Click here to close now.


Microservices Expo Authors: Derek Weeks, Dana Gardner, PagerDuty Blog, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: Microservices Expo, Java IoT, Linux Containers, Containers Expo Blog, @BigDataExpo, SDN Journal

Microservices Expo: Article

Agile 101 - Three Practical Guidelines for Business Decisions

A humorous and practical approach to understanding why decisions are so complex

In order to create the combination between top-down problem-decisions (waterfall like approaches)and local problem-decisions (Agile project approach) here are practical guidelines to pursue

Three practical complex decision-problems guidelines:

  • Simple local rules
  • Strategic top down rules
  • Visual problem view

We describe in detail, each practical guideline, below.

Simple local rules
This cannot be overstated. Local rules must be easy to follow. Whether these are rules for: a machine operator, traveling salesperson, a project coordinator, or you packing your bags.

The local decision rules are the ones mostly used, they must be easy to follow, understandable, and unequivocal. Consider the warehouse forklift operator who is re- stocking raw material. If she needs to follow a complex decision protocol for placing newly arrived material in the warehouse, it would result in chaos.

Instead, we need to equip her with an easy to follow mechanism for stocking the warehouse.

One such mechanism is FIFO - First In First Out. This is also the rule, you're following when stocking your fridge with groceries, if you don't want dairy products to go sour.

Supermarkets also follow this rule when their organizing their product shelves. At least, they're supposed to follow this rule, otherwise they will have outdated products on display.

The modern big supermarkets actually stock fresh items from the back, ascertaining this way, that older items are pushed forward.

Sly consumers will then pick up dairy products from the back of the shelf if they want to make sure that it is the freshest available.

There is even an acronym that goes along with local rule simplicity which is: KISS - and stands for: keep it simple and straightforward.

The Japanese KANBAN approach which we've previously mentioned, implements an easy to follow rule of thumb.

It is: when you're operating a manufacturing machine, you should only produce when the physical container carrying a finished product in front of you, is empty. In practice this was actualized by using Kanban cards. Kanban is the Japanese word for card.

For manufacturing purposes it much easier for operators to follow this simple rule. However, ordinarily in production floors, operators follow a complex weekly/daily production plan that is very confusing. This is the opposite of simple.

Make your local decision-problem rules are simple

Such as:

  • Travel to the next cheapest destination
  • Pack the smallest item first
  • Work on the easiest element first
  • Stock according to FIFO

Strategic top down rules

The strategic top down rule which we select for our decision-problem has to constrain our decision space.

Consider for example a hospital's most expensive resource - the surgery room. Each such room has to be utilized as much as possible.

Reaching 100% utilization is not feasible - this can be proved using queuing theory; however 85%-90% utilization is desirable. The reason we require high utilization is for the pay back on the investment. The hospital invested money for the equipment in building and equipping the room and wishes to receive a return on the investment.

Hospitals' surgery rooms are generally a resource in shortage, hence there will always be patients requiring the room. It seems logical that the 85%-90% utilization will be easily achieved. This is not that case - the rooms are approximately 65% utilized in many cases - and it is driving the financial officers of hospitals crazy.

It drives them crazy almost to the point that they require ulcer treatment and have to wait in line for the surgical procedure - and yet the operation room is only 65% utilized.

The situation described of having lower utilization than expected and desired has to do with selecting an unsuitable top down problem-decision rule. The hospital schedules surgical procedures, utilizing the operation rooms, by using a monthly plan, as we've illustrated before, the top down plan fails because of many small changes.

What are these small changes and why do they occur?

In order to perform a surgical procedure in the operation room, the room has to be ready - i.e., cleaned, sterilized and with the proper equipment. The surgeon and his staff also have to be ready.

What happens if the surgeon and his staff are ready and waiting, however the room isn't prepped and cleaned?

The impact: we have very expensive employees (the physician, surgeon and others in the team) and a very expensive resource (the surgery room) as well as a prepped patient - all waiting for the room to be cleaned.

Wait a minute - this doesn't make sense you say! Didn't the top-down plan specify that maintenance personal have to be cleaning, equipping and readying the room?

The plan might have have designated and scheduled the cleaning to be performed, however the cleaning staff is currently working in another location and are unavailable for cleaning the specific room.

Crazy - we have two very expensive resources waiting for important yet cheaper staff.

Why aren't there enough cleaning staff?

Because the top down rule, that the ulcer stricken financial officer defined, is based on efficient planning and budgeting of resources. In this plan, it makes no logical sense hoarding on maintenance staff when we can fire them and save...

Thus, selecting the wrong top down planning, decision mechanism leads to an ineffective use of the hospital's expensive resources.

The depicted hospital scenario is quite common in many industries. Eli Goldratt, a physicist by education, claimed that we wrongly select the top down rules to manage our complex systems and to make decisions. Since the top down plan will fail, we won't be using the critical resources in our system optimally. He suggested an alternative top down rule which he presents in five books. The rule he devised is known as the theory of constraints, and in each book he applies it to different departments within a company. In each department the fundamental concept is to analyze the critical resource from the system perspective and utilize it optimally.

The theory of constraints top down problem-decision rule: always protect the most limited and expensive resource. Protect its time, utilization, and allocation.

In the hospital scenario, the top down rule would translate into constructing the plan around the surgery rooms and expert physicians, making sure that the cleaning staff is always ready before time, catering to the room.

The approach translates into a seemingly surplus of maintenance employees, at times wallowing around the corridors having an extra Latte, and contributing to the financial officer's ulcer. The alternative though is worse, unacceptable mediocre utilization of surgery rooms.

There have been many academic critics of Goldratt's approach. However, most demonstrated that his approach fails in extreme conditions. For most business purposes, Goldratt offers a straight forward, intuitive, top down constraining, problem-decision rule.

An alternative to Goldratt's rule in production environment and in project portfolio management can be to limit the overall time or products that are processed. In other words, limit the WIP - work in process.

How would that rule operate in project portfolio management?

The IT or software departments will only accept new project, when their total work in progress is below a certain threshold. The underlying mechanism is of Pull - new projects are pulled into a work status from a backlog waiting queue based on the total number of projects that are at present, concurrently managed.

The constant work in process is an easier to manage rule, however it is difficult to figure the threshold and to commit to it, without surrendering to requests from top management. More on that, later.

Select a resource constraining top down rule, instead of planning the entire system.

Visual problem presentation

‘If we don't see it it's not there'

We assess the world around us through our eyes.

‘A picture is worth 1000 words'

The fundamental principle is that we rather see a graphical representation rather than a list.

‘Seeing is believing'

Philosophically speaking visual presentations can lead sometimes to mistaken results, however more often they DO enable us to clearly see the overall problem.

Since we use our eyes as the tool to capture the world, it is crucial that we inspect and evaluate decision-problems in the same way.

Visual representations of decision-problems enable us to better grasp, the problem, assumptions, constraints, options and solutions.

Reflect for minutes on the traveling salesperson problem. It's much easier to explore a tangible map of 10, 15 or even 30 destinations and analyze possible routes, rather than assess the problem using a table or spreadsheet.

The same is true for production environments. It is easier to solve the complexity of production machine allocations, using visual signals such as Kanban boards and cards, rather than using a computer-generated paper output of production orders.

One of the challenges we've witnessed in managing multi projects in virtual global companies, is that we lacked the visual representation of the activities and projects allocated to resources and people.

Use any relevant tool to display the decision-problem visually.

For example: During a project at a petrochemical plant, we created a war room for the intense 4 months, construction stage. While we had a detailed Gantt chart with over 2000 entrees for specific activities of construction, it made more sense to create huge visual boards depicting daily tasks with resource and people allocated, to display overall allocations, possible collision points, impacts, deadlines, opportunities, and threats.

The strategic top-down rule has to be shown in the visual representation of the problem. Hence, it is not enough to portray the problem using a visual approach, it is also important to superimpose the strategic top-down rule on the visual presentation of the problem.

How can we illustrate the strategic top-down rule on the visual image?

  • Using computers this would be done adding an extra layer on top of the decision problem.
  • In our physical war room example this was actualized by different colors, stickers and other visual tools to depict the strategic decision rule visually.
  • In production floors this would be achieved by adding physical signals, drawing signs and images around and in front strategic human operators, machines and other facilities within the production floor.

Create a visual representation of the complex decision-problem. Use visual methods to illustrate the top-down strategic decision rule

Two more rules:

  • Realignments feedback mechanism

•    Enforce consistency through publicity

Are presented in the best seller: D-side - practical decision making business Guide

You will also find there more about decision making, it is a a humoristic practical approach to understanding why decisions are so complex and what can be done about it


More Stories By Michael Nir

Michael Nir - President of Sapir Consulting - (M.Sc. Engineering) has been providing operational, organizational and management consulting and training for over 15 years. He is passionate about Gestalt theory and practice, which complements his engineering background and contributes to his understanding of individual and team dynamics in business. Michael authored 8 Bestsellers in the fields of Influencing, Agile, Teams, Leadership and others. Michael's experience includes significant expertise in the telecoms, hi-tech, software development, R&D environments and petrochemical & infrastructure industries. He develops creative and innovative solutions in project and product management, process improvement, leadership, and team building programs. Michael's professional background is analytical and technical; however, he has a keen interest in human interactions and behaviors. He holds two engineering degrees from the prestigious Technion Institute of Technology: a Bachelor of civil engineering and Masters of Industrial engineering. He has balanced his technical side with the extensive study and practice of Gestalt Therapy and "Instrumental Enrichment," a philosophy of mediated learning. In his consulting and training engagements, Michael combines both the analytical and technical world with his focus on people, delivering unique and meaningful solutions, and addressing whole systems.

@MicroservicesExpo Stories
People want to get going with DevOps or Continuous Delivery, but need a place to start. Others are already on their way, but need some validation of their choices. A few months ago, I published the first volume of DevOps and Continuous Delivery reference architectures which has now been viewed over 50,000 times on SlideShare (it's free to registration required). Three things helped people in the deck: (1) the reference architectures, (2) links to the sources for each architectur...
Continuous processes around the development and deployment of applications are both impacted by -- and a benefit to -- the Internet of Things trend. To help better understand the relationship between DevOps and a plethora of new end-devices and data please welcome Gary Gruver, consultant, author and a former IT executive who has led many large-scale IT transformation projects, and John Jeremiah, Technology Evangelist at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), on Twitter at @j_jeremiah. The discussion...
Hiring the wrong candidate can cost a company hundreds of thousands of dollars, and result in lost profit and productivity during the search for a replacement. In fact, the Harvard Business Review has found that as much as 80 percent of turnover is caused by bad hiring decisions. But when your organization has implemented DevOps, the job is about more than just technical chops. It’s also about core behaviors: how they work with others, how they make decisions, and how those decisions translate t...
In today's enterprise, digital transformation represents organizational change even more so than technology change, as customer preferences and behavior drive end-to-end transformation across lines of business as well as IT. To capitalize on the ubiquitous disruption driving this transformation, companies must be able to innovate at an increasingly rapid pace. Traditional approaches for driving innovation are now woefully inadequate for keeping up with the breadth of disruption and change facin...
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound...
PubNub has announced the release of BLOCKS, a set of customizable microservices that give developers a simple way to add code and deploy features for realtime apps.PubNub BLOCKS executes business logic directly on the data streaming through PubNub’s network without splitting it off to an intermediary server controlled by the customer. This revolutionary approach streamlines app development, reduces endpoint-to-endpoint latency, and allows apps to better leverage the enormous scalability of PubNu...
I recently attended and was a speaker at the 4th International Internet of @ThingsExpo at the Santa Clara Convention Center. I also had the opportunity to attend this event last year and I wrote a blog from that show talking about how the “Enterprise Impact of IoT” was a key theme of last year’s show. I was curious to see if the same theme would still resonate 365 days later and what, if any, changes I would see in the content presented.
Culture is the most important ingredient of DevOps. The challenge for most organizations is defining and communicating a vision of beneficial DevOps culture for their organizations, and then facilitating the changes needed to achieve that. Often this comes down to an ability to provide true leadership. As a CIO, are your direct reports IT managers or are they IT leaders? The hard truth is that many IT managers have risen through the ranks based on their technical skills, not their leadership ab...
Microservices are a very exciting architectural approach that many organizations are looking to as a way to accelerate innovation. Microservices promise to allow teams to move away from monolithic "ball of mud" systems, but the reality is that, in the vast majority of organizations, different projects and technologies will continue to be developed at different speeds. How to handle the dependencies between these disparate systems with different iteration cycles? Consider the "canoncial problem"...
There are over 120 breakout sessions in all, with Keynotes, General Sessions, and Power Panels adding to three days of incredibly rich presentations and content. Join @ThingsExpo conference chair Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040), June 7-9, 2016 in New York City, for three days of intense 'Internet of Things' discussion and focus, including Big Data's indespensable role in IoT, Smart Grids and Industrial Internet of Things, Wearables and Consumer IoT, as well as (new) IoT's use in Vertical Markets.
Discussions of cloud computing have evolved in recent years from a focus on specific types of cloud, to a world of hybrid cloud, and to a world dominated by the APIs that make today's multi-cloud environments and hybrid clouds possible. In this Power Panel at 17th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the importance of customers being able to use the specific technologies they need, through environments and ecosystems that expose their APIs to make true ...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data...
As organizations realize the scope of the Internet of Things, gaining key insights from Big Data, through the use of advanced analytics, becomes crucial. However, IoT also creates the need for petabyte scale storage of data from millions of devices. A new type of Storage is required which seamlessly integrates robust data analytics with massive scale. These storage systems will act as “smart systems” provide in-place analytics that speed discovery and enable businesses to quickly derive meaningf...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 7-9, 2016 at Javits Center, New York City and Nov 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 18th International @CloudExpo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo New York Call for Papers is now open.
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York and Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty ...
We are rapidly moving to a brave new world of interconnected smart homes, cars, offices and factories known as the Internet of Things (IoT). Sensors and monitoring devices will touch every part of our lives. Let's take a closer look at the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things is a worldwide network of objects and devices connected to the Internet. They are electronics, sensors, software and more. These objects connect to the Internet and can be controlled remotely via apps and programs. ...
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Day 2 Keynote at 17th Cloud Expo, San...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Kintone has been named "Bronze Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. kintone promotes cloud-based workgroup productivity, transparency and profitability with a seamless collaboration space, build your own business application (BYOA) platform, and workflow automation system.
Just over a week ago I received a long and loud sustained applause for a presentation I delivered at this year’s Cloud Expo in Santa Clara. I was extremely pleased with the turnout and had some very good conversations with many of the attendees. Over the next few days I had many more meaningful conversations and was not only happy with the results but also learned a few new things. Here is everything I learned in those three days distilled into three short points.
One of the most important tenets of digital transformation is that it’s customer-driven. In fact, the only reason technology is involved at all is because today’s customers demand technology-based interactions with the companies they do business with. It’s no surprise, therefore, that we at Intellyx agree with Patrick Maes, CTO, ANZ Bank, when he said, “the fundamental element in digital transformation is extreme customer centricity.” So true – but note the insightful twist that Maes adde...