When looking at DevOps, I believe a lot of people will look at it from the point of view of outcomes instead of a means to achieve outcomes. When trying to force an outcome through the sheer force of will, sometimes you will achieve it, but more often than not you will miss more prevalent outcomes that you may not have been expecting.

One of the statements that I will use a lot with my peers and my teams is simply, "We do not need to win, but we need to stop loosing." What this really means is, stop thinking we are smarter than the problems we are trying to solve and look for the best outcomes that present themselves from any situation.

When going through the motions trying to achieve a hyper specific outcome, you are missing out on a plethora of different and unique opportunities.

▶ Example

I equate this to a craft like woodworking.

A wood worker may be looking to make a specific piece of furniture, but what happens when they slip and make an inaccurate cut or scratch a piece of wood? Obviously, marring a perfectly good piece of stock is not the outcome they were after. Do they just shove the marred piece of wood into the piece of furniture? No! They will look to make adjustments to continue the project by pivoting slightly so that single mistake does not sink the ship.

I believe that this is the difference between working for outcomes and craftsmanship.

Join me as we dive deeper into this concept and explore what it means to develop the craft of DevOps and how it can benefit you and your teams.

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Shifting Perspective: From Winning to Learning

"We do not need to win, but we need to stop loosing."

What is a loss? Loosing is a relative term at the end of the day. Are you really loosing when you are picking up more work that someone perceives value from? Are you loosing when the people at your company are busy? Are you loosing when you win business that doesn't not fit your company culture?

The few absolutes I will throw out there are:

  • Loosing happens when you are not tapping into the intellectual curiosity of your people.
  • Loosing happens when the skills of your people are not being utilized appropriately.
  • Loosing happens when aspirational velocity wins out over realistic delivery expectations.
  • Loosing happens when you take a shot, fail, and refuse to learn or get back up or take a similar shot in the future.

Loosing does not always mean layoffs or a business closing down. Loosing can show up in many different ways to many different people. Loosing is when a win has short term positive impacts but long term negative impacts.

So, if that is what loosing looks like, what does winning (or not loosing) look like?

Not loosing is simply having the humility to recognize that sometimes being patient and looking at the bigger picture of your overall strategy, culture, and people will yield better long term and more sustainable results.

Recognizing the value of unexpected outcomes

When delivering a project for a business or a customer, listening and learning are the 2 most powerful tools any leader can bring to the table. When you listen and learn to the needs of your stakeholders, you may start to recognize a few unexpected outcomes that were not readily apparent when work was initially scoped.

I am a huge fan of Agile delivery methodologies. The sands of the market are always shifting and any team/group/org/business that wants to stay competitive in today's market will need to have both great communication and the ability to pivot. Agile methodologies provide both the ability to pivot and communicate those pivots.

When an unexpected outcomes presents itself in conjunction with Agile methodologies, effective communication can take place to help stakeholders make informed decisions about how to test out new hypotheses, how to validate success of those hypotheses, and finally how to pivot if the change in direction is accepted.

Moreover, stakeholders get a higher degree of value because they know the team that is delivering their solutions cares about the value and quality of what they are delivering.

Finally, and most importantly, the teams that are delivering said solution have been influential in making sure that everyone ends up winning.

This is the difference between outcomes and craftsmanship. Transforming your teams from checking delivery milestone boxes into a cohesive team which holds quality and value above all else is the craft of solid project delivery.

Missed Opportunities: The Pitfalls of Outcome-Centric Thinking

The "tunnel vision effect" refers to the phenomenon where individuals or teams become excessively focused on a specific goal or outcome, to the extent that they lose sight of the broader context and potential alternatives. This type of narrow focus can lead to missing out on innovative ideas, opportunities, and solutions that might emerge from exploring different avenues or considering different perspectives.

In the context of DevOps, adopting an outcome-centric approach can inadvertently create tunnel vision. Here's how the tunnel vision effect impacts innovation within DevOps:

  • Limited Problem-Solving: When teams are fixated on a predetermined outcome, they might only consider solutions that align with that outcome. This restricts their ability to think creatively and find novel ways to address challenges. Innovative solutions often arise from looking beyond the obvious and experimenting with unconventional approaches.

  • Neglecting Emergent Ideas: The tunnel vision effect prevents teams from noticing emergent ideas that arise organically during the process. DevOps processes are often iterative and involve continuous feedback, which means that unexpected insights and innovative ideas can surface as the work unfolds. Focusing solely on a predetermined outcome could cause these emergent ideas to go unnoticed.

  • Ignoring Feedback: DevOps relies heavily on feedback loops for continuous improvement. If teams are too focused on reaching a specific outcome, they might ignore valuable feedback that suggests alternative paths or necessary course corrections. Embracing feedback, even if it challenges the initial plan, can lead to more innovative and effective solutions.

  • Rigidity in Adapting: DevOps projects often involve dynamic environments, evolving requirements, and changing circumstances. An outcome-driven mindset can make teams resistant to adapting when circumstances change. Innovation thrives in environments where adaptation is embraced, and new ideas are welcomed as ways to overcome unexpected challenges.

  • Missed Opportunities: Innovation often arises from unexpected connections and intersections between different ideas and disciplines. By being open to various possibilities, DevOps teams can discover innovative solutions that might not have been initially apparent.

To counter the tunnel vision effect and promote innovation within DevOps:

  • Encourage Curiosity: Foster a culture that values curiosity and encourages team members to explore different perspectives and ideas, even if they don't directly align with the original outcome.

  • Embrace Experimentation: Give teams the freedom to experiment with new approaches and solutions. Encourage them to iterate, learn from failures, and refine their strategies based on feedback.

  • Cross-Functional Collaboration: Collaborate with experts from different domains. Their diverse viewpoints can lead to innovative solutions that wouldn't have been discovered within a narrow, outcome-focused perspective.

  • Stay Agile: Embrace the agile principles of adaptability and flexibility. Allow your DevOps processes to evolve as new information and insights emerge.

Innovation often stems from a willingness to explore the unknown and embrace uncertainty. By recognizing and mitigating the tunnel vision effect, DevOps teams can foster a more innovative and adaptable mindset that leads to better outcomes and continuous improvement.

Craftsmanship vs. Outcome-Driven Approaches

In the context of DevOps, craftsmanship refers to the practice of treating the process of software development, deployment, and operations as a skilled and refined art. It involves a commitment to excellence, attention to detail, and a focus on producing high-quality results. Just as a skilled craftsman takes pride in their work and strives for perfection, a DevOps team that embraces craftsmanship approaches their tasks with dedication and a desire to create reliable, efficient, and resilient systems.

Craftsmanship in DevOps encompasses several key principles:

  • Continuous Improvement: Craftsmen are always looking to refine their skills and techniques. Similarly, in DevOps, teams aim for continuous improvement in their processes, tools, and collaboration methods to enhance efficiency and outcomes.

  • Attention to Detail: Just as a craftsman pays attention to even the smallest aspects of their work, DevOps teams focus on every stage of the software development lifecycle, from code creation to deployment and monitoring.

  • Collaboration: Craftsmanship involves collaboration and shared knowledge. In DevOps, fostering a culture of collaboration between development and operations teams is essential for creating cohesive and effective solutions.

  • Practical Wisdom: Craftsmen possess practical wisdom gained through experience. In DevOps, this translates to leveraging historical data, feedback loops, and insights to make informed decisions that lead to better outcomes.

  • Quality over Speed: Craftsmen prioritize quality over speed, and similarly, DevOps teams prioritize the quality and reliability of software over rushed deployments.

▶ Key Insight

In my experience, when looking at a purely outcome-driven approach to project delivery, all 5 of these key principles suffer.

  • Continuous Improvement: When outcome-driven approaches are taken, there is almost no room for anyone to perform CI work which generally has a long lasting positive impact on any future delivery tasks.

  • Attention to Detail: Work is generally pre-described and delivered via sheer force of will. As long as that task is complete, the bigger picture is completely ignored.

  • Collaboration: The general mentality of a delivery team is deadline focused. If collaboration cannot happen in the context of the timeline, teams do not value collaboration. Collaboration should really be happening in the context of quality and value, but outcome-driven delivery does not afford those opportunities.

  • Practical Wisdom: Wisdom does not happen in real time. Wisdom is brought around by experience and the ability to experiment in a variety of different ecosystems. Outcome-driven delivery is hyper focused and does not afford teams the ability to gain wisdom over time.

  • Quality over Speed: Outcome-driven delivery will always prioritize speed over quality.

Drawing Parallels between Craftsmanship and Agility in DevOps

Agility in DevOps and craftsmanship share remarkable parallels, rooted in their common emphasis on adaptability, innovation, and a commitment to continuous learning. The alignment between these concepts is evident in various aspects.

Both craftsmanship and agility promote the value of an iterative approach. In DevOps, this translates to a perpetual refinement of processes and products through constant feedback. Much like a craftsman iterates on their work to enhance its quality, DevOps teams continually evolve their practices to deliver superior outcomes.

A fundamental trait of craftsmanship is flexibility – the ability to tailor methods to the unique characteristics of materials. In DevOps, agility manifests as the capacity to adapt to shifting requirements, dynamic technologies, and evolving market conditions. Both craftsmanship and DevOps agility thrive on embracing change to ensure optimal results.

A commitment to continuous learning underpins both craftsmanship and agility. Craftsmen perpetually refine their skills and techniques, a notion mirrored by DevOps' encouragement of ongoing learning, skill honing, and staying abreast of emerging technologies.

Additionally, the core ethos of both concepts involves embracing change rather than resisting it. Just as craftsmen evolve their approaches based on circumstances, DevOps teams prioritize the ability to swiftly respond to change, ensuring the delivery of timely and valuable solutions.

Lastly, a customer-centric focus unites craftsmanship and DevOps agility. Craftsmen craft bespoke solutions tailored to their customers' needs. Similarly, DevOps agility revolves around customer-centricity, crafting solutions that effectively address users' requirements.

In essence, the profound alignment between craftsmanship and DevOps agility highlights the shared principles of iterative improvement, adaptability, continuous learning, change embracement, and customer-centricity. By integrating these principles, DevOps teams can cultivate a mindset that not only optimizes outcomes but also fosters innovation, resilience, and the capacity to meet evolving challenges head-on.

If you are interested in what happens when customer-centricity goes too far, check out the link in the card below.


In examining the realm of DevOps, it's apparent that a prevailing tendency exists to prioritize outcomes over the methods employed to achieve them. This inclination, while driven by a desire for success, often leads to overlooking more profound and unforeseen possibilities that could yield even greater results.

A guiding principle I frequently share with both my peers and teams encapsulates this sentiment: "We do not need to win, but we need to stop losing." This adage underscores the importance of humility in problem-solving, reminding us to abandon the notion that we are more intelligent than the challenges we confront. Rather, it urges us to seek the most optimal outcomes that arise organically from the context at hand.

Yet, in our pursuit of hyper-specific outcomes, we inadvertently bypass a rich spectrum of distinctive opportunities. Analogous to the craftsmanship of woodworking, we can glean valuable insights. Consider a woodworker striving to create a particular piece of furniture; when an errant cut mars the pristine timber or a blemish arises, it's not the intended outcome. However, the masterful artisan doesn't discard the entire project; instead, they adapt, making adjustments to navigate around the setback without sacrificing the overall vision.

In essence, this distinction between striving solely for outcomes and embracing craftsmanship becomes apparent. The former perpetuates tunnel vision, while the latter opens pathways to innovation and adaptable problem-solving.