Cybernetics is a profound, strange, and wonderful model for thinking about adaptive systems. Its name comes from the Greek for steersman, which reflects cybernetics’ view of control as a circular process based on feedback loops. Its insights have contributed to such fundamental theoretical developments as the von Neumann computer architecture and systems thinking. It defines the basic approach that underlies DevOps as well as Agile, Design Thinking, and Lean Startup. Understanding cybernetics lets us unify these perspectives across domains; by doing so, we can develop a holistic approach to IT as an inseparable part of adaptive business.
The disruptive, digital service economy is forcing 21st-century businesses to rethink their approach to control. They need the ability to listen and respond as much as the ability to plan and execute. They need all parts of their organization to empathize and collaborate with each other, and with the customer, in order to continually create shared value. DevOps is a necessary but not sufficient part of this new approach to organizational structure and behavior. The three ways of flow, feedback, and continuous learning need to spread to the entire enterprise. Companies need a fundamental model they can use to guide themselves as dynamic, responsive wholes. Cybernetics can provide the theoretical underpinnings for such a model.
This talk will help participants expand their perspective on DevOps, and see it as part of a larger strategy to align digital businesses with the demands of 21st-century markets. Understanding its commonality with other cybernetics-based methodologies will enable them to better connect DevOps to the rest of the organization, and complete the puzzle needed to drive business success in the age of disruption. The talk will introduce the basic principles of cybernetics, and describe their relevance to the challenges posed by the new economy. It will explain the relationship between cybernetics and DevOps and its agile cousins. It will explore the view that companies can use a cybernetic sensibility to generalize the lessons of DevOps, and by doing so, begin to understand and operate themselves as truly adaptive systems.
Jeff Sussna is Founder and Principal of Ingineering.IT, a technology consulting firm that facilitates Adaptive IT through teaching, coaching, and strategic design. Jeff has more than 25 years of IT experience, and has led high-performance teams across the Dev/QA/Ops spectrum. He is a highly sought-after speaker, and was recognized as a Top 50 Must-Read IT Blogger for 2012 and 2013 by BizTech Magazine. His interests focus on the intersection of development, operations, design, and business.