Accelerate - Nicole Forsgren PhD, Jez Humble and Gene Kim

19 April 2023

Perhaps by good fortune, I have had the pleasure of working for some amazing companies over the years that have incorporated many of the indicators that high performing organizations possess and that I now know in formal detail, having read Accelerate by Nicole Forsgren PhD, Jez Humble and Gene Kim.

Although starting to fell a little dated in 2023, it is still a must read classic for anyone working in IT or Software Engineering.

Here are some of my notes.

Chapter 2: Measuring Performance

  • We measured product delivery lead time as the time it takes to go from code committed to code successfully running in production.

  • Table 2.3 Software Delivery Performance for 2017 - High Performers:

    • Deployment Frequency - On demand (multiple deploys per day).
    • Lead Time For Changes - Less than one hour.
    • MTTR - Less than one hour.
    • Change Failure Rate - 0 - 15%.
  • These results demonstrate that there is no trade-off between improving performance and achieving higher level of stability and quality. Rather, higher performers do better at all of these.
  • As Deming said, ‘Whenever there is fear, you get the wrong numbers.’

Chapter 3: Measuring and Changing Culture

  • Figure 3.1: Likert-Type Questions for Measuring Culture
  • Strongly disagree, Disagree, Somewhat disagree, Neither agree nor disagree, Somewhat agree, Agree, Strongly agree
    • Information actively sought?
    • Messengers are not punished when they deliver news of failures or other bad news?
    • Responsibilities are shared?
    • Cross-functional collaboration is encouraged and rewarded?
    • Failure causes inquiry?
    • New ideas are welcomed?
    • Failures are treated primarily as opportunities to improve the system?
  • How organisations deal with failures or accidents is particularly instructive. Pathological organisations look for a ‘throat to choke’.
  • Investigations aim to find the person or persons responsible for the problem, and then punish or blame them.
  • Failure in complex systems is, like all other types of behaviour in such systems, emergent.
  • Thus, accident investigations that stop at ‘human error’ are not just bad but dangerous.

Chapter 5: Architecture

  • The fact that low performers were more likely to be using - or integrating against - custom software developed by another company underlines the importance of bring this capability in-house.
  • The ‘inverse Conway Manoeuvre’, which states that organisation should evolve their team and organisational structure to achieve the desired architecture.
  • The goal is for for your architecture to support support the ability of teams to get their work done - from design through to deployment - without requiring high-bandwidth communication between teams.
  • Architecture approaches that support this: bounded contexts, APIs, containerisation.

Chapter 11: Leaders and Managers

  • The five characteristics of transformational leaders are:
  • Vision
    • Has a clear understanding of where we are going?
    • Has a clear sense of where he/she wants our team to be in five years.
    • Has a clear idea of where the organisation is going.
  • Inspiring communication
    • Says things that make employees proud to be part of the organisation.
    • Says positive things about the work unit.
    • Encourages people to see changing environments as situations full of opportunities.
  • Intellectual stimulation
    • Challenges me to think about old problems in new ways.
    • Has ideas that have forced me to rethink some things that I have never questioned before.
    • Has challenged me to rethink some of my basic assumptions about my work.
  • Supportive leadership
  • Personal recognition
  • Hold regular interval DevOps mini-conferences. We’ve seen organisations achieve success using the classic DevOpsDays format, which combines pre-prepared talks with “open spaces” where participants self-organise to propose and facilitate their own sessions.