My 6 Best Leadership Resources

charles bowling conducts westland orchestra from woodleywonderworks
“charles bowling conducts westland orchestra” by woodleywonderworks is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I started my career as a developer. My success was determined largely by how much I could produce and how fast I could produce it. I was an “individual contributor.” As I grew in my career and gained experience and perspective, I realized a couple of things. First, what I could produce was insignificant compared to what a high-performing team could produce. Second, what I most enjoyed was not producing stuff myself — it was creating opportunities for others to be happy and successful. (That’s now my personal mission statement.)

I decided I had to become a better leader because, regardless of what title I had, that was my real job. Becoming a better leader was the only way I was going to be successful — as defined by the success of the people, teams, and organizations I led.

I’m not that interested in the charismatic leaders or leaders who succeed by “force of personality.” I’m more interested in leaders who put systems in place and create environments for the people and organizations they lead to be successful. I can’t “be” anybody else — but I can learn the principles, values, and systems they used for their success and adopt what I think will work for me.

I’ve discovered some “go to” resources in my quest to become a better leader. These resources achieved that “go to” status based on how useful they are to me — measured primarily by how often I reference them and how much they’ve shaped how I think, speak, and act.
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Westrum’s Three Cultures Model

Hear speak see no evil Toshogu.jpg
“Hear speak see no evil Toshogu cropped enhanced.jpg” by Bobanny is licensed under CC BY-SA 1.0

“Performance more often comes down to a cultural challenge, rather than simply a technical one.”
Lara Hogan, Engineering Director, Etsy

Culture has a huge impact on the performance of an organization — for better or worse. In fact, some say culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage an organization can have. Despite culture’s importance, it has also been “fuzzy” and notoriously hard to quantify. The problem has been that we’ve had no good way of describing, assessing, or measuring culture. That changed when Dr. Ron Westrum, a sociologist, came up with his “Three Cultures Model”.

I wrote about Westrum’s three different types of culture on Excella’s blog.

Top 3 Insights from the 2016 State of DevOps Report

2016 State of DevOps Report

The 2016 State of DevOps Report is out and carries with it some fantastic information — just like the 2014 and 2015 versions. I love the statistics and the research — and the support it provides in making the case for DevOps. This year’s version even more so because it covers the topics of employee engagement and ROI.

I wrote about my insights from this year’s report on Excella’s blog.

You can also see my insights from last year’s report.

3 Keys to Effective Partnerships

Chains from Mark Skipper
“Chains” by Mark Skipper is licensed under CC BY 2.0

At Excella, I lead our Services organization — really the “what” and “how” of our business. One responsibility in my organization is establishing partnerships to complement what we do. A partnership can deliver value to us, our clients, and our partner if established for the right reasons and managed correctly. For example, we are currently a partner with both Microsoft and AWS and they’ve both been win (clients) – win (partner) – win (us) relationships.

Occasionally I’m asked to look at new partnerships — either by an Excella employee or by a potential partner. These opportunities led me to think about the criteria for exploring a new partnership. Continue reading

Professional Courage

Diving board 2 from Claire Gillman
“Diving board 2” by Claire Gillman is licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped from original

I’ve been thinking about the roles we play as professionals and leaders. A big part of our job is to make decisions on courses of action to address problems or opportunities facing our teams or our organization. Those decisions are often met with resistance, doubt, disagreement, or even outright hostility. In those situations, we’re faced with a choice: cave to the pressure and fall back to the relative safety of our status quo, or press on in the face of opposition. Continue reading

Keep CALMS and DevOps On

Yeah, I know. This “Keep Calm” thing has been done to death. I’m only adding to the craziness by associating it with the DevOps movement (although I know I’m not even close to being the first). In this context, CALMS is an acronym coined by John Willis and Damon Edwards and later added to by Jez Humble. CALMS represents five key aspects of DevOps and stands for Culture, Automation, Lean, Measurement, and Sharing.

I wrote about CALMS on Excella’s blog. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Top 5 Insights from the 2015 State of DevOps Report

If you haven’t read the 2015 State of DevOps Report (or the 2014 version, for that matter), you’re doing yourself a disservice. I’m putting this report on my DevOps “must read” list, right along with The Phoenix Project and Continuous Delivery books. The report is one of the few things I’ve found about DevOps that consistently gets people’s attention — even if they’re not familiar with DevOps. The results and the research are that remarkable.

I wrote about the top 5 insights I had from the 2015 State of DevOps Report on Excella’s blog. Check it out and let me know what you think.