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Synchronous vs Asynchronous Digital Circuits as an Analogy to Organizational Dysfunction Applied to DevOps Practices

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Digital circuits, including the ones that we use for modern day computers, rely on digital electronics. That just means that they work because of a particular voltage being present to mean a one and the lack of a voltage to mean a zero. It’s how we build circuits together to transform an input into an output, with all of the circuits and programs to run on those circuits (in a von Neumann computer) that makes computers useful. But when designing these circuits, one basic design question to answer is “should I use a clock or not (synchronous vs asynchronous)?” While synchronous circuits are easier to design, asynchronous circuits have many advantages, such as high performance.
Let me mapping this concept onto organization dysfunction. As a coach, I can tell within 5 minutes of meeting a client how well the organization will do when attempting to become more Agile through reductions in Lean Wastes by adopting some Software Craftsmanship and DevOps practices and principles. How can I tell? Easy. I look at their calendaring tools. When I see a person’s email box full of calendar requests and a calendar that resembles a paved driveway, I know immediately that we will have a lot of problems. On the other hand, when the corporate culture embraces true one-on-one collaboration, with few meetings, I know that we’re going to get on together just fine.
As an organization if we want to make progress on work to be done, we have a choice to make. We can either be asynchronous by collaborating together and getting stuff done, or we can take the route that has be drummed into everyone’s head over the last 159 years: we can hold meetings. Unhappily, the more we rely on meetings as the primary way of making progress, the less we get done because of waiting and coordination wastes.
This talk will discuss the underlying analogy more in depth, apply it to organizations we are familiar with, and discuss the proper role for meetings in an organization. It will then turn its attention to how DevOps in general and virtualization/containerization in particular allows us to be more asynchronous as an organization, and therefore much quicker and less wasteful.

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