Jun 03 2016

Kaizen and Continuous Improvement Through DevOps

The Japanese concept of kaizen fits perfectly into DevOps by pushing people to take responsibility for their operations and fix mistakes as they crop up.

Kaizen, a Japanese term that refers to the practice of continuous improvement, is a core DevOps principle. Often people think continuous improvement simply means to improve at something over time. At its most basic, this might be true, but real DevOps masters know there’s much more to kaizen than simply “getting better.”

Made popular by Toyota, kaizen adheres to a few different philosophies about work and producing high-quality products.

According to the Kaizen Institute, kaizen is composed of seven core principles:

  • Good processes bring good results.
  • Go see for yourself to grasp the current situation.
  • Speak with data, manage by facts.
  • Take action to contain and correct root causes of problems.
  • Work as a team.
  • Kaizen is everybody’s business.
  • Make small changes over time.

Do you see the similarities in this approach to DevOps? You can clearly tell that DevOps was born from kaizen.

Act Swiftly

The first point to highlight here is that embracing kaizen requires taking action to contain and correct root causes of problems — immediately. How many times have you or others seen small issues in code or with a server and either forgotten about it or consciously let it go? Maybe you are too tired or just don’t feel like messing with a minor issue. On the flip side, maybe you do want to fix the problem but can’t. It might be the responsibility of another team whose members don’t take kindly to others telling them how to do their jobs. Does this sound familiar?

Toyota fixes this problem by implementing the andon cord. In the automobile manufacturing world, the andon cord is a physical cable that’s hung over the entire production line. When any team member detects a problem, he or she can immediately take action and pull this cord. This cord then immediately stops the whole production line. In a factory that produces hundreds of vehicles per day and is under pressure to deliver, taking that action is a measure of real power.

If you are in a DevOps culture now, what is your andon cord? And if you are not, then be sure to identify yours as you make the move to DevOps.

For more on how businesses can use DevOps, check out, "Metrics Businesses Need to Know Before Adopting DevOps."

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