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Join Mike Snyder as he dives into the crucial aspects of aligning teams and stakeholders to efficiently deliver value and achieve mission objectives within the realm of DevOps and government technology. Drawing from experiences across both the military and commercial sectors, Mike shares actionable strategies for overcoming the common non-technical challenges that hinder the delivery of digital solutions and capabilities.


Mike Snyder (0:14)

Everybody, thanks for dropping in, coming by. My name's Mike Snyder. I am presenting to you guys. This is the first outbrief that I've given from a guidance paper that was published this fall with the DevOps Enterprise Journal. It's called Organizing for Success Part Deux. While we focus on this, and I'll give some more backstory on this in a moment, is really how do you align all the different stakeholders in aligning your teams organizations to deliver that value and achieve a common objective of mission effect. Okay, so let me see that goes. So this goes, I wrote it with this team. You guys, we know Paul Puckett, if you've never met him before, he was a former director at Army Enterprise Cloud Management Agency. He now has left. He's the CTO at Clarity Innovations. Lieutenant Commander Nate Richardson is a offensive cyber operations program leader and team leader up at Cyber Com. So he's actually got a real mission that he's doing right now. So he couldn't make it. Paul I found out, is out blasting Bambi somewhere in the wilderness. So you all got stuck with me. Little bit of background on myself. I am probably one of the least technical people in this entire conference talking about DevOps, talking about gov tech, fielding capabilities. I was a history major in undergrad. I got a public policy degree and I got an MBA. So on the education side, that's where I come from. On a military background, I'm a former electronic intelligence SIGINT, MASINT collections and analyst geek. So I did a lot of stuff. I was with the Army for nine years, but I was always on the operational side. So doing support to EUCOM, US Army, Europe, US spatial analysis there, doing counter HME, homemade explosives, targeting collection stuff in Iraq. Had quite a bit of fun times. Went all over the country, saw a lot of cool things. But this is also sort of where my whole villain origin story comes up too, is if anybody has heard of a capability or a solution called a DCGS, Distributed Common Ground Station. This is what each service component has invested in for now 20 some odd years of the integrated intelligence surveillance reconnaissance, ISR stack, all your software, your hardware for collecting, processing, doing some dissemination of your stuff is oftentimes packaged up in the Army. We like to make it so that it's about the size, about a coffee table rack that you can take wherever you need to go. 


So back in 2009 when I got to Camp Slayer in Iraq, I had to sign for that thing. $400,000 total value that I was signed for. It didn't work one day in 15 months that I was in Iraq. The reason it didn't work was because our field support representative contract had elapsed in the contract and during that two week gap where the guy who was still in country couldn't do any work on our systems, security patch updates were issued, other software updates were issued because those weren't fielded and because the versions kept moving forward, our system was deadlined. That's really efficient, right? That's really a good way to run. And we had all the tools that we needed. So we had to adapt, overcome, figure it out. We still executed, still did our job. But that also got me really, really hooked on specialty coffee 'cause that was where I made all my coffee and used the power to power my hot water heater and all that good stuff. But what that sort of went down the path for me and what makes me so serious about how do we transform really the delivery of value and delivery of tech capabilities to all of our mission, our mission needs and our mission partners is it doesn't need to be that hard. It should not be something where a lapse in a contract can cause a system to be deadlined for a Soldier downrange, for a marine downrange for an airplane in the air, going into a new electronic warfare threat environment, right? Those sorts of things we need to be figuring out how the hell to do that. I am passionate about trying to find a way to move that forward. So the other two guys, they're way smarter than I am. I'm just the voice of this right now. For what it's worth, again, we were published this year in the fall 2023 edition of the DevOps Enterprise Journal. All of these references, all the previous journals back to 2014 are free available. You go check out this website, you'll get the slides after this too. All there, download 'em. There is fantastic resources that have been really helping some of my, when I was on the consulting side doing delivery work after I got out of the Army and now they're free again. Foot stomp, get in there, download 'em, sharing 'em with your teams. 


Okay, so 2022 DevOps Enterprise Summit happens. In the journal that year Lieutenant Colonel Max Reel and a whole team of about 15, 20 other government personnel published Organizing for Success. This was the part one, part un. When you read through the paper, one of the biggest things that you see, right? The findings that I quoted here is that they reinforce the prior research and the outcomes that the challenges to delivering the tech and capabilities and the digital solutions to our Warfighters, it's not technical challenges, it's not related to the tech. It is dealing with the organization, it's the policies, it's the regulations, it's the culture, everything that we've been hammering in here. But when I read this last year, I was like, oh, s*@$ I'm not crazy. I'm not a tech guy. I know enough to be very dangerous and to break stuff very quickly but not fix it. But I also recognize coming from a history background, coming from public policy and then also in business, you know how you do sales? You find resources that people have to take action. The reasons that they want to take actions and their resistance points to taking those actions, right? Those three things, kind of how you do sales, like figuring those out and figuring how to work and talk and work your way through that or work with them on those. These are the same challenges that we are all dealing with. But in the study that was done last year by this team and we looked at like helping to contribute some of the data points for this. We looked about 37 different software factories or organizations that were delivering digital capabilities. They may not have been our software factories as we see along a lot of 'em. And the two main axis there, right? And we've heard this time and again, proximity to mission outcomes, okay, how close is your organization able to go and reach out and ask the Soldier who's going to be carrying that server, whatever that I'm pointing over here, like there's something over there. The Soldier who's got to schlep that thing on his back. Or the Sailor who has to repair that system when their ship is at sea. How close are we to getting to them, right? Are we able to have those conversations or at least do we have people who have done that that can give us the real feedback on it. 


And then the other one is clear, clean, low friction lines of authority. How many organizations do you have to ask for permission or a decision or staff or sign off to deploy a single thing out to that end end result end. Or I'll ask, I'll throw another little kink into this. Does your organization actually have any visibility to see really what that end target environment is for your deployment? That's a struggle. So that's what we started going through. That was last year. So then we came through this year and we were asked, we were asked to submit some ideas and topics and what we want to do is like, let's dive deeper into this. Are there groups that have started to make that path to success? Oh, sorry, let me go back one. The other thing was, so if you get high in here, right? Embedded, you're embedded with those users, really high up here. And then if you have like one authoritative decision path that can help you deploy software forward, great. That puts you up here in the top, right? Like you're organized for successful accountability for mission outcomes. Whew! You are not done. What Max Foot stomped last year is if you're in this upper right quadrant, you have the environmental factors in place. That means that you should be able to deliver software, you should be able to deliver mission effects you should be able to deliver. Doesn't mean that it's happening. So we started trying to pull back those threads a little bit deeper and figure out really where exactly are those groups that are doing it successfully? What's differentiating them? How do they approach this? How do they get there? And so that's where we went this year. 


So we started reaching out. We wanted to make sure we addressed both commercial organizations 'cause I believe very strongly that there are lessons from commercial sector that we need to pull across our way. And I have also found there are lessons in the DOD that are very, very well suited to push great, great insights back the other way too. This is a symbiotic relationship that we have to establish and we can't be totally shutting out commercial experiences in the federal side, and from the commercial sector they know that they're not going to be shutting out some of the government experiences too, because those are starting to bubble up and they're starting to see, because when we talk about the scale, the complexity, everything that we're dealing with here, a lot of groups are like, Ooh, there is something to this when the groups can be successful. So we hit a lot of different organizations. A -10. I'm former Army. I love the A-10. That's my favorite Air Force aircraft. If you get rid of it, I will cry. Just be sure you replace it with a good CAS platform that does the same thing. 


Marine Corps Software Factory as they were just getting stood up, that's a new organization this year, right? CECOM, that's the Army's Communications Electronics Command. They have a software engineering center, PEO C3T, 18th Airborne Corps. PRC2 is Personnel Recovery Command and Control. That's an Air Force led Air Force development team that's actually building, if any of us have gone down range, do we have veterans in the room? People have deployed. Well, thank you, thank you, thank you. We've all filled out the ISOPREP form. That's like all our biologicals and everything. Something happens that we don't want to have happen and they need to identify our remains. They need to identify who we are. The ISOPREP system is what keys in that search and rescue, keys in those biometrics things so that you can track and think and tell who you are remains identification in the worst case scenario. That's all developed by government developers, which is fantastic. And their example is great. If you checked that out they did have a presentation at DevOps Enterprise I in 2022 as well. 


Yeah, worked our way through there. From the commercial side we did a couple of other groups, which I think we've already talked about and touched on here briefly too. On the first day we talked about John Deere, right? The General spoke about John Deere. We spoke with them on their transformation journey. We spoke with their director of digital transformations from their other groups. It's pretty, pretty fascinating how that whole effort has come about. Chick-fil-A, Disney, right? Walmart, if you guys have heard, you know, Defense Unicorns, one of their employees, Bryan Finster came from Walmart. He built the continuous delivery architecture and solutions for Walmart. It's phenomenal what they were able to do there. Delta Airlines. Also tons of reading. There's a lot of reading involved, but I'll put them up there. You get the slides. I highly recommend checking all these books and stuff out. So the focus, again, how do we do all this research? We're looking at all these things. How do we give the community something that's actionable to actually get started? 


And I'll say the nice part about this, nothing is new. Nothing's new, okay? So I'm not coming with any crazy frameworks or anything like that. It is simple. It is meant to be lightweight and it is meant so that everything that I present here, an organization should be doing organically, which means this is not a consulting project. This is not a huge budget lift. This is something that you need to take ownership of and you deliver. We've seen, we've all been victims. We've all been part of the traditional digital transformation efforts across our large organizations before, right? I'm not sure if you can see the slide here, but got the highway of death. We got a ton of frameworks, we got a ton of all these things. I have nothing but respect. I say that tongue in cheek with the disciples of most of these frameworks, right? What I will say to this is, there is a place, there is a time, there is value in all of these things, okay? They're great in what they can provide you, but they're great as like an arrow in your quiver. They're not your samurai sword to cut through and make everything work, right? 


Frameworks, consulting, certifications, like I came from the Army as well. I've said this again, my favorite saying that I heard directed at me more often than not was stop the madness. Okay? I've seen too many efforts, too many acquisitions, RFPs, like quotes and things like that come out where they actually ask for specific frameworks in the acquisitions that you will be, you shall be to support this digital transfer. We're doing a digital transformation that will involve all the aspects of blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, right? I was once part of that, I'll call it the consulting certification industrial complex. Okay? We need to break out of that mindset. And there is a way, and again, I want to help get us out of that where we think of framework or something like this and wrote execution of a dogmatic practice is going to lead to digital transformation. It just does not, right? Really grinds my gears. Sorry if you couldn't tell, but we have it within us, right? 


And as we looked at all those organizations, there was a few key things that we started seeing the trend. We started seeing this alignment across the five of 'em, right? The first thing, right? They wanted to focus on their current state. They didn't start with the roadmap right away. They looked at what is my current mean? How do we currently field capability? Then you go from there. You bring into clarity with where you are. You don't need to talk about we don't have agile, we don't have this, where are you right now? The second part, and this is a big, big foot stomp, and this is a shift, especially when we start talking across aligning organizations. They took their sense of ownership all the way out to even if they couldn't see the whole thing, that end user, that customer became their focal point and then they work backwards. 


Okay, we've heard this in other presentations today as well, and throughout here. Three, they continuously looked at how they do this and they always want to ask like, where do we make this better? How do I improve this? How do we change the ways that, and do the ways that we currently operate help or hinder our ability to deliver at the end? And if they can legitimately say no, which I think several of us, if we take a step back, we can say, you know what, no, this is not helping us. Let's rework it, okay? I said it before, internally led efforts had/have, because most of these are still ongoing, greater likelihood of success than externally contracted delivery or transformation efforts. Again, I work for a small business, we do digital transformation. That is part of our delivery model. We take an approach to it and and it's focused on, we have to enable the organization to transform themselves. If you outsource your thinking of how you deliver value, you're not going to be successful in this path. But the good thing was, even if some groups had outsourced previously, I used Pivot on here. We used just a little bit more of a PC way of saying it. They were able to recover or they've started the process of recovery to adjust and to get back because they realized that some of those changes and things that they had done worked the right way. 


So a lot of words here, don't worry about what's on the slide. When you get the digital versions, you can feel free and read through it. But what I wanted to make sure that we talked about on this slide is the lessons from industry, from commercial sector that came back to us. The successful ones were they had all down to the individual person coding to the people working at the stores or wherever. They all knew what their go to market was, right? That value that they were delivering. You go to Chick-fil-A, you know what the value is. Why do we go to Chick-fil-A? The food's all right. I'm not a huge, huge fan of Chick-fil-A, the food's fine. The service is always awesome. The people are always super nice, right? You know it's going to be timely. You're not going to wait. And we all saw COVID, they've put technology in place to make the experience even faster for us, right? Everything is aligned on that customer experience and also the employee's experience at Chick-fil-A. John Deere, we already went through that. Disney, how does Disney create that holistic experience from digital to theme parks, to movie production, all of that, and how do they align their tech stack and everything else to bring all that forward? It's pretty cool. Army, Marine Corps, our go to market is to shoot, move and communicate on the ground. That's it. Everything else builds on top of that. I need to get boots, weapons and equipment where it needs to be. Okay? Tech needs to be aligned to support and enable us to do that more effectively, more securely and more viciously. Pretty simple. Navy, sea power projection. You need to make sure that our ships and everything that's on the ships and everything that's enabling the ships is the top quality stuff that we could possibly have. Air Force, I know we got a lot of Air Force people in this ecosystem, in this group too, right? Air power projection, okay? How do we make sure we have the most survivable, lethal and up to date aircraft to project power forward, right? That's sort of our go to market. If you want to summarize it kind of briefly. 


Let me ask some of the group this. You don't need to, this is more rhetorical. Within your organizations does your work tie all the way back, to that value prop? Can you trace your value? Can you trace your daily actions and what you do to that projection of force power, if we are in the DOD? Question is, and that some of us may not be able to, and that's okay. I'm not faulting any, right? We have combat arms, combat support, combat service support. What's the common denominator for all three of those? Combat, right? All of our investments in tech, processes, funding, needs to be focused on how we can leverage those capabilities to support combat. It's the nature of our business. And I feel unfortunately what we found, too often groups have lost that focus. So how can we start moving back? 


So we got the three amigos. That was my segue into here. So the three things that we found to really help just start taking action, value stream mapping. We've already foot stomped this, value stream mapping, applying theory of constraints to that value stream and then use Wardley mapping for the future. We saw that talk on a Monday, right? The Value Flywheel Effect. Played a big part in shaping some of these things and saw it actually being applied. So it's pretty awesome. Theory constraints, we'll talk about some of that and value stream. Go a little bit deeper without going too deep into what I mean by Value Stream Mapping. 


Emphasis here for all of us if we go back, if I can ask anybody to go back to your, you can even do small businesses. I do this in turn, we can do this internally. Go back and look at your organization and you can do this internally as well. What's your go-to market? What's your value delivery pipeline? If your services, that's okay too. It doesn't just need to be product. Start at a very high level of abstraction. If you get bogged down thinking I need to document every single process and every owner, every data point, everything like that, you're going to just shoot yourself in the foot. Set up a value stream first. Abstraction is your friend, right? Start where you are. Abstraction is your friend. What I recommend here, you got time after you get the first high level thing to dive deeper. Don't do more than 15 different specific items or components of your first value stream. Keep it high level. Your starting point for this though is that end user. Start with that end user and then work your way back. What that'll also give you perspectives on, as you start to see really what are the right and left boundaries of what my organization can actually affect control over. Okay? From Platform One, right? Where within Big Bang or whatever do we know where that's going for all the end users. We know that Big Bang could be deployed tons of different places, right? Your locus of control goes to, hey, we're providing this capability for you. That's fine, that's great. I mean that's a necessary leap forward for a lot of organizations. 


For some other groups though that may be tied directly to like a weapon system. The great question is, are you seeing your value all the way out to that weapon system endpoint? So start there and work your way back. Okay? If you've read the DevOps handbook or going through that, this is the first way of DevOps, right? Systems thinking across your full value stream. DevOps handbook goes all the way from code commitment to deployment. Again, for us aligning on value, start at that end. Work your way back and think about how you contribute to that process. Okay? Gathering also, I really like the avoiding that build trap thing too. When you start and when you actually visualize the whole thing, you start to see who the other stakeholders are. And when we get into some of the case studies and examples, I'll show you how that really comes into play. But it's avoiding that build trap. 


So what are we just within our program office or wherever we're doing, are we just building, building? We're delivering stuff, we're fielding stuff, we're fielding capability. But that's great. The comms maintainers that are at Hickam are still using trash software and avoiding it at all costs and then instead of using their green notebooks, because that's what works. Because the systems that were fielded to them suck, right? Long live the green notebook by the way. So none of us are in a vacuum. I think we all know this. If we are at AFRL, we are dealing with also LCMC. We are dealing with the MAJCOMs, we are dealing with the subordinate command, we're dealing with all this stuff, right? Like there's so many different stakeholders for everything that every group here does. So part of this value here is that process of discovery. It's okay to not know what you do or what everybody else does in the stack, right? That's fine. So there's rarely, for any of us here, the biggest complexities, there's rarely one General Officer or SES level organization that has a say in how capabilities get fielded to the Warfighter. And they all have their different reasons, resources, and resistance points that we all have to figure out how to work with, right? So that's okay. Again, start where you are, keep focused, go forward. Notes on that. Again, that's for value stream management. 


This is a continuously ongoing process. Iterate on it, iterate on it, iterate on it. Oh man, I'm hitting some time. Sorry, I'm going to try to get cranking, right? Your baby will be ugly. That's okay. Always, right, things to avoid. Again, it's not one and done and I apologize for this taking a lot longer than it should have, but what we're working towards is the natural tendency. What? Great, right? We're working towards the reality that we want to just look forward and build on stuff that we know. Start at the end and work your way back. Again, foot stomp, bam, bam, bam. Theory of Constraints. Another process of discovery. When you get your Value Stream mapped, who's heard of the group Tesseract? Great. If you're in the Department of Defense, guess what? Tesseract is a resource where they can actually come in and do a Therory of Constraints workshop with your organization and help you do this to your process flows. 


But it's goes back to, you know, yahoo gold rat and the goal and really finding out, no matter what investments you make, if you're not addressing the true bottleneck in your process, you're just blowing money. You're making something to operate faster that isn't necessarily going to change the outputs and the outcomes. Theory of Constraints lets you find out where to really target those changes. Okay? Lightweight Theory of Constraints goes a long way. It doesn't need to be a whole lean six Sigma research effort. Measure everything out. Believe me on this, what we found anecdotal experience in this regard goes a long way. Trust your team's guts. If they feel like we are really slowing down here, I don't know why, but trust them and then go in from there. That actually does make sense because the people that are suffering through it really have that feel. 


Then Wardley Mapping. I'm going through this quicker 'cause I realize I've talked way too much, so sorry about that guys. I like this stuff. I geek out on it. Wardley Mapping it's a strategic approach for visualizing taking that value stream, taking your perspective, taking what you're delivering and then looking at it and seeing where you are on an evolutionary scale. And then you look at where things are at, how things are evolved and determining does it matter if something is in like a very, very nascent sort of stage here where we're one offing it every single time. Does it need to be a commoditized solution that we leverage every single time? If yes, what investments do we need to make? If no, great, you can prioritize elsewhere. There's a whole free set of resources available for people to do this again, and what I love about it, you do it internally, you own it, you keep driving forward with it and it's a wonderful strategic tool that your organization can use for deciding if you want to go and do a safe implementation. Do you want to do, do you want to adopt Kubernetes? Why? Do you want to transition to cloud native? Do you want to do so tech investments, organizational investments, training investments, all of that factors into this. 


So I'm going to go through just one case study here and I would love to talk to more about this later. So, sorry, I rambled a bit earlier on, but I want to get those three things out. The feeling of the small diameter bomb onto the A-10 warthog. If anybody doesn't know what small diameter bombs are, typically these things can carry about a 500,000, 2000 pound bomb, laser guided, GPS guided or dumb munition on any of the hard points, Small diameter bombs, if you said as opposed to one guess what, on each hard point you're looking at four, four, 250 pound munitions on each hard point. Precision's guided, right? Multiplies the strike capability of the A-10 immensely. Let me ask you this. When they built these things how many direct connects, how many data points, data feeds do you think could go to allow that pilot to say, yes, the bomb is ready to go, bomb is on target, and I can hit this and it'll initiate the drop. One-to-one, it is a hardwired one-to-one point, and that hard wiring is also directly tied into the cockpit and the control systems and the displays on a one-to-one basis. So when the pilot needs to go and look on the status of their munitions with the previous version of the software, this part is pretty easy to do. The previous version of the software to know are my bombs really ready to be dropped, is there an issue or are they locked in? Right? That didn't exist. The delays to fielding small diameter bombs, what I found out was a software issue, and this is where I learned about how they brought together the value stream. Because when you look at who supports this, right? Obviously you've got Air Force, you've got the J-8R, the requirements, you've got the A-10 SPO, the program office, you've got the 309 Software Engineering Group out of Hill Air Force base. You've got the test squadrons at Nellis. You've got Air Combat Command, Air National Guard, Air Reserve Command, right? All the OT and E units, contractors, right? Oh yeah. All these groups are stakeholders in that path to actually be able to field this. How the hell do they all know how to work together? And this is where a really, really, really, really great example came through. 


So this is at the test Squadron Nellis, I got to go out to meet with those guys. Heat- do not attribute any of this stuff to him. Heat, he's a major, he's a National Guard pilot, but he's on active duty there. He's also a software engineer. So when he was having to fly the first missions and saw damn, these bombs aren't working, I can't see all four of my bombs on my display. He worked his way back and was able to walk through the software issues to get it and to be able to identify and articulate, I need to be able to see four hard point munitions where I'm typically just seeing one. I need to be able to control and get those data feeds. I need processors that can help me do that. That connection worked away from there, from the test squadron to the SWEG to the SPO to the J-8. They all started building together, coming together for a working group. And in a matter of months they were able to get an update fielded, deployed, validated, and they're now down range in the Middle East with small diameter bombs on standby, ready to go. This all happened in the past 12 months. They've been planning and trying to field this stuff on there since 2018. They were spinning and spinning and spinning until they started reaching and going backwards from there and developing it. It's a great case that we can go a little bit deeper. I know I'm at time, I apologize. 


We dove into acquisitions processes at SOCOM as part of this discussion. They applied theory of constraints to acquisitions and requirements development. We talked to the Chick-fil-A director of engineering and platforms, learned about how they're one of the greatest examples of Edge Kubernetes deployments and orchestration in the world. And there's so many lessons that we can learn from how they operate. Every single point of sale. Every single one of these guys is a Kubernetes Edge node. Every single fryer has Kubernetes on it or K3S, lightweight Kubernetes. It's all feeding, all working together. It's fascinating how they've aligned it all together from a tech side for restaurant operations, right? 


Again, try to do three things. Value Stream Management, lightweight Value Stream Mapping, Theory of Constraints, and Wardley Mapping. Once you start seeing that, then you start plotting your way across the river, right? Just get going. That's the aim here. When you leave here, maybe, and we can do this later, I'm happy to do this. Just jam through it, pull a team together and start mapping it out. Just try first way through, start the customer, work your way back and that's it. Keep in touch. You'll have these, reach out to me. Sorry I went over, my bad. I geek out on this stuff and get excited.