When learning about the foundations of Agile and DevOps there is no better place to start then with Dr. W. Edwards Deming the father of the Quality Revolution. Anyone interested in fully understanding what the concepts of Agile and DevOps are based on would be highly advised to read Dr. Deming’s 14 points, System of Profound Knowledge and Deadly Diseases of Management because they can be fully applied to both Agile and DevOps.
We will highlight a couple of Dr. Deming’s teachings and how they can be applied to Agile and DevOps. Dr. Deming stated in his 14 points that organizations need to cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Instead they need to eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.
At the heart of Lean, Agile and DevOps is the belief that you don’t test after the fact, but instead should build quality into the process from start to finish through the idea of “shifting testing left”. At the forefront of this is the struggle with automated testing and the role quality assurance plays in the Agile and DevOps models. The facts are quite simple, we know that manual testing as performed by traditional quality assurance is expensive, unreliable and most importantly does not improve quality, it simply points out the lack of quality. The need for automated testing of not only the applications we are building is needed, but automated testing of the infrastructure used to build the software is needed. This automated testing must not only be built into the process from the beginning, but needs to continue into production. There are some truths here that unfortunately are being ignored by most companies, first this automated testing requires programming experience and the majority of it must be done at the Unit level that only developers can do.
What this means is that all companies must face the issue of what role does traditional quality assurance play if they do not have the required skills necessary to perform this automated testing.
Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.
A key component of Deming’s work is the concept of PDCA (Plan,Do,Check, Act), this concept is also a fundamental part of DevOps. In DevOps, we create what are termed Feedback Loops through the use of telemetry and monitoring, which are in fact, teams practicing PDCA.
A critical philosophy that has come out of TPS (Toyota Production System) is the idea of Andon Cord. The Andon Cord philosophy has been effectively adopted at companies like Amazon, where it has had incredible results. At Amazon, when a customer service agent gets a phone call from a customer explaining that there is a problem with the product he or she has just received. If it’s found to be a repetitive defect, they empower the customer-service agent to “stop the line,” which means taking the product off the website until the defect is fixed. The objective is to start the line again, once the defect has been resolved.
Adopting the Andon Cord philosophy has had an amazing impact at Amazon, it has led to the elimination of tens of thousands of defects per year. Another key benefit is that Andon Cord has empowered frontline workers (Helps transform to an ownership culture). The authority to stop the line is an enormous proof of trust for customer-service agents, who usually have no real authority to help upset customers. At the heart of a DevOps culture is the concept of Andon.
Another way in which DevOps is borrowing from Deming’s 14 points is the idea of not only moving towards automated testing, but shifting all of this testing left in order to gain immediate feedback early in the software development process. Deming’s belief that you should build quality into the product/service and not test it into the product/service, helps move the software industry back into alignment with true quality assurance. Unfortunately, over the years the idea of quality assurance has been hijacked by many in the industry to become quality control.
These are just a few of the teachings of Dr. Deming, Agile and DevOps practitioners will discover that all of Dr. Deming’s teachings are actually relevant to Agile and DevOps.