Cloud & Engineering

Liz Douglass

Start from where you are

Posted by Liz Douglass on 17 December 2020

DevOps, Modern Engineering, Software Delivery

Recently I've been reading Designing Your Life, by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, who are both lecturers at Standford's famed The book introduces some of the theories of design thinking and one of the points they revisit a few times is the idea of "start(ing) where you are". I really like how practical and grounding this concept is.

start from where you are 

So where are you?

Maturity models are a popular tool used to assess the performance of IT teams.  Sometimes the models are quite broad and cover the full software delivery and operations lifecycle, whilst others are focused on a narrower set of dimensions, such as DevOps, monitoring, or cloud capabilities. The models serve three purposes:

  1. Articulate a set of capabilities,
  2. Benchmark current performance/capability
  3. Provide an indication of how improvement can be made 

How do I enhance the learnings?

To be even more constructive, accompany maturity models with conversations. Structure conversations by:

  • acknowledging what's going well and should therefore be kept, and
  • identifying what can be done to further improve. 

How to have the conversations

The information input into the model should be gathered in a series of 1-on-1 and group conversations facilitated by someone familiar with the model. Having individuals in delivery teams respond to statements like "all deployments are fully automated" can lead to quite a lot of exaggerated claims. This is especially so when the respondents are concerned that their input will threaten how their performance is perceived, or possibly even their job.

It can be helpful to compare your journey to fellow travelers

Industry and local benchmarks are available to provide a realistic comparison. As a technology leader, I've received reports with a whole pile of recommendations to propel us to the very top level of maturity for each capability. We should aspire to be at the top, but it’s more useful to understand where we sit relative to other organisations that are similar, especially if we're drawing from the same talent pool. 

Improve from where you are

Extending the point above, I always appreciate if the maturity model playback conversation also includes a roadmap outlining a set of coordinated actions for improving our maturity in the next 90 days. I had a boss many years ago that taught me the value of the 90-day goal timeframe - it's long enough to make meaningful progress, but not so long that you lose focus.


If you're wanting to assess the performance of your IT group and improve from where you are today, please reach out. 


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