Using The DevOps Three Ways To Do Laundry

I’m new to the ITSM industry. When I first joined, I knew absolutely nothing about IT. Knowing this, my mentor advised me to read The Phoenix Project. After reading the book multiple times, I’ve understood the importance of IT Operations in an organization. Although the book covers many important concepts, I’d like to talk about The Three Ways.

The phrase “The Three Ways” is used to describe the underlying principles of the DevOps movement.

Let’s get into it.


The Three Ways

Described briefly, The Three Ways are:

  • First Way: Work always flows in one direction – downstream
  • Second Way: Create, shorten and amplify feedback loops
  • Third Way: Continued experimentation, in order to learn from mistakes, and achieve mastery

Let’s take a look at The Three Ways individually:


The First Way:

The First Way states the following, about the flow of work:

  • Work should only flow in one direction
  • No known defect should be passed downstream
  • Always seek to increase the flow

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The First Way helps us think of IT as a value stream. Think of a manufacturing line, where each work center adds a component – value – to the line. Since each work center adds value, it is preferred, that each work center does it right the first time around.

Which brings me to…


The Second Way:

The Second Way describes the feedback process as the following:

  • Establish an upstream feedback loop
  • Shorten the feedback loop
  • Amplify the feedback loop

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The Second Way teaches us to think of information as a value-addition. When timed right and used the right way, feedback can help optimize the value stream.

For example:
Why was there so much wait time at this particular work center? Resource A was held up.

Why did this process have to be redone? Because it wasn’t done right the first time.

The book quotes a sign from a Toyota production line that reads:

“Improving daily work is more important than doing daily work.”

This got me thinking that culture is just as important as the work, which brings me to…


The Third Way:

The Third Way describes the environment and culture, as the following practices

  • Promote experimentation
  • Learn from success and failure
  • Constant improvement
  • Seek to achieve mastery through practice

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The Third Way teaches us that culture and environment are just as important as the work being done. It advocates a culture of experimentation and constant improvement. This results in measured risks and being rewarded for good results.

I was inspired by the Three Ways.  If they can be implemented in complex processes such as Development and IT Operations, I figured I could implement them in something way simpler… like doing laundry.

Think of it this way:

Your dirty clothes are the Project Requirements.

Your washing machine is Development.

Your drying line is Deployment, done by IT Operations – which is also your constraint. If your clothesline isn’t free, you can’t wash any more clothes, because you will have no room to dry them.

Previously, I used to wash a week’s worth of laundry in one shot – that’s a lot of clothes. This meant there was not enough space on the clothesline for the entire load. This resulted in damp clothes, even after 2 days of drying.


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I started washing smaller loads, on a more regular basis. At first, I washed once every 3-4 days. This worked well until I realized I couldn’t wash my blacks along with the rest of my clothes. This is my analogy for resource requirements clashing.


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So I tried washing yet smaller loads, on more regular intervals. Think, once a day. That’s just 2-3 articles of clothing (releases), but can be washed (developed) and dried (deployed) overnight.


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If DevOps can change the way I do my laundry, it can undoubtedly change the way IT Ops and Development work together. This is what The Phoenix Project has taught me.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Filled with drama, fights, the works – and yet so resourceful. One thing that has been made abundantly clear to me is not IT is not just another department in a company. It’s pervasive, like electricity.

It was a fun read and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to gain an understanding of what DevOps is, and what IT means to an organization.

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Images by Srinivas

Editing by Vinithra Menon