Business vs disruptive technology
Why do devops pushes go wrong? Lets talk a bit about what devops is. Devops is an attempt to merge the strengths of open source bazaar with the order and certainties of business hierarchy. By clinging to the nomenclature of automation (as least as old as the water mill) as a complete stand in for a social phenomenon, organizations undermine their own efforts. Businesses set the wrong organizational objectives in motion and then react to the inevitable failures by further detuning the successful components.
Why do companies seek out devops workflow techniques? In the positive case they want to increase profit. They are acting as futurists. Improving their potential before it’s required. In the worst case they are reacting directly to one or more complexity horizons. Their social communication has been stymied or dwarfed compared to people communicating in functional code on the other side of the horizon. They just can’t compete.
How people work
Many people have struggled with gift culture as the origin of open source. Gift culture permeates open source, but is not it’s source. Gift culture naturally expresses in any society where reputation currencies are in circulation and rewards are only expressed as probabilities. In other words, gift cultures are the lubricant of free markets. Once a person’s foundation of their hierarchy of needs is satisfied, people work for improvements in reputation. Accomplishments are the coinage of gift culture’s currency.
Bazaars are the most free, and have the most moving parts, so lots of lubricant is needed. They are highly complex organic machines. Adding components as they grow. Their advantage is self healing anti-fragility. Their disadvantage is huge pools of waste. Individuals work to improve reputation, not for profit, because reputation currency offers better long term stability. Most bazaar market machinery enjoys little or no economy of scale. This is where devops can help a business reenter or influence a market dominated by the bazaar. By merging the strengths of both.
Economy of scale of what?
Economy of scale is what automation brings to the devops equation, but it is not novel without nurturing gift culture. What does a probability driven gift culture bring to the equation? Imagination turned systemic. Not for short term profit but for reputation and credibility. Becoming known as a kind of problem solver becomes insurance (a mid and long term trust structure) against ostracization and obsolescence. A guarantee of future (perceived) utility to society.
For a devops initiative to succeed you must also nurture gift culture. To do this you must trust some appropriate objectives to with the people closest to them. Then analyze their output for organization wide economies of scale. This is typically done in codes (statistical or mechanistic) bypassing complexity horizons. This is done to harness skills of the members of the society, as they try to build their personal portfolio of accomplishment. With the grease available to them, workers can build the machinery the business needs, without having to express their solutions beyond code.
Traditionally business reserves access to objectives for the very top, and tactics are employed at the very bottom, with various strategies employed by middle management to glue them together. This is eventually effective but requires translating all action to human non functional language. This translation inefficiency is why businesses can’t keep up. Most technical fields are in a race against the complexity horizon. With clear objectives great strategy and tactics write themselves. Why? Code as a communication tool is fast.
Doing dumb things faster
This brings our first failure into focus. A focus strictly on automation. Automation is both positive and critical as it pushes forth the code created at the bottom of the hierarchy, embracing it in a way that creates economies of scale. It is the end but not the means. The means is worker access to corporate objectives and some freedom to implement them. Look no further than Google’s policy of self directed projects to see how this works. If you don’t nurture the gift culture both with recognition for good work and self directed opportunities to fulfill company objectives, you will miss great opportunities for new economies of scale. Continuous integration really means technician access to objectives.
Ladders and snakes
This frames the secondary risk of failure. Businesses are traditionally hierarchical because not all actors are trustworthy. Most, but not all, employees seek to excel by improving their reputation. If you move objectives down the tree towards the bottom of the organization, it will present strictly selfish actors(sometimes psychopaths) with golden opportunities that they will take. This justifies a metered scaling of moving objectives down. This is where the failure lies. Metering serves a purpose, to limit the destructive capacity of discovery of bad actors, but it is often used as an excuse to never push objectives to those expressing code. A guaranteed failure for devops initiatives. Potentially fatal to the whole business if it is already competing with a successful devops deployment.
As an important note psychopaths can be valuable intelligent members of a team, but they have special needs. Rather than discard them it may be possible to create purely technical work roles with no direct reports and and no singular authority over data.
A well oiled machine
The misunderstood role of gift culture as the end and not a side effect may cause businesses to supplement perks for access to organizational objectives to far less effect. Fundementally people don’t want to just feel like their reputation is good. They authentically want to improve it. Being able to both see AND influence most if not all company objectives is critical to identifying the potential economies of scale that the bazaar is often structurally unaware of.
The key to understand the difference between devops and mere automation is the complexity horizon. Where functioning technical solutions are by far the most efficient way to express both better strategy and objectives, and retool objectives when necessary. Technicians need access to objectives. Then both the game theory centric corporate objectives and individuals long term reputation objectives can combine to create the well oiled machine.
About Civgene: Understanding the currency of gift culture and the complexity horizon would not be possible without Civgene. Civgene is a novel scientific theory which provides a framework to view all societies. Please consider exploring it further to grow your understanding of human behavior, particularly in groups.