Project To Product: From Stories To Scenius

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This blog was originally posted on the IT Revolution blog on November 19, 2018.

We learn through stories—either through our own or through those passed on by others that we admire. When I first read The Phoenix Project, I was amazed at how much technological wisdom could be passed on in story form. That story, perhaps more than any other, motivated people to find a new perspective on the current problems that plague enterprise IT, and to seek a better way.

I saw the publication of The Phoenix Project as a flare shot high into the sky, and those who took enough time to look up see knew that it meant they had to act. I didn’t fully understand the direction of the flare until I heard Gene Kim state, on the main stage of DevOps Enterprise Summit 2016 in San Francisco, that we had both the imperative and the ability to improve the lives of one million software practitioners worldwide.

Like many others who saw the flare, I was motivated. And I realized then that I had learned something unique in my work with open source and with Fortune 500 organizations. It was those learnings that I wanted to contribute to the community. With this inspiration in mind, I approached Gene at the CA World conference a couple of weeks later. Gracious as always, he took the time to sit with me at the back of the exhibit hall and hear out my perspective even though we didn’t know each other.

I showed him some prototype visualizations that I had created to illustrate the effect that value streams have on software architecture over months and years. We then started geeking out on how programming language constructs defined software architecture, and how different languages could result in very different future value stream flows. For example, languages that had stronger type checking could mean much more work and many more conversations required to add a feature than a dynamic language. We even quipped that a new metric, called the “lunch factor” was needed to determine how tangled an architecture was, as measured by the number of people you needed to take out to lunch in order to make a change. This was where we found our mutual fascination in the intersection of programming, architecture, and software delivery value streams.

At the end of that conversation I got excited enough that I told Gene I wanted to document the various value stream integration patterns I had witnessed in organizations that were able to break the mold. I shared with him that one of the most influential books in my career as a developer was Design Patterns by Erich Gamma et al. I wanted to create a similarly simple catalog of all the integration patterns that I had encountered, and give each a small story on how it could help support the Three Ways of DevOps—flow, feedback, and continual learning. Gene was positive about the idea and encouraged me to write a skeleton book proposal. When he read it, he emailed the IT Revolution Press editor, CC’ing me, and put the following line in his email.

“This is going to be an incredible and kick-butt book for every DevOps leader…guaranteed to be in every MBA curriculum in 10 years.” —Gene Kim, 2016

At that point, I was sure that Gene had misunderstood what I was planning on writing. I was intending to write a patterns catalog with a few stories embedded, not a proper book. I deliberated whether I should point this out to him or not, but instead chose to play out the scenario where Gene had heard what I said and just interpreted it very differently than me. I went on to better understand his perspective by reading almost all the books from IT Revolution Press. At that point I realized I wanted to do everything I could to contribute to the scenius that Gene helped foster.

Scenius stands for the intelligence and the intuition of a whole cultural scene. It is the communal form of the concept of the genius.” —Brian Eno

At this year’s DevOps Enterprise Summit (DOES) Las Vegas conference, Gene introduced the concept of scenius to the audience. IT Revolution Press have done an amazing thing by nurturing and publishing books that have become the milestones on the journey of our scenius. I am honored to have been given the opportunity to try and produce one more of those milestones. In that process, I have learned just how open, far reaching, and fast moving the scenius that Gene willed into being through the DevOps Enterprise community is. For example, I have seen individual comments and tweets make it into multiple plenary talks in a matter of days. In other words, speakers not only pay attention to other scenius members, they also incorporate the broader communities’ insights into their talks. A new experience, report, or idea can influence the thinking of the entire community as soon as it is blogged. We are working in such a frenzied time that our collective ability to learn is what will direct our community, as well as the success of our organizations.

At DOES, Gene stated that it’s no longer about the 1 million software practitioners. It is now about the approximately 40 million people involved in an ever-growing number of specializations across all software value streams. For us to work and collaborate effectively, we need a common language. We can no longer have the jargon of one discipline muddy communication with another. We need to make the Three Ways of DevOps span all the way from a support ticket to the boardroom. My goal for Project to Product is to add to our scenius a common language and framework that helps us meet Gene’s goal of elevating our impact to improve the happiness and productivity of 40 million IT workers worldwide.

While I took Gene’s “MBA curriculum” goal as a lofty and aspirational one, I’m happy to note that in spite of not being released yet, Project to Product is in now ranking in the top 20 new releases for textbooks under the “Business & Finance>Management” category on Amazon.

While I am pretty sure that it is not a textbook, I am hopeful that it will help us as a stepping stone on this journey. If you find it inspirational, please remember that what matters most is how you contribute to the scenius, whether publicly or through the influence that you make on your team or in your organization. IT Revolution is providing us with the playbooks. I hope that Project to Product provides you with a whole new play to maximize your impact in 2019 and beyond.

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This is the seventh blog in a series promoting the genesis of my book Project To ProductIf you missed the first six blogs, click here. And to ensure you don’t miss any further blogs, you can receive future articles and other insights delivered directly to your inbox by signing up to the Project To Product newsletter.

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