more companies continuing to invest in continual learning through dojos as a way to achieve these outcomes.