A DevOps simulation with toothpicks
January 8, 2022This 15-minute exercise demonstrates the silos problem DevOps aims to solve, and serves as a great conversation starter.
Last year I did a half-day DevOps workshop for a group of Scrum masters. I started out the workshop with a little group exercise I want to describe here. The goal of the exercise was to demonstrate the silos problem that DevOps aims to resolve.
Split into two groups of aprox. 2-4 people each
If you have a large group, say 12 or more people, you may wish to run the simulation in two groups simultaneously.
Group A gets: A box of toothpicks and a roll of masking tape
Group B gets: A kitchen scale and a 12 inch/30 cm ruler
The facilitator needs a time keeping device, such as a kitchen timer or mobile phone with alarm function.
Phase 1, 5 minutes
Group A is instructed to build a tower with the toothpicks and tape. It must:
- Be exactly 20cm tall
- Weigh exactly 40 grams / 1.5 ounces
- Not fall over when someone blows on it
When the timer sounds, the group must stop working.
Phase 2, 2 minutes
Group B inspects the tower, using their ruler, kitchen scale, and lungs. They may do this in isolation/out of sight of Group A, if desired.
Group B offers a simple pass/fail grade to Group A, with no further commentary
Phase 3, 3 minutes
Group A has 3 minutes to make any necessary modifications to their tower to pass inspection.
Phase 4, 2 minutes
Once again, Group B does an inspection, and offers a pass/fail grade.
Then of course, discuss the exercise!
Traditional IT often puts Devs (aka Group A) at odds with Ops or even QA (aka Group B).
- How did the exercise make you feel?
- How could the outcome (a tower that passes inspection) be improved by a different approach?
- How many different ways can you think of that Groups A & B could be structured to work together?
- What if the groups are joined?
- What if the groups remain separate?
What is "mindset" anyway?
"X is a mindset." So what?
Scrum is great in theory, but "it will never work in the real world"
I think there are two "real worlds", and they often clash. One where Agile, Scrum, XP, and DevOps make perfect sense. Another where they don't.
Pick a methodology: Scrum, Kanban, XP, Lean or DevOps?
None of these items directly replaces or conflicts with any of the others. In fact, you can use them all simultaneously.