I have recently been talking about how various books have helped my career in some unique ways, from helping bring some day to day peace, to changing the way I think about working with other teams. One of the most intriguing books I have ever read that impacted not just myself, but my organization is Lean Enterprise: How High Performance Organizations Innovate at Scale (Lean (O’Reilly)). You can re-read my other posts about the influential books below:
- Production Support turns to Site Reliability Engineering
- Good Financials at Home Help at Work
- The Phoenix Project and Other World Changers
Lean Enterprise takes a look at what major transformations huge corporate structures can take within technology departments and the whole business. The best transformations take on amazing scientific rigor, learning about such processes as A3, OODA, PDCA, among many others. A culture of experimentation is pervasive in the most impressive changes within organizations. I took those methodologies to heart and made sure that in my daily work and the work of my team, we opened ourselves up to taking on the work that we are assigned, testing the results, and adjusting accordingly. Additionally, we set aside specific times to try out new tools and features within our operational capabilities.
One example of this was our transition to using the newer Jenkins 2.X pipeline capabilities. We were previously using visualization plugins and tying together multiple jobs with single functions in order to replicate pipeline functionality. We realized that our experience with the groovy language would have to increase dramatically to take advantage of these features. So we converted some of our existing simpler jobs to use the new pipelines and started learning and building out from there. Over the course of a couple of months, we had successfully converted most of our build and deploy processes to use the new 2.X pipelines.
Our team had previously been using Kanban to do the work assigned to us in our queue. But from this book, I realized I should start tracking metrics from our queues like lead time, tickets closed within certain time periods, and many other items. I was then I was able to test various theories about how our team was able to work and make minor changes within our processes that nearly doubled our ticket output with no additional resources needing to be added to our team. This process took about 3 months of working within my team, trying some things, and then working with the whole organization to try and make the necessary changes.
Deciding what to work on and what to let slide is often one of the biggest issues to deal with in an organization. The book provided a couple of methodologies to implement a prioritization scheme to get the most important (to the business) work completed and out the door. There are so many nuggets of wisdom within this book, I re-read a chapter every month and take notes to extract even more knowledge out of this. It has been one of the best tools in my recent career to making my job simpler and more enjoyable.