Round-table discussions can be a really useful way to discover and share direct experience with peers and colleagues. A good round-table discussion is quietly facilitated by someone who knows the subject matter enough to include interesting questions and can ensure that everyone has a voice.
Here is what I have learnt from facilitating round-table discussions and watching others, too.
understand the participants
understand and prepare the topic under discussion
remember: this is not your platform
encourage quieter people
nudge the discussion to ensure all points are covered
The rest of this post goes into more detail on these points.
John Willis (@botchagalupe), one of the most respected and knowledgeable people in the DevOps movement, recently gave a talk at the Silicon Valley DevOps meetup group on DevOps Culture. John has been active in DevOps since the beginning (somewhere around 2008, and probably before) and has spoken to thousands of people about DevOps since then. Here’s what he had to say about culture in relation to DevOps:
If you don’t get the C, don’t bother with the A, the M, and the S.
This is a reference to Culture, Automation, Measurement, Sharing (CAMS) which has become the de facto shorthand moniker for DevOps. John is saying that Culture is the foundation of DevOps, and that Automation, Measurement, and Sharing are simply not worth doing if you do not understand that good Culture is essential for DevOps. He continues:
For three or fours years I have been going around saying “Culture, culture, it’s got to be culture”, and people look at you with stare-y eyes going “Shut the hell up” or “Yeah, we get it John. Our culture, absolutely, yeah. NOW CAN WE GET THAT CHEF RECIPE RUN?”. People think [culture] is a ‘kittens and puppy dogs’ thing which no-one really wants to deal with because it’s HARD.
He then goes on to characterise several different approaches to DevOps culture: organisations which try to IMPOSE culture, command-and-control style (doomed to failure); organisations which believe that culture is IMPOSSIBLE to change (also a failure); and organisations (the successful ones) which try to WORK WITH the existing culture and shape it gradually.
(Start from 09’00” in to hear the quotations above)