A DevOps simulation with toothpicksThis 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?
Ask 10 people, get 15 answers
Ask 10 people what "Agile" or "DevOps" means, and you'll get 15 answers. The terms have essentially become meaningless.