Pursuit of Happiness

“Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Team,

Nothing says 4th of July like fireworks, hamburgers, watermelon… and now, Hamilton!  Ok, to be fair, we didn’t set off or watch any fireworks, but we did manage to do the rest and our neighbors were happy to rattle our windows with illegal fireworks all night long.  And if you didn’t catch Hamilton on Disney+, you should. It is an amazing performance!  It is also a good and timely reminder that this liberty stuff is a difficult and messy business.  

The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness requires work, struggle and constant vigil.  I was struck by those words this weekend, especially the well-chosen phrase, “pursuit of happiness.”  Happiness is fleeting but it is worth pursuing.  It is a constant race and requires work, energy and patience.  The reward set before us is joy, happiness, a smile and a feeling of satisfaction.  What does that pursuing happiness look like to you?  

Happiness can be found in work.  I have found that some of life’s greatest moments are at the other end of hard work and effort.  There is a great happiness that can be found in a job well done, the accomplishment and the fruit of hard labor.  It could be a project completed as a team at work, a repair job on the house, a problem solved, or a volunteer effort accomplished. In our knowledge worker world, that effort is more mental than muscular, but it is “work” none the less. The effort to solve complex problems and the mental energy to design, and create software, systems and processes is both taxing and rewarding.  The beautiful paradox is that something that can be difficult, painful and fraught with anguish, results in a moment of happiness, delight and satisfying accomplishment. 

Happiness can be found in learning.  COVID-19 has presented us with a lot of difficulty but has also graced us with new time to focus and learn.  In my spare time, I’m struggling to learn Japanese and my wife is polishing up on her Norwegian.  I also try to strategically pick projects that help me learn something new and interesting, at work and at home.  I know many of you do the same.  My recent diversion has me building IoT and other electronic devices.  This past weekend I decided I needed to finally learn JavaScript (and more than just copy paste coding) and built an interactive animation tool (don’t laugh) for my projects.  It took a lot of work, but when I had a working model (and software is never done so you just get to MVP), I was smiling.  I was happy.  I wonder if we give ourselves enough challenge to be happy?  Are we putting enough learning plans in our path to give us a chance to level up our knowledge and then enjoy the happiness of that moment?  I think I can do more.

Happiness can be found in giving.  Sure, personal rest and relaxation are good. We need to ensure we are not all work and no play.  Planned time off and vacation (remember when we used to be able to travel?) are great ways to celebrate and enjoy the fruits of our labors.  But I have found there is another key to unlocking happiness that isn’t about us.  It is about others. I have noticed that when I invest my own energy, time and resources in helping others there is an incredible joy dividend that I get back.  We are at our best when we are helping each other.  Programmed into the universe and our DNA is a virtuous reciprocity that happiness comes when we consider others, prioritize their needs above our own, champion for justice, and seek to do good.  I know I can do more of this.

Today, I challenge you all to think about how you are pursuing happiness.  What does it look like for you?  Find your path to happiness.  Look for it in your work, in your learning and in your giving, then run after it and enjoy it.  I wish you happiness this week and always!

Change your Focus

“I have this ability to find this hidden talent in people that sometimes even they didn’t know they had.” – Berry Gordy

Routines are important.  They create structure to manage stress, get stuff done and even unleash creative potential.  In our current pandemic remote working world, routines can be a big help in creating some stability out of chaos.  At the same time, they can also drive a level of monotony that can wear on your soul. 

Last week I was on a call with a group of people who mentioned that it feels like we are living the movie, Groundhog Day.  Each day, each meeting, each event starts to feel the same.  We talked about working from different rooms or even working from outside to help mix it up.  Sadly, this monotony can extend to our relationships.  Most of our interactions are now digital (video conferencing, Slack and email).  There is a danger that we start treating only the presentation layer.  We give shallow consideration of each other to get on to the next meeting.  We may do that just to survive our meeting loads.  But that definitely doesn’t build depth in our relationships or bring the level of significance to our work that we want to enjoy.  What can we do?

I have a radical idea. I suggest we focus some of our own energy in each meeting seeking to better understand each other.  Watch, observe and take note of the unique skills you see in others.  But don’t stop there, recognize them for it.  Send them a note, speak up or appreciate them for what you see.  Learn from them.  Acknowledge them.   Our hard-wired tendency is to focus on ourselves.  Survival naturally depends on that, but it is singularly minded and will limit our experience, growth and impact.  Instead of focusing on the video conferencing camera, turn your focus to the other people on the call.  What can you do to encourage them?  What do you see in others?  Do you see some unique talent or skill that they may not even know?  If so, tell them.  We can all use encouragement.  

It may be Groundhog Day again, but I suspect if we change a little of our focus, we will see the world in a whole new light.  See what you can do this week to discover something new about your team members and others.  For those of you with partners or kids, I suggest you try the same thing at home and see what happens.  You might even spot something brilliant that even they didn’t know they had.  Imagine if the whole world did that.  Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

Father’s Day Thoughts – Standing on the Shoulders of Others

“You are where you are today because you stand on somebody’s shoulders. And wherever you are heading, you cannot get there by yourself. If you stand on the shoulders of others, you have a reciprocal responsibility to live your life so that others may stand on your shoulders. It’s the quid pro quo of life. We exist temporarily through what we take, but we live forever through what we give.” —Vernon Jordan

I thought a lot about my dad this Father’s Day weekend.  He passed away five years ago in June and I still miss him.  Like all fathers, he wasn’t perfect, but the lessons he taught me have had a profound impact on my life.  I wanted to share some of those lessons with you today.

Be an engineer – Plan ahead.  I can’t remember a single project that my dad took on that didn’t have a plan fully developed before he started.  Many times, he even had written diagrams and details.  He would be frustrated when we (especially my sister and I) would act without thinking ahead. It was his fundamental philosophy. He loved seeing how efficiently he could get something done.  Apply engineering discipline to problems, projects and even PLAY.  That’s right, he would have blueprints drawn up for our vacations (ok not exactly but they were fully planned).  But it all taught me the value of engineering, being thoughtful, solving problems with design, science and planning.

Work hard – My dad was never afraid to do the hard-manual work himself, mowing lawns, repairing his car, fixing something at home or working long hours to get a job out at the office.  While not unkind he had little patience for lazy people (or his own kids). He set the example with hands-on effort, blood, sweat and tears. 

Be considerate – My dad would say “leave things better than you found them”. When you can, go above and beyond when dealing with others.  If he borrowed something he expected to return it in better shape.  Being considerate was really about the golden rule. Treat others as you would want to be treated. Don’t make others have to wait on you or clean up after you.  

Details matter – Craftsmanship and precision artistry should be in all things.  My dad would say, looking at a car, a tool, or anything else, “See how the seams line up?  Notice the precision of the gap.”  You can see and feel the quality.  If you were cleaning he would help you see if you missed a spot. Underneath?  Did you get the crevices?  Check the edges.  It taught me to have an eye for detail.

Enjoy each moment – You should savor and soak in life.  Laugh and smile.  Anytime we tried something new, my dad would provide instructions: slow down, observe, enjoy and taste all the flavor. That mindfulness approach to living life transcends all the chaos, turmoil and Coronavirus pandemic world we live in.  It reminds me to look for the good and breathe it in.  Appreciate each moment and celebrate life together.

Many of us can look back to others, our parents, grandparents, friends or mentors and think how their lessons and investments in us have made profound differences in our lives.  The foundational opportunities we were given are gifts, unmerited and incredibly powerful.  Not everyone receives the same investment or shoulders to stand on.   As Vernon Jordan eloquently put it, if we stand on the shoulders of others, we have a reciprocal responsibility to live our life so that others may stand on our shoulders.  It would be unjust for me to take what I have been given and not share it with others. 

What are you doing to help others in your family, on your team or in the world?  Don’t miss the great opportunity to pay it forward, encourage others, invest your talents, time, energy and resources in helping each other.  Plan to make a difference in someone else.   “We exist temporarily through what we take, but we live forever through what we give.” 

What’s in your tea cup?

“Character is power. If you want to be powerful in the world, if you want to be strong, influential and useful, you can be so in no better way than by having a strong character.” —Booker T. Washington

I love tea.  Many of you know how much I like coffee, but you may not know how much I also enjoy tea.  I have tried many teas over the years but my current favorite is PG Tips, a popular British blend of Assam, Ceylon and Kenyan teas.  It’s interesting to me how they can all look and smell the same in the tea bag but can be so dramatically different after steeped.  You can’t know the flavor until the hot water pulls it out from the leaves.  So often in life we think we know our own character and what is core to our being, but it isn’t until the trials of life that we truly discover what is on the inside.  Like tea, our true character is revealed in the hot waters of difficulty, stress, pressure and challenges.  What we really are, what we have cultivated and nurtured on the inside spills out.  Difficulties don’t define us, but reveal the true us.   

We just crossed over the 3rd month since the start of COVID, social distancing, face masks, safer at home remote work and now economic and social justice issues. How are you doing during these difficult times?  What is spilling out of you?  What have you learned about yourself and others?  Does it make you happy or make you want to change?  These are questions I’ve been asking myself.   I must confess, I feel like I’m a bit more like Decaffeinated Lipton than PG Tips.  I am too easily frustrated and irritated at things that don’t go my way.  I don’t always listen well (my family helped me discover this).  I should be more vocal and active in supporting my fellow human brothers and sisters.  I have work to do.

As the hot waters of difficulty and change washed over my family and team, I must say, I am incredibly proud. I have seen heroic characters surface in areas I didn’t expect, compassion, generosity, optimism and leadership spill out from all areas.  I have also seen a river of creative problem-solving.

Sure, there have been moments when tempers flare and struggles with despair set in, but even in those moments we have had good conversations.  I know that we all have a list of things we have discovered about ourselves and each other.  My challenge to you today is to not let this great opportunity go to waste.  As we do with all incidents, this is a great moment to study, learn and change.  Be understanding.  Be kind but also be brave. 

What’s in your tea cup?  What would you change about yourself?  Your character spills out and becomes a powerful agent to influence the world around you. You matter.  Your character matters.  What you are inside will be revealed during difficulties.  Take this opportunity to learn about yourself and cultivate a strong character so that when it spills out it becomes a powerful and useful influence on the world. 

A Seat at the Table: IT Leadership in the Age of Agility

Book Review

A Seat at the Table: IT Leadership in the Age of Agility
by Mark Schwartz

This should be required reading for all technology and business leaders who are serious about digital transformation.  This book takes you on a provocative, fun and comprehensive tour of the key areas that will promote and ignite digital empowering agility, creativity, learning, community and collaboration.

This book may be about taking a seat, but this is no time to be sitting still!   IT leaders will be convinced that their job is now about incentivizing and inspiring courage, passion and technical excellence in service of business objectives rather than blindly servicing requirements. You will even find practical advice on how to deal with projects, scope creep, IT assets (what the author calls Enterprise Architecture), governance, security, risk management, quality, and shadow IT.

DevOps Enterprise Summit 2016 – San Francisco

The 2016 edition of the San Francisco based DevOps Enterprise Summit underscored the momentum and scale of the DevOps movement across the industry.  The summit saw record level attendance and phenomenal presentations from established DevOps luminaries, notable DevOps transformational companies as well as many new companies.

“We are at our best when we are helping each other, serving each other, and making a positive difference” – Jason Cox, Disney

Articles related to DOES 16:

https://blog.chef.io/2016/11/21/chef-devops-enterprise-summit/

DevOps Chat: Gene Kim on The DevOps Handbook and DevOps Enterprise Summit

Innovation at Dimension Data: Taking DevOps Beyond Deployment

Innovation at Dimension Data: Accelerating Innovation and Digital Transformation with StackStorm Event Driven Automation

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thinking Environments

Transformational technology leaders from many companies across the world assembled at the 2016 DevOps Enterprise Forum to discuss DevOps practices, challenges and best-known methods to help our organizations and our community succeed.

Along with several other leaders, I had the privilege of helping put together a guidance document on DevOps Organizational Models to accelerate business and empower workers. In this free publication by IT Revolution, we take a look at how and why organizations are structured, examine which have characteristics that promote or impede business enabling DevOps practices, and take a deep dive into four different models that began to surface during our research:  (1) the traditional functional silo hierarchy, (2) the matrix model, (3) the product platform model and the (X) adaptive organization model.

Download PDF Here

Authors

  • Mark Schwartz, CIO, US Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • Jason Cox, Director, Systems Engineering, The Walt Disney Company
  • Jonathan Snyder, Sr. Manager, Service Deployment & Quality, Adobe Systems
  • Mark Rendell, Principal Director, Accenture
  • Chivas Nambiar, Director Systems Engineering, Verizon
  • Mustafa Kapadia, NA DevOps Service Line Leader, IBM

More DevOps guidance documents can be found here: http://itrevolution.com/devops_enterprise_forum_guidance

DevOps Handbook

devopshandbookDevOps Handbook: 
How to Create World-Class Agility, Reliability, & Security in Technology Organizations

These notable DevOps luminaries provide a comprehensive definition, patterns and guidance on implementing business winning DevOps culture and practices within your your organization.  Beyond just looking at successful DevOps principles from “unicorn” companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, Etsy, and Netflix, the authors provide several practical examples and case studies where these same practices are helping traditional enterprise companies like Target, Nordstrom, Raytheon, Nationwide Insurance, CSG, Capital One, and Disney.

The handbook captures several quotes from industry practitioners as well as unpack patterns that help promote increased velocity, feedback and experimentation and learning.

Citations from The DevOps Handbook

wordcloud-devops-handbook

DevOps Enterprise Summit – London 2016

I once again had the privilege of attending the DevOps Enterprise Summit.  This time it was in the U.K. at the Hilton Metropole.  I was impressed with the representation and talks from companies and organization across the UK and the rest of Europe:  SAP, ITV, Hiscox, ING, Barclays, HMRC, Zurich, and many more.

Themes that I picked up from these DevOps leaders:

  • People – Its all about People – empathy, org change, transformation
  • Speed – Continuous Integration and Delivery
  • Quality – Investment in DevOps practices often results in higher quality output
  • Agility – Microservices and Flexible Infrastructure
  • Security – Everyone’s responsibility
  • Business – Focus on Product vs. Project with integration with business in transformation (BizDevOps?)

I was honored to speak again and talk about our DevOps journey at Disney.

Jason Cox DOES16 London

Even though I wasn’t able to record my presentation, ComputerWorld UK provided a great write-up of my talk, and even gave me a new title! 🙂

There was considerable interest in our journey to DevOps, especially our transition from Operation Specialist to embedded Systems Engineers.

Other Quotes

“If technology is done well it looks like magic”

References

Systems strategy chief Jason Cox details Disney’s devops journey – ComputerWorld UK

Tips for DevOps Success from DOES 2016 – ComputerWorld UK

DevOps Across the Pond – London Reprise – ITproPortal

Overcoming the scale-up challenge of enterprise DevOps adoption – ComputerWeekly.com

 

How to Effectively Communicate to Leaders

As an leader who loves working with people, I often have the pleasure of hearing from individuals at all levels across the organization.  However, I am often amazed at how many people fail to communicate effectively with their leaders and others. They are terrible at scheduling meetings, pitching their idea or even asking for help. That got me to thinking, what advice would I give to anyone who needs to communicate with me or other leaders? I came up a list of 7 imperatives that I have learned from those who are the most successful.

1) Be contextual – I often have meeting invites or receive emails or presentations that provide little or no context. The senders may have mentioned it in a prior exchange and are usually saturated in the subject themselves, but most leaders are constantly task switching and juggling multiple ideas, projects, discussions, etc., and can struggle to make connections back to the senders requests. While we all want to be superhuman and always “know what you are talking bout”, the truth is that we have a finite capacity to retain more than a handful of contexts. Provide “helps” to onboard the leader and the rest of the audience quickly. That will help you succeed in getting the point across and if needed, a decision. I love seeing context in the meeting invite or email, or in the case of ad hoc meetings, and introductory summary for why he or she should listen to you.

2) Be brief – As with most leaders, I get several hundred emails, calls, texts and IMs per day. I must skim to survive. You should fashion your communications so that important ideas are highlighted. For written communication, make use of white space to help the eye quickly skim and do what you can to avoid unnecessary language. Can I suggest that executives aren’t the only ones who appreciate this and anyone who discovers this art of concise and effective communication will succeed in their career?

3) Be real – Leaders see through bogus accomplishments and self promotion. I’m most impressed with people who are respectful but direct, confident but humble, and candid but optimistic. They spend more time acknowledging others and the achievements of their team rather than their own.

4) Be kind – Good leaders have little tolerance for other leaders or managers who berate, belittle, or otherwise deal harshly with their team or others. Don’t expect to find a gracious audience with your own leader if you can’t deal respectfully, courteously and graciously with your own staff and partners. Treat others as you want to be treated.

5) Be honest – I’ve seen individuals and teams manipulate messages and presentations to get an executive decision or modify perception without providing all the details or slightly modifying the story. If you know something that could materially impact the decision process, why are you hiding it? Blocking signals to manipulate circumstances for your own benefit will backfire on you personally and in some cases have a significant impact on the company, brand, employees or customers. Be honest.

6) Be optimistic – Good leaders are not looking for everyone to be Pollyanna and will prefer a difficult truth to a comforting lie, but rarely are things without hope or some positive element. Bring a bias toward positive solutions, look for the opportunity in the disappointment, the lesson in a setback or wisdom in a failure. Business is about taking risks and moving forward from mistakes. Surround yourself with others who believe we can make a difference and impact the world for the better. Be an optimist.

7) Be proactive – Don’t just tell your leader what someone else needs to do, take action yourself. It’s great to have a plan to make something better and to bring that to the attention of your leader, but be prepared to be part of the solution!  Leaders are always on the lookout for a great idea with muscle. What are you doing to turn your great idea into reality? Get started.

This list is in no way comprehensive, but hopefully it will help you as it has helped me.