The Three Ways Explained
The Three Ways is a commonly used phrase to explain the underlying principles of the DevOps movement. The phrase ‘The Three Ways’ was first introduced by Gene Kim in his book The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win. From The Three Ways, all other DevOps can be derived. In this post, we will therefore briefly explain The Three Ways and provide some context why these principles are invaluable for understanding DevOps.
The First Way: Moving from Left to Right
The First Way emphasizes the performance of the entire system, as opposed to the performance of a specific silo of work or department. The work can be as large as a division (development or IT operations) or as small as an individual contributor (a developer or system administrator).
The focus is on all business value streams that are enabled by IT. It begins when requirements are identified by the business or IT, are built in development, and then transitioned into IT operations where the value is then delivered to the customer in the form of a service.
The outcomes of The First Way include:
- Never passing a known defect to downstream work centers;
- Never allowing local optimization to create global degradation;
- Always seeking to increase flow;
- Always seeking to achieve profound understanding of the system;
The purpose of the First way is to look at IT as a value chain, in which value adding activities are executed. Similar to a car assembly factory, every step in the process adds value and it is strongly preferred to do it the first time right.
The Second Way: Moving from Right to Left
- Understanding and responding to all customers, internal and external
- Shortening and amplifying all feedback loops
- Embedding knowledge where you need it
The purpose of the Second Way is to understand that a value chain can only be optimized by incorporating feedback. Where in the process did we uncessary wait? Why did we need to redo a specific step? By constantly improving the complete value chain, your IT organization becomes better, more productive and less error-prone.
The Third Way: Embed Continuous Learning
- Continual experimentation, which requires taking risks and learning from success and failure
- Understanding that repetition and practice are the prerequisites to mastery
The outcomes of The Third Way include:
- Allocating time for the improvement of daily work
- Creating rituals that reward the team for taking risks
- Introducing faults into the system to increase resilience
The purpose of the Third Way is obvious: you cannot improve or become better if you don’t make any mistakes. A DevOps culture therefore encourages continuous experimentation and learning. Only by making mistakes, you can become better over time.