Building Continuous Delivery into an organisation requires radical change

While Continuous Delivery has a well-defined value proposition and a seminal book on how to implement a deployment pipeline, there is a dearth of information on how to transform an organisation for Continuous Delivery. Despite its culture-focussed principles and an adoption process described by Jez Humble as organisational-focussed rather than tools-centric”, many Continuous Delivery initiatives fail to emphasise an organisational model in which software is always releasable. This contravenes Lean Thinking and the Deming 95/5 Rule – that 95% of problems are attributable to system faults, while only 5% are due to special causes of variation. Building an automated deployment pipeline can eliminate the 5% of special causes of variation in our value stream (e.g. release failures), but it cannot address the remaining 95% of problems caused by our organisation structure (e.g. wait times between silos). From this we can infer that:

Continuous Delivery = 95% organisation, 5% automation

Establishing a Continuous Delivery culture requires a change management programme more challenging, time-consuming, and valuable than any technology-based efforts. Donella Meadows recommended that to effect change we “arrange the structures and conditions to reduce the probability of destructive behaviours and to encourage the possibility of beneficial ones“, and we can achieve this by using the change patterns of Linda Rising and Mary Lynn Adams within the change management supermodel of Jurgen Appelo:

  • Dance with the System
  • Mind the People
  • Stimulate the Network
  • Change the Environment

To dance with the system, we propose a made to order Continuous Delivery programme, with a tailor made business case that emphasises reduced transaction costs and/or increased customer value according to the needs of our organisation. We must identify a Local Sponsor to support our efforts and a Corporate Angel to increase awareness, and we should communicate successful case studies to our stakeholders as External Validation.

To mind the people, we construct a collaborative, bottom-up change programme that encourages participation. We need to Involve Everyone from the outset, and apply a Personal Touch with each individual stakeholder to pitch Continuous Delivery in terms of their incentives. We should use Corridor Politics to promote our change initiative, Just Say Thanks to our contributors, and highlight value stream waste without dispute – as Morgan Wootten said “a lighthouse doesn’t blow a horn, it shines a light“.

To stimulate the network, we emulate the Diffusion of Innovations theory of Everett Rogers and exploit the social network that comprises our organisation. We must encourage Innovators to spark an interest in our change initiative, and then form a group of Early Adopters to offer us early feedback. We need to Ask For Help from Connectors to evangelise to their peers on our behalf, and by Staying In Touch with our supporters we can work towards an Early Majority invested in Continuous Delivery.

To change the environment, we focus upon changing our organisation structure and processes to instil a culture of Continuous Delivery. We need to radiate our value stream In Your Space to raise awareness of cycle time, lead times, and wait times using Just Enough repackaged Lean terminology (e.g. “average time to market” instead of cycle time). We must work as Bridge Builders between different siloed teams to reduce our communications burden, and we should develop our pipeline Step By Step to encourage the good practices and discourage the bad (e.g. enforcing decouple deployment from release in a user interface).

Building Continuous Delivery into an organisation can be achieved by automating a deployment pipeline and implementing a change management programme, but we should remember Jurgen Appelo’s advice that changing people “is hard to do without an expensive operating table“. Our change programme must be tailored to business requirements, personalised for each stakeholder, and focussed upon improving the environment – and we should always remember:

Building a Continuous Delivery pipeline is easy. Building a Continuous Delivery organisation is hard