The Art of Business Value

art-of-biz-valueA review of The Art of Business Value by Mark Schwartz

Business value, the north star of Agile, Lean and DevOps champions, is often more difficult to determine than one would imagine. This book takes the reader on a journey to discover that value while along the way, creating helpful mental models, challenging preconceived notions and proposing some creative ways to transform an organization.

The author does a great treatment of ROI (Return on Investment – does anyone ever really measure that?), NPV (Net Present Value), MVA (Market Value Added) and SVA (Shareholder Value Added). I especially enjoyed the humorous practical example that revealed a surprising truth that acquiring an MBA can easily have a negative NPV (in other words, a bad investment!) So save your money and pay attention to the author’s “four-paragraph MBA” (p. 20) that unpacks the main two principles learned in an MBA: 1) There is time value of money and 2) A business venture needs a sustainable competitive advantage.

Legacy IT architecture and bureaucracy are often considered negatives and obstacles to progressive competitive relevance but the author brings a refreshing perspective on the “value” of that complex hairball of legacy and rules and the right way to polish and transform them.

On Agile…

“The purpose of an Agile team is to self-organize and meet the underlying business need in the best way possible, often by cutting through the bureaucracy.” (p 55)

On DevOps…

“The DevOps model…looks to break down the silos that have resulted from technical specialization over the last few decades. But the DevOps spirit goes further looking to eliminate the conflicting incentives of organizational silos and the inhumane behaviors that can result from those conflicting incentives.” (p 48)

On Bureaucracy…

“Bureaucracy delivers business value. Just sometimes not enough.” (p 59)
…”developers are bureaucrats by nature. We have a tendency to solve problems by creating standard processes rather than by relying on human judgment.” (p 54)
“The pipeline is an automated bureaucracy: it applies its rules in a rigorous, unemotional way, sine ira et studio. That does not mean that the software development process is unemotional; it means that the tools are unemotional and the passion is brought to the process by the people.” (p 105)

And on Business Value…

“Business value is a hypothesis held by the organization’s leadership as to what will best accomplish the organization’s ultimate goals or desired outcomes.” (p 90)

I highly recommend this book to IT leaders, digital executives, strategic managers, and anyone seeking to make their organization more agile, effective, relevant, competitive and humane.

DevOps Enterprise Summit 2015

It was great to attend the DevOps Enterprise Summit again this year. The 2015 edition saw more than double the number of attendees of the 2014 conference with presentations from companies all over the world. There is definitely a feeling that DevOps is awakening across the enterprise.

I had the privilege of presenting again on Disney’s Journey,
“Disney DevOps – The Enterprise Awakens.”

Fellow DevOps Avengers from all over the world converged to swap stories, share new insight, technology and encourage each other to keep moving forward as the Force of positive change in our various industries.

DevOps Enterprise | The Agile, Continuous Delivery and DevOps Transformation Summit

Some great reviews and observations:

Impressions from DevOps Enterprise Summit 2015

Gene Kim and Others Share What DevOps is Really “All About”

Impressions from DevOps Enterprise Summit 2015 – Micro Hering – Accenture

Infoworld – Gene Kim explains the joy of DevOps

Selection of favorite quotes:

  • “If you name your servers and treat them like pets they all develop individual personalities.” – @jasonacox
  • “Times and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our aim constantly focused on the future.” – Walt Disney
  • “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” –@jasonacox
  • “Believe in what you do, and make a difference” – @jasonacox

Creativity, Inc.

creativity-incCreativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration Hardcover

by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace


The Phoenix Project

phoenixprojectThe Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win

by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, & George Spafford

Digital transformation has lit a fire that is burning through traditional IT shops across the world telling us to adapt or be reduced to the ash heap of obsolescence. The Phoenix Project grapples with this disruptive change by telling an engaging story about an IT manager who is thrust into this fiery turmoil.  The main character is ushered unwillingly and unprepared into a new leadership role where he uncovers the complex and unrelenting problems any IT shop knows all too well.  Fair warning: If you have any history working in, leading or managing IT teams, you will likely have a visceral reaction to the narrative and even suspect the authors were spying on your organization.  But there is hope!  The main character in the story finds enlightenment and begins to implement changes based on the “Three Ways” discussed in this book that ultimately transforms the teams, balances life for the employees and successfully propels the business forward.

IT leaders will find the narrative and advice relevant, potent and inspiring.  By applying the principles learned in this novel, your technology organization, like the phoenix of old, can rise from the ashes to take on the challenges of our new Digital age.

There is hope!  Technology workers and leaders will find the narrative and advice woven throughout The Phoenix Project, relevant, visceral, potent and inspiring.  By applying the principles learned in this novel, business and technology leaders will see how they can transform their own organizations, identify and break down unnecessary silos, improve life for technology workers, and successfully propel their businesses forward in this new Digital age.


Management Lessons From a Controversial Genius

leadingappleLeading Apple With Steve Jobs: Management Lessons From a Controversial Genius

by Jay Elliot

I happend to find this book while surfing through my Safari Online account.  This is a great perspective from someone who worked alongside Steve Jobs and experienced his leadership style and philosophy.

There are several great Quotes from Steve Jobs in this book and Jay uses some of the best as chapter leads:

  • I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. [Chapter 1]
  • Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me. [Chapter 2]
  • A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have. [Chapter 3]
  • A small team of A-players can run circles around a giant team of B- and C-players. [Chapter 4]
  • It’s building an environment that makes people feel they are surrounded by equally talented people and their work is bigger than they are. The feeling that the work will have tremendous influence and is part of a strong, clear vision. [Chapter 6]
  • We used to dream about this stuff. Now we get to build it. It’s pretty great. [Chapter 7]
  • Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service. The iMac is not just the color or translucence or the shape of the shell. The essence of the iMac is to be the finest possible consumer computer in which each element plays together. [Chapter 8]
  • My job is to not be easy on people. My job is to take the great people we have and to push them and make them even better, coming up with more aggressive visions of how it could be. . . . My job is to make the whole executive team good enough to be successors, so that’s what I try to do. [Chapter 9]
  • You can’t talk about profit; you have to talk about emotional experiences. [Chapter 10]
  • I’m actually as proud of many of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done. [Chapter 11]
  • We don’t know where it will lead. We just know there’s something much bigger than any of us here. [Chapter 13]
  • It’s not just a job, it’s a journey. Let’s never forget that. . . . Your customers dream of a happier and better life. Don’t move products. Instead, enrich lives. [Chapter 14]

Lessons I picked up from this Book:

1. Think Different

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes . . . because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do. -Apple Ad

It’s important not to settle into a stagnant mechanical state.  Be the one to change things.  Create constructive discomfort and challenge the status quo.  When starting on work for the Mac, Steve wanted to create a team of “Pirates, not the Navy”.  In Chapter 4, Jay says:

You want people who dare to be different! You want Pirates—where the skull and crossbones may not be part of the company’s symbol, but they’re Pirates nonetheless. People who take risks, live at times a little on the edge, flaunt rules when justified, laugh loudly as the wind lashes their face and their pursuers fade from view into the distance behind. I always want to work with people like this, and so should you. 

Whether you think of them as nonconformists, dissenters, rebels, pirates, nutters, positive deviants, or as Blair’s crazies, make sure your team has a solid sprinkling of them. They will challenge your thinking, fuel your ideas, pump up your momentum, boost your competitive edge, and quite simply make your business a winner. And make sure you yourself provide a dose of this magic on occasion. You’re unlikely to accomplish anything great in your career without it.


One of the things that happens in organizations as well as with people is that they settle into ways of looking at the world and become satisfied with things. And the world changes and keeps evolving and new potential arises but these people who are settled in don’t see it. – Steve Jobs

2. Stay Focused on the Product

Product, not Profit or Process:  Businesses usual start out focused on product, their great idea to change the world.  The tendency is slip from product to profit and process focus.  Steve and others like him (Walt Disney included) spent all their energy thinking about making something great, not making a great profit.  As we have seen, those that keep that product perspective often end up with healthy profits as well.

Design with the customer in mind:  Steve drove product design by keeping the end user in mind, not just surface usage, but emotional connection as well.

You can’t talk about profit; you have to talk about emotional experiences. – Steve Jobs

Design for excellence.  Design to create an emotional experience, not just utility.  No more crap products.

In chapter 7, Jay says:

The reason for the outpouring of emotion around the world at the time of Steve’s death was that his products had touched people emotionally. Money and profits were never the motivators for Steve. His motivation was, “I’m going to build a product for myself, a product that will fill a need and at the same time give me pleasure to use.

It’s not just a job, it’s a journey. Let’s never forget that. . . . Your customers dream of a happier and better life. Don’t move products. Instead, enrich lives. – Steve Jobs

steve jobs

The Gravity of Leadership

I believe that, fundamentally, leaders have followers.  This can be on the technical or management side.  Technical leaders may not mentor directly, but their innovation and wisdom is passed down through implementation or documentation.  Managers are typically more direct through interaction or through their policy.


I believe good leaders create a “gravity” that pulls people to them, their ideas or their policies…  IMO, some thoughts:

         Successful leaders are in front of others pulling and challenging  them to advance.  They need to remain close enough (relevant not necessarily proximity)  to create influence (gravitational pull).  Those who are too distant  can be discouraging or have little impact.  Those that are consistently too close (micro) can overwhelm the individual’s unique, separate and growing contribution.

         Successful leaders create a cascade of leaders.  Behind them are leaders pulling others up.  This chain effect allows a leader to scale, to  influence a greater number of people at various levels.

         Successful leaders will not be afraid of creating a gravitational pull that will eventually slingshot some of their followers to an orbit higher than them.  In fact, such leaders should encourage this and be encouraged when this happens.  Great leaders look for these opportunities to invest in others and then celebrate their success.