Pains and Gains of Leadership in the Digital Age—Dean’s DevOps Enterprise Summit Presentation

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In a world full of conferences, there are many worthwhile, but only a handful I consider ‘must-attend.’ On that list is the DevOps Enterprise Summit (DOES), sponsored by IT Revolution and held in Las Vegas last week. This year, I was honored to be invited to present a plenary session. As I considered my topic, I thought about what this event stands for and how I might provide something useful to this particular audience at this particular time.

DOES was founded by best-selling author Gene Kim after the release of The Phoenix Project, a seminal work that helped found the entire DevOps movement. The event’s mission is to “elevate the state of technology work, quantify the economic and human costs associated with suboptimal IT performance, and improve the lives of millions of IT professionals.” Sound familiar? It should. In many ways, this is a parallel universe of independent thought leaders addressing many of the same challenges that SAFe is designed to address.

This diverse pool of thinkers, including CIO/CTO/VP/Director types, industry thought leaders, academics, and authors, might well have independent approaches to scaling DevOps in the largest enterprises, but at the same time, they all face similar obstacles. After considering their shared challenges, I landed on a presentation I titled, “Pains and Gains of Leadership in the Digital Age.” It’s available to watch here, (the site requires a login account which is free).

It was not a talk about SAFe per se, but instead the mindset, core values, and principles behind any effective scaled-Lean-Agile-DevOps transformation and the critical role that leadership has in leading by example. While the ‘pains’ are certainly real, the presentation also shows the ‘gains’ that occur when leaders from the likes of SAFe companies Southwest Airlines, Oracle, and Porsche really understand their role. Each company understands that alignment is not a natural state. If executives aren’t aligned, it’s because they haven’t made the investment of time necessary to be aligned—you have to fight every day to get there and stay there.

I received feedback that the audience appreciated a non-partisan, principled talk that elevated the discussion to why we need to lead and some tips for what that leadership needs to look like in these complex, disruptive times. As Gene Kim kindly noted, “Thank you again for that amazing presentation—what I loved about it was that you really got the crux of what we need from leaders.”

I also joined our own Harry Koehnemann and Project & Team’s Jeff Shupack for another talk, “A Management Approach for the Digital Age.” It was well attended and set the stage for what we think leadership might look like in the future (hint: continuous learning culture).

This was a serious IT-chops-Gemba-education experience and I was glad that several from our Framework team were able to attend. It was especially refreshing to be there in person, and I’m inspired to encourage you to find your own extra-curricular learning in the marketplace of ideas. Perhaps pencil in the SAFe Summit 2023 and DevOps Enterprise Summit 2023 on your calendars?

Stay SAFe,
—Dean

Author

Author Info

Dean Leffingwell

Recognized as the one of the world’s foremost authorities on Lean-Agile best practices, Dean Leffingwell is an author, entrepreneur, and software development methodologist.

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