The Human DevOps - Sunday 14th April - Team Topologies and SAFe


It's notable how trends take a long time to get moving, and suddenly, they seem everywhere.

For the last month or so, I've been working for the Team Topologies organisation, helping them gather some knowledge about applying their ideas and techniques across the industry. I've been talking to agile and DevOps practitioners, consultants, and coaches, people who are using techniques in organisations to make them more humane, to make them more pleasant places to work, and to improve the flow of value to the customer.

I aim to determine what works best when using Team Topologies ideas to improve engineering organisations. How can we best get these messages across? I also find it useful to compare coaching and consultant techniques with simply being an experienced and effective team member.

I currently work full-time as a Senior DevOps engineer. I have no remit to coach or to 'transform'. I have no leadership role, not even as a PO. However, the power of this role is that I get to influence the work directly - because I'm doing it - I can set an example and support my leaders with my experience. Then I get the excitement of hearing something which can aid the journey. For example, we'll shortly be doing an exercise as a team to define our 'team charter'. Knowing what you stand for is an important exercise in any team's formation.

Team Topologies and SAFe are not a natural fit. SAFe is a very prescriptive and rigid framework which falls back on outdated command and control ideas - while Team Topologies promote teams that drive their own delivery pace and own their 'process'. Even though SAFe has lifted (some may stay stolen) Team Topologies ideas, its inclusion provides an opportunity for me to have a conversation in the team about how we see ourselves and influence our work. While we're coming to Team Topologies 'via the back door' - we're getting exposed to it via SAFe which I find exciting.

Fundamentally, we aim to free teams to deliver by applying two simple ideas: Conway's Law and Limiting Work In Progress. The 'law' that says the human organisation directly affects the IT systems organisation you're building. Arrange teams effectively then give them the space and time to deliver.

While it sounds simple, there's a subtlety to this that requires us to have an intentional culture from the top down, a focus on quality, and space to interact. We need to decide as an organisation what type of company we want to be and allow this to happen.

I'll keep you posted. Have a great week ahead.

-- Richard

n.b. my website moved hosts this week so if you notice anything unusual going on with it then please let me know ;)


The Secrets of Quiet Leadership

Published on April 8, 2024

I’ve been reading Quiet by Susan Cain. Only a few pages in I’m reminded about a story that makes me ashamed and a little sad. I was a new engineering manager trying to establish myself in a new organisation. I was an old hand at being an engineer and certainly wasn’t a new leader. I… Read More »The Secrets of Quiet Leadership

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Human DevOps

DevOps at is the heart of modern software systems. In my regular newsletter, I dive into the human factors that make successful engineering organizations where teams and platforms thrive at the heart of your socio-technical systems. From leadership to team setup, maximizing performance, tools and techniques.

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