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DevOps Institute

[EP30] The Human Side of VSM with DevOps Evangelist Tiffany Jachja

Humans of DevOps, Value Stream Mapping and Management

In this episode of The Humans of DevOps Podcast, Jayne Groll is joined by DevOps Institute Ambassador and Evangelist at Harness, Tiffany Jachja and DevOps Institute Director of Membership, Jason Baum to discuss the human side of value stream management. Their conversation overviews defining VSM, current industry trends, and how businesses can create value for their customers. Tiffany Jachja continues the conversation at SKILup Day: Value Stream Management on March 18, 2021.

The lightly edited transcript can be found below.

Intro:

You’re listening to The Humans of DevOps Podcast, a podcast focused on advancing the humans of DevOps through skills, knowledge, ideas, and learning, or the SKIL Framework.

Jayne Groll:

Hi, everyone. It’s Jayne Groll of the DevOps Institute. And welcome to another episode of The Humans of DevOps Podcast. I’m really excited today to be joined by two guests, Tiffany Jachja of Harness, and Jason Baum, director of membership at DevOps Institute. Welcome Jason and Tiffany.

Jason Baum:

Thanks, Jayne.

Tiffany Jachja:

Hi, Jayne. Hi, everyone. Thanks.

Jason Baum:

Hi, Tiffany.

Jayne Groll:

Tiffany, why don’t you introduce yourself? Tell us a little bit about yourself. Tell us a little bit about Harness. In particular, because today we’re going to talk about value stream management, your experience with that as well.

Tiffany Jachja:

Sure. Yeah, I’d love to. Hi, everyone. As Jayne mentioned, my name is Tiffany Jachja. I’m actually an evangelist at Harness, and we help with simplifying and scaling software delivery. We have a CI/CD platform and various other products on the line to essentially help anyone do software delivery, and be able to do it in this continuous fashion.

Tiffany Jachja:

And so, a lot of the content that I try to share and the stories that I like to tell are really centered around this topic. Whether it’s through sharing some practices that you can use with specific technologies, specific processes, or even just some awesome things that you could learn as a person to help your teams and to help scale software delivery.

Tiffany Jachja:

A lot of my experience is around telling those stories, but before that I was a consultant at Red Hat. And so, I had the opportunity to actually do a couple of value stream mapping exercises and value stream management in general with clients on specific engagements.

Tiffany Jachja:

So, it’s very exciting for me. And I didn’t really realize that until I got more into this field and started talking a lot more about DevOps … I realized that there’s really a good place for it and it helps people. It actually has an impact.

Jayne Groll:

Awesome. Thank you. Jason, why don’t you introduce yourself?

Jason Baum:

Sure. I am the director of membership for DevOps Institute. My background is not in DevOps. My background is in association building and association management. I’ve been an association professional for the past 15 years in mostly non-profits, but little bit on the for-profit side as well.

Jason Baum:

I am a community builder at the end of the day. I have built out communities for professional associations, trade associations and the like. So, really I’m here for the human side of what we do, which is building connections for those of you who are listening.

Jason Baum:

Building out communities and making sure that your experience as a DevOps professional … Basically, you can learn from each other and take away some of that value. A little bit of what we’re doing on our SKILup Days. Think about that 365 days of the year and not just one day a month.

Jayne Groll:

Awesome. Thank you. Let’s start today’s conversation talking about value and value stream management, which is the topic under the microscope at the upcoming SKILup Day.

Jayne Groll:

Tiffany, how do you define value stream management? It’s a term that’s bandied around quite a lot in our space, and I’m not a hundred percent convinced that we have a common mindset or a common understanding of what value stream management really is.

Tiffany Jachja:

Yeah. I get that sense as well, especially because when you talk about something as broad as a management framework or a management principle, that includes a lot of things. And we can look at it from a culture perspective, we can look at it from the perspective of principles and practices, and even tooling and exercises.

Tiffany Jachja:

To me, value stream management is really about what it sounds like. It’s about managing your value flow throughout the process, throughout your software delivery process. That involves a lot of things. That involves your people, your process, and technology.

Tiffany Jachja:

A lot of, I think, the practices and methodologies found in value stream management helps you map. Understand and map, optimize, visualize, even govern the entire process of how you deliver value to your end user, your end customer. That’s how I think about value stream management.

Jayne Groll:

Do you think that we have a common understanding either organizationally or industry-wide of even the definition of value? How do we know we’re creating value?

Tiffany Jachja:

I think that’s a very challenging question for a lot of people, because value for one customer could be something very different from another customer. And it’s always dependent on the solution. It’s always dependent on the use case, the industry. And so, even from the perspective of a single application, you could have multiple value streams, because there are just very different use cases.

Tiffany Jachja:

For example, even a software delivery platform, you could have a bunch of users, different end customers. You could have DevOps engineers, you can have security teams, you could even have CFO’s looking at cloud costs and how deployments affect costs.

Tiffany Jachja:

I think that’s one of the interesting things about value stream management, is that even though you have different values, different ways of delivering values for your customers, you can still manage that value stream … Those value streams, I’ll say.

Tiffany Jachja:

And people can still understand what’s going on and not get lost in the process, because I think that’s another thing, is that … When you’re the person working on the application, delivering the application, you may be really confused about how your role applies to that entire process. And I think that’s one of the reasons why there’s this push in DevOps and in teams to really focus on value and value stream management.

Jayne Groll:

It’s interesting. I’ve spent more than a few years in IT, not going to admit how many years, but I think IT in particular … Because in the early days, we did not necessarily understand how we delivered to the bottom line. And so, the definition of value might’ve been deployment. We deployed, so therefore, we’re delivering value.

Jayne Groll:

Now I think there’s a lot of emphasis on customer experience as being the key indicator of value creation. And I love the fact that we are putting this focus on value and its different definitions. The deployment may be an aspect of value, customer experience may be, obviously, the key indicator of value delivery. And Jason, when we talk about value creation, even from the association space, it’s something you have to keep working at. Right?

Jason Baum:

Yeah. And that was actually … I have something I want to ask Tiffany. We have something in the association world where we ask ourselves if we’re member-centric. And then, when you look at everything that you do from the perspective or the lens of the member, or the customer in this case, there’s a ton of different personas that you have to learn.

Jason Baum:

And then, you tell the value story to each one of them. Each one has a different idea of what that might be. How do you identify those different personas? How do you learn about your customers, so that you’re able to deliver value that speaks to them?

Jason Baum:

Like I tell my three-year-old all the time right now, we’re learning, “Everybody’s different.” And I think that applies in the workforce day-to-day. Everybody has a different need set. How do you identify those so that you can apply this methodology?

Tiffany Jachja:

I think there’s a couple of different ways that you can really identify the different personas, map them, understand them better, and even talk to them, ask them for their feedback. I think that’s why we have product management teams and product owners that do have a stake in asking our stakeholders what they think about services.

Tiffany Jachja:

But another aspect is just even being able to host certain exercises, gather people in the room, ensure that you’re catching all of the personas, all of the possible users for your application when you’re doing this. Because it goes back to what you were saying, sometimes you can just forget that a deployment isn’t actually the end outcome that you want to achieve.

Tiffany Jachja:

For a lot of product teams, and even services teams, you have certain outcomes and they don’t always end up trickling down to the people who are actually individual contributors on the team or people who are actually working on the product.

Tiffany Jachja:

I think that’s one of the things that’s sometimes missing. And so, value stream management actually plugs that back in for everybody to be able to say, “Hey, I know exactly what kinds of outcomes we’re trying to achieve.” And it’s not just about putting something on a server and having it running.

Jason Baum:

Would you say this is the next evolution of software development? I know a little bit about the retail industry, and that industry … Many industries have changed, where it used to be a manufacturer would develop a product, and then they would basically tell the customer why this product is important to them.

Jason Baum:

I feel like many industries right now are going the opposite way, where the customer is really driving what products need to be developed. Is that the evolution here?

Tiffany Jachja:

I think so. I always try to think back to the DevOps life cycle. That life cycle of just different responsibilities and events that happen in a software delivery or a software development life cycle. It’s this continuous cycle of just being able to deliver, and then get back feedback, and plan for it, and then build it. And then, test it, verify it, and deploy it again.

Tiffany Jachja:

And so, this cycle of continuously being able to deliver, get back feedback, set processes that work, and if they don’t work, improve them again and again and again, I think is just really awesome. That’s definitely where the industry is going in terms of software delivery today.

Jayne Groll:

Which means that humans … At the end of the day, it’s humans that decide whether value is created. And so, again, to Jason’s point and to Tiffany’s point … It isn’t going to be, “Here’s a product, and let me tell you why it’s valuable to you.”

Jayne Groll:

There’s still some of that, of course, but it is humans that are driving the future of which products will be successful and where there’s gaps, right? Where there’s gaps.

Jayne Groll:

Tiffany, one of the things I think is interesting, and I’d love for you to elaborate on this and it is the spirit of your session next week, is that many people don’t know that value stream management actually comes from Lean.

Jayne Groll:

That value stream mapping was very much a Lean asset, a Lean principle, an activity that, while we hear value stream management mentioned now very, very frequently in the spirit of DevOps … It is actually a Lean activity. Tell us a little bit about Lean thinking, in the perspective of value stream management.

Tiffany Jachja:

Sure. Actually, a lot of even DevOps borrows from Lean manufacturing and Lean thinking. It was a way of making processes more efficient, and analyzing processes so that they worked for our people. Because I think one of the things is just that our processes work exactly how we define them. And so, they’re almost dumb in nature.

Tiffany Jachja:

If things change, those processes can break. If someone makes a mistake, these processes can break. If … They’re just subject to all of these changes and possible pitfalls. And so, when we think about Lean thinking, it’s really applying some of this procedural thinking.

Tiffany Jachja:

And ensuring that there’s always going to be this ability for people to have autonomy to control their processes, for one thing, but also bring continuous improvement, innovation, changes. And really define their processes for them, so that if there is a new person on the team, or there is a bad day, that we can fall back on our processes by default.

Tiffany Jachja:

It ensures that we meet this minimum bar that we’ve set. And so, I think in Lean thinking and in value stream management, we’re really trying to apply some of these principles, so that we’re giving people the autonomy to make processes better and they feel empowered to do that. And I think that’s really important, because sometimes people forget that it’s people over processes.

Tiffany Jachja:

Sometimes you’re just thinking about, “Well, I got to make this more efficient, so that means we don’t need this person on this team, or we don’t need to do this one thing.” But it’s like, at the end of the day, your people who are working that value stream, who are working that part of the value stream, they know the best actions to take. And they should have the autonomy to do so.

Jayne Groll:

It feels like the crossroad, not from a framework perspective, of DevOps, Lean, and Agile … And when I say Agile, I’m not talking about Agile software development where agility is very, very important when we’re looking at the software engineering life cycle.

Jayne Groll:

We’re looking at the delivery and the creation of value, where everybody has to start to really instill Lean thinking, so that the risk of processes becoming bureaucratic or becoming overly complex … Or where processes are going to be the ruling indicator, as opposed to the human having the agility to adapt based on circumstances.

Jayne Groll:

Now, we can’t have snowflake processes also where every instance is something unique, but I think that value stream management at its heart is intended to give us what I would call minimum viable process. What do you think about that?

Tiffany Jachja:

Oh yeah, definitely. And that’s why we have exercises like value stream mapping exercises, where you will be able to map out all of your processes and better understand it. And then, look and do analysis. Like where are we spending just idle time between specific things?

Tiffany Jachja:

Maybe after you test an application, you actually don’t deploy it for another three months. And that three months is idle time before you get more feedback. And so, being able to notice those things and build processes around it is definitely one of the fastest ways to get to a MVP, as soon as possible.

Jayne Groll:

MVP, minimum viable product, minimum viable process. I think it’s a little bit of a marriage. Right?

Tiffany Jachja:

Yeah.

Jayne Groll:

You need both in order for that to happen. Before we started recording, Jason described himself as a, “people connector.” And I think value stream management really serves as a people connector.

Jayne Groll:

I’ve been in value stream mapping exercises where you see humans having to negotiate or having to agree on what the value stream actually is today, and what its future state should be. Let’s talk a little bit about people connection before we wrap up. How does value stream management … How does people connection really underpin the opportunity for value creation?

Jayne Groll:

Whether we’re talking about associations, whether we’re talking about software engineering as a practice … Tiffany, tell us a little bit about people connections. And then, Jason, I’m going to come to you from a networking perspective. Why is people connecting so important?

Tiffany Jachja:

I love that question, because I’ve also been in value stream mapping exercises where sometimes people think that it’s a failure if they didn’t make any actionable actions, or understand … Or fix like all of their problems, have a process for everything.

Tiffany Jachja:

And so, I think it’s really important to note that you may be just starting out. Or maybe you’re using a value stream mapping exercise to define what your process is going to be, or even tried to discuss it in greater detail.

Tiffany Jachja:

And so, if you come out of any type of value stream management exercise, or even conversation that’s really centered around value, and all that you gain from it is this understanding of where you are at the moment and where you want to go and how you relate to the value stream itself … I would say that’s the biggest win.

Tiffany Jachja:

Because all of a sudden now you’ve empowered your teams, and given people this opportunity to gain autonomy and to take their own action. I think that’s one of the driving things that empowers people to make products better, to come with their own ideas, to improve processes. And so, I think that’s why it’s so important that we always remember the human in a lot of these value stream management exercises and principles.

Jayne Groll:

It breaks down territory sometimes. It breaks down a little bit of that, “If I give up this piece of my process, I’m giving up a piece of me.”

Jayne Groll:

So, Jason, talk about people connections and why belonging to a professional association, in particular, really helps to encourage stronger people connections.

Jason Baum:

People connecting on its basic level … There’s a psychological need that we all have to have a social connection. It lowers anxiety, it can improve your mental health. But then, from a professional standpoint, there’s the saying of, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

Jason Baum:

There’s the connection piece of what we need from a professional standpoint, as far as learning best practices in an industry. Maybe getting a mentor, maybe it’s meeting someone for coffee at an event. Maybe it’s attending a chapter meeting and learning something that you didn’t know. Or attending a SKILup Day and learning from someone like Tiffany on the fundamentals of Lean thinking.

Jason Baum:

There’s so many aspects to what that connection piece could be, but I think, at the end of the day, what we’re all looking to do is grow our network. And that helps for us to grow as individuals, both personally and professionally, and achieve that next status or next piece of what you want to be professionally.

Jason Baum:

But then, also as a person, because I think a lot of us take away things from attending association events or belonging to associations that we use in our personal lives. I belong to associations as well, and that’s my personal takeaway. And that’s why I believe so strongly in associations, because I think they do help us improve to be more well-rounded as individuals.

Jayne Groll:

It’s interesting, because value stream management, value stream mapping is a very social activity. I wish for all three of us, that we could really spend more time talking about this, because it’s such an important topic. But we can. On March 18th, DevOps Institute SKILup Day featuring Tiffany talking more about Lean thinking and value stream management is going to happen.

Jayne Groll:

March 18th, it’s a free event. Go up to DevOps Institute’s website and register. We’re going to chat and we’re going to have some amazing sessions, and a lot of knowledge sharing between the attendees, the sponsors, and the speakers really only focused on value stream management.

Jayne Groll:

So we do get to take the conversation forward on March 18th. Of course, we’re very grateful to Tiffany and Harness for helping us bring SKILup Days to life. Tiffany, anything you want to give us a little more hint about your session?

Tiffany Jachja:

Yeah. Well, if anyone is interested in learning more about Lean thinking, I actually go through some of the principles, and how you can really think about your processes and your people and apply them to your processes or even your value stream management style.

Jayne Groll:

Awesome. Looking forward to it, really looking forward to it. And I know Tiffany’s also going to join us in the Speaker’s Lounge for questions and general chat. That’ll be amazing. Again, remember, please. March 18. SKILup Days. You can register at either www.devopsinstitute.com or www.skillupdays.io.

Jayne Groll:

Jason, Tiffany, thank you so much. This has been a great conversation. I think, given everything that’s happened in the last year, the need for human connections, for people connecting, for understanding delivery of value, value creation … And then, as an industry as a whole, I think we’ve been propelled into the future, that has made us really rethink some of the things we may have been doing organizationally and individually over the last decade.

Jayne Groll:

Very, very excited about next week’s SKILup Days, and particularly excited as we enter into this new decade to see how all of these principles and practices come to life.

Jason Baum:

And Jayne, I would be remiss if we didn’t mention that next week on the 17th, we’re going to be launching a pre-sale savings opportunity for our brand new premium membership. Just going back on what I said about joining a community, you can join the DevOps Institute Community, our brand new membership.

Jason Baum:

Like I said, the 17th of March. You get 25% off if you join between March 17th and March 31. So, that’s something else that’s new and exciting that’s coming next week.

Jayne Groll:

It’s a big week for us next week on many, many, many different levels. Thank you for bringing that up, Jason. Appreciate that. Again, this is Jayne Groll. You’ve been listening to The Humans of DevOps Podcast.

Jayne Groll:

Again, join us next week for our pre-launch of our premier membership, premium membership program, and SKILup Days. March 17th for membership, March 18th for SKILup Days. Wishing everyone listening good health, good learning. And we’ll see you next week. Thanks again, Jason and Tiffany,

Outro:

Thanks for listening to this episode of The Humans of DevOps Podcast. Don’t forget to join our global community to get access to even more great resources like this. Until next time, remember you are part of something bigger than yourself. You belong.

 

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