Becoming more agile in your organization is not a simple change. It requires discipline, focus, and anticipation from all involved. Let's look at using the "5 Whys Technique" when examining agile transformation issues and see if we can derive some relationships between agile success, DevOps practices, and organizational change management.

In each of the scenarios below, the team is ready, willing and able to develop code. However, in each case their tools or support systems do not allow the team to deliver value when expected. Understanding the root cause can point you in the right direction of the source that is influencing this behavior.

Scenario A: We cannot continuously deliver to production

  • Why: We are dependent on another team to finish our work
  • Why: Our team is not cross-functional, so we cannot complete all of the stories on our own
  • Why: We still have siloed teams
  • Why: Teams are formed around a resource manager
  • Why: Resource managers do not want to manage people on multiple teams

Root Causes:

  • Leadership is not looking out for the success of the team
  • Teams are not cross-functional

Scenario B: We cannot continuously deliver to production

  • Why: All of our work breaks when we merge before releasing to production or a production-like environment
  • Why: We do not integrate our components until the end of a sprint
  • Why: We have not invested in the adoption of our continuous integration tool
  • Why: We do not want to take the time to successfully adopt our continuous integration tool
  • Why: Leadership does not want to slow down the flow of work

Root Causes:

  • Not taking the time to continuously improve
  • Using outdated integration practices

Scenario C: We cannot continuously deliver to production

  • Why: We cannot fit User Acceptance Testing (UAT) into our sprint
  • Why: We do not have a dedicated UAT tester on the team
  • Why: Our Product Owner does not have time
  • Why: Our Product Owner has too many other meetings to spend time with the team
  • Why: The value of a dedicated Product Owner has not been realized

Root Causes:

  • Not understanding the basics of Scrum and the importance of a Product Owner
  • Product Owner is not dedicated to a team

There are many factors that can impact a team's ability to deliver continuously to production. Understanding the importance of DevOps will help leadership recognize that an investment of time and technology is needed to bridge the gap between development and the delivery of value. An agile transformation will eventually hit a roadblock by neglecting the fact that operations need to be able to run in parallel with development. Without one or the other, true agility is impeded.

Using the "5 Whys" to move closer to root causes and key drivers of behaviors is a wonderful technique that can be applied to many situations. If you have a challenge that your team or organization is facing, try taking a crack at it using the 5 whys - you might be surprised by the results.