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Joining eyeo: A Year in Review

It's been well over a year since I joined eyeo. And 'tis the season for yearly reviews, so...

It's been pretty wild. So many times I thought "this stuff really deserves a bloggin", but then it was too inviting to grab onto the next thing and get that rolling.

Instead of taking a deep dive into some topic already, I want to scan through that year in review and think for myself, what were the big things, the important things, the things I achieved, and the things I learned. And then later on, if I ever get around to it, grab one of these topics and elaborate in a dedicated blog-post. Like a bucket-list of the blog posts that I should have written. Here goes:

How given no other structures, silos will grow by themselves

This was my initial shock after joining the company. Only a few years after taking off as a startup, the hedges began growing, seemingly almost by themselves, and against the will of the founders. I've worked in silos, and in companies without them, but I haven't been there to witness them coming into existence before. It is a fascinating phenomenon, yet oh, so common. And a killer of great companies.

When you got no other reason for improving, go for lead time

There are so many reasons for why you would want to drive organizational change, stop the silofication, bring in some agile values, and so on. But the one reason that rings true and clear for any person in the company is lead time. Then you can slowly start to talk about the cost of WIP, hand-offs, and so on.  When explaining the why, start with lead time.

The best patterns for introducing organizational change in are inscrutable

I tried out several patterns, from early adopters, to whispering in the general's ear. I tried driving changes by committee and without. We tried bootstrapping, and we tried organic change. It always felt like a mix of hurt and help, but it seems through any of the changes, they were for the better (unless they are driven by targets, of course). The only way to know for sure whether I had the right strategy is to go back in time and compare how the options would work out in alternative realities. So we're left with, once again, gut feelings.

Developing the ubiquitous language of organizational change

In a company where the norm is to shun any hype, and avoiding cargo-culting by all means, it was not easy to use the language I had come to learn in the industry. Mentioning Agile would derail any discussion into shoot-downs, anecdotes and personal opinions and experiences. Few of the agile values, principles or practices were taken at face value. The more experienced colleagues had bad experiences with "agile transformations", and the large majority of younger colleagues (funny, cause I feel like I've always been the youngest where ever I worked, and suddenly here I'm in the oldest 15 percentile) have not suffered the pains of silofication, nor experienced the joy of successful organizational change.

As is the norm these days, "DevOps" has already been reduced to infrastructure engineering. Scrum is a fad, Kanban is a board on the wall, XP is some long gone neck-beard hippie thing. Sprints are pointless. Conway's law is unknown, as is Lean. Rationality, skepticism and pragmatism rules. Which can be good, but it can also grind conversations about organizational improvement to zero velocity (pun intended).

So, I started with a survey, "What should we call the things". By now, we've basically come up with our own methodology. Hell, it's even one of them "scaling" ones. And we use a lot of seemingly boring words to describe very powerful things.

The emerging trend of self-management in organizations is going to be big

As eyeo is at the steps of exploiting more agile values and principles, we also look to the horizon to see what is coming. The ideas of teal organizations rhyme very well with agile and DevOps, but they go way beyond. Surprisingly (and yet, perhaps not), a lot of these self-organizing principles are easier to apply to eyeo than the agile predecessors. Albeit eyeo is an overgrown start-up of sorts, with the expected chaos, their universal inner values are fairness and transparency. Armed with this, a lot of the self-organizing patterns are a great fit.

Balancing the act of dropping into Operations, while driving organizational change

This is where I failed the hardest. And perhaps where I learned the most. How can I reconcile the act of supporting one particular department, while I at the same time am trying to break them up across cross-functional teams? I went on for too long ignoring this conflict, and it cost a lot of soul to make things right, and there's still a lot to do.

Building bridges in a company which is both remote and not

I am a hybrid remote worker, which means I am simply not a remote worker (or remotee, as they're called at eyeo). As most remote workers know, a mixed remote/local team is the trickiest constellation to have in any company. It does work at eyeo so far, mostly for historical reasons and remote culture being deep in the DNA of the founders, but it will only get us so far. We can't become co-located, nor does the majority really want to, so we have to improve. I've got some ideas, but haven't gotten so far with this yet.

Team autonomy vs company standardization

This one's a real classic. How can you pick a company-standard chat tool, while giving teams the autonomy to pick their own? This topic is fairly exhausted in the DevOps literature by now, I guess, so I'm not sure it's worth it. I got a lot of thoughts on it, but they may not be so original. A lot of it comes down to decision making, which in its own right is a big topic.

It's like blog post tapas

So, those are the ones I had in my head right now. If you got this far, and you'd care to give me a tweet, let me know which one I should write first.

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