This article first appeared in Code Like a Girl.
DevOps is many things, and if you ask 10 people what DevOps means you will likely get 20 different answers. The Three Ways of flow, feedback, and continuous experimentation and learning are the principles that drive all values, philosophies, processes, and procedures. These principles can be applied to other areas of life as well. For me, I’ve pulled from my DevOps learning to aide in my parenting journey.
The first way is flow. Information flows from the parents to the child. The parents’ job is to ensure the child gets what they need, how they need it and when they need it. Of course figuring out what those needs can be a challenge. Given a choice of two items, my son will choose one and then immediately change his mind or better yet he chooses something completely different. Understanding the flow of information, we have seen the following benefits:
- Increased value as we learn what it takes to achieve a certain goal, such as getting out the door for school in the morning.
- We have identified bottlenecks and constraints in the system. Asking an open-ended question such as “what do you want to eat?” does not yield good results. Offering two or three choices is better, offering no choices works too.
- We stick to a schedule and announce changes to the schedule ahead of time. With this, our son is aware of what is coming and can prepare for changes such as vacations, or when mom travels for business.
The second way is feedback. For improvement to occur in anything communication needs to take place. All parties involved need to see the outcomes of the work being done. Whether it is a small change or a large change, getting feedback helps things move smoothly. We hold daily retrospectives with our son. Every night we ask him what his favorite part of the day was, and we share ours. His answers can be surprising, sad, or silly, but they give us insight into his little mind. Through regular feedback loops the following benefits have been achieved:
- A community of sharing. We share what goes well and what doesn’t go well. Sometimes the favorite part of the day is that the day is over and we can put it behind us, and that’s ok.
- Because we share information regularly, we have built trust. Through that trust, we are able to collaborate and work together more effectively. Fewer tantrums are better for everyone.
- When problems occur, we can fix them faster. We have learned the warning signs and can pre-empt problems before they occur. We all know he gets hangry, making sure to always have snacks available eliminates the hangry monster from appearing.
- We adapt as we learn more about one another. Each day presents new challenges, and even though we plan and prepare things don’t always go as we expect. After leaving a shopping cart full of groceries at the store, I learned to go grocery shopping alone.
Continuous Experimentation and Learning
The third way is continuous experimentation and learning. Only after the first two ways have been implemented can the third way be achieved. We can try new things if we are communicating and open to feedback. Some experiments are successful, and some won’t be. My son doesn’t like crowds, but does this mean we never go out? No. We experiment with situations and give him strategies to help with any anxieties that may crop up. We have learned the signs for when he is overwhelmed, and he knows he can tell us if he needs to leave a crowded area. If we didn’t have trust in the flow of information and a feedback loop in place these ventures would not be successful. As we continue to experiment and learn we experience the following:
- We practice for uncomfortable situations and learn appropriate ways to respond. Practicing when the stakes are lower is much easier than when they are high.
- We push ourselves to become more comfortable in uncomfortable situations. We considered it a success when we made it through 80 minutes of a Sounders game.
- We know where our limits are, when to push through and when to call an audible and change course.
Like DevOps, parenting requires keeping a clear focus on principles, practices, and value. They are iterative processes that require collaboration and continuous improvement. Identify the practices that work for you and enjoy the journey.