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BONUS: Achieving Agility and Exploring the Product Owner’s Impact in DevOps with Zhenya Balyasin

We start this episode by highlighting the challenges that Product Owners (POs) face when working with DevOps teams. Zhenya explains that DevOps work is unique and comes with a variety of incoming tasks and requests on a daily basis. Additionally, DevOps teams also require time to invest in improving their operations, which adds to the workload. The constant interruptions and chaotic nature of the work make it challenging for the PO to manage effectively. Unlike traditional backlogs where POs are used to prioritize tasks, in DevOps teams, the backlog may not always be the main focus. Zhenya identifies a common anti-pattern where DevOps teams have a strong willingness to help others, which can further complicate the role of the PO.

From Chaos to Clarity: Addressing Anti-Patterns in DevOps Workflows

Zhenya identifies several common anti-patterns that she has observed in DevOps teams. One anti-pattern is the resistance from the team to have their work organized by the Product Owner (PO) when they were already functioning without that role. Another anti-pattern is the team’s excessive focus on maintenance tasks rather than prioritizing the development of the product itself. The lack of clarity in identifying the products among the various types of work received is also a common anti-pattern.

Zhenya emphasizes the importance of defining the product or service for the teams and establishing a clear roadmap. She suggests discussing the product development process and the role it plays within the team. It is crucial to involve the team in these discussions rather than imposing processes on them without consultation.

Zhenya also highlights the need for effective communication and collaboration with the team. Merely presenting a process without prior discussion and understanding of the team’s dynamics and self-identity can lead to resistance. Instead, she recommends discussing process-related matters with the team beforehand.

Customer-Centric DevOps: How the PO Role Revolutionized a DevOps’ Team

In this segment, Zhenya discusses how she changed her own work and the dynamics of the team after the Product Owner (PO) role was introduced to the DevOps team. She initially encountered an anti-pattern where the team seemed resistant to accepting the perspective and needs of the customers.

To address this challenge, Zhenya offers a couple of tips. First, she suggests initiating a discussion within the team to clarify who the customer is and how they are being served. This helps align the team’s understanding and focus on meeting customer needs.

Additionally, Zhenya recommends conducting interviews with customer teams or the company itself. These interviews provide valuable insights and highlight the differences in expectations between the DevOps team and the customer’s requirements. By understanding these differences, the team can adjust their approach and ensure their work aligns with the customer’s needs.

By implementing these tips, Zhenya was able to foster a better understanding of the customer’s viewpoint within the team, leading to improved collaboration and a more customer-centric approach to their work.

People-Centric Change: Zhenya’s Key Insights for Driving Transformation in Teams

Zhenya shares her approach to facilitating change within the team. She emphasizes the importance of change management and highlights the Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze model. Zhenya advises breaking down the steps of change into smaller, manageable tasks while consistently communicating the value behind each step. She encourages the use of data to measure progress and guide decision-making.

Additionally, Zhenya underscores the significance of focusing on the people involved in the change process. She suggests investing time in conversations to understand individual perspectives and values. Zhenya also recommends introducing the Product Owner (PO) role gradually, addressing questions and concerns, and being mindful of the potential impact of introducing multiple changes simultaneously. Building strong relationships with the team is seen as essential in driving successful change.

Preparing for Change: How Scrum Masters Can Assist Product Owners in DevOps teams

In this segment, Zhenya discusses the support she expects from Scrum Masters in helping Product Owners in similar situations. She advises Scrum Masters to proactively prepare the team for the upcoming changes even before the PO joins the team. Zhenya suggests working collaboratively with the PO, Scrum Master / Agile Coach, and team lead to define a clear strategy for the team. She highlights that the PO can also assist the Scrum Master/Agile Coach in this process by providing inputs such as the roadmap, OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), and defining the team’s mission. Zhenya emphasizes the importance of redefining the team’s identity to facilitate and embrace the desired change. She encourages close collaboration between the Scrum Master/Agile coach, PO, and team lead to drive successful transformation.

Enhance Your Change Management Skills: Zhenya’s Top Resource Picks

Zhenya recommends further reading and resources related to the topic of change management. She mentions the Lewin Change Management model as a valuable resource to explore. Additionally, Zhenya suggests subscribing to the newsletter of Rob Lambert from Cultivated Management, who provides insightful content and potentially offers workshops on the subject. Another newsletter recommendation is Patrick Kua’s level up newsletter.

About Zhenya (Evgeniia) Balyasin

Evgeniia, commonly known as Zhenya, is an experienced professional who collaborates closely with DevOps Engineers, assuming the crucial roles of Product Owner and Product Manager. With a strong background in agile software development, Zhenya brings her expertise to drive product strategies, prioritize backlog items, and ensure seamless coordination between development and operations teams. Her insightful approach and deep understanding of the DevOps landscape contribute to successful product delivery and continuous improvement.

You can link with Zhenya (Evgeniia) Balyasin on LinkedIn.

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