Book Review: Accelerate

Accelerate: The Science of Lean Software and DevOps: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology OrganizationsAccelerate: The Science of Lean Software and DevOps: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations by Nicole Forsgren
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is an excellent summation of the overall findings of the State of DevOps reports and what the implications are for organizations trying to persuade themselves into DevOps transformation.

When I was reading it, I realized that it was everything you would learn if you went to a couple dozen DevOps days and listened to all the transformation stories, and it can be summarized as:

Go faster, be safer.

This is such a counterintuitive thing to say, but I have an analogy for you: When you are trying to teach a kid to ride a bike, they’re like “You’re hurling me at the asphalt and yelling at me to GO FASTER?!?!”. You know, even though they don’t that they will be safer if they go faster, but they feel like it’s very dangerous. Increasing your release cadence feels like that – someone you trust is telling you to do it faster, but it’s very scary to change your thinking about ASPHALT.

Forsgren, Humble, and Kim unpack the scientific analysis of why it works that way, but I find it really compelling to look at the correlation of speed, psychological safety, and business value.

Part 2 of the book is a very wonky, nerdy analysis of the academic methods, which gives the rest a lot of validity, but I give you permission to skip it if you would just like to take their word for it that the math is sound.

Part 3 is a case study of a company currently practicing a lot of the principles mentioned in the book. It may not be relevant to everyone, but it was a nice unpacking of how it could work.

Read if:
You are trying to convince your organization to become more devops-y, or if you want to understand what the benefit of that would be. Also if you would like some eyebrow-massive correlation numbers to use in arguments.

Skip if:
You will only pine because you can’t do this kind of transformation.

Also read:
The Phoenix Project
The DevOps Handbook

View all my reviews

A page of text with a line chart.

This job is all the best parts of going to college

I used to say that technical writing is an endless series of research papers, and if I had realized that when I started doing it, I might have studied harder at the Java class I flunked. But not really, because the thing I loved about research papers was reading the primary text, and a bunch of secondary texts, and summing them all up and then getting to spin my own theory informed by all of that. Technical writing is all of that, except that instead of texts, you have three harried developers, and interface, and if you’re lucky, some user complaints. Instead of a grade, you are always driving toward serving the user and the business purpose. And also you never have to write a sentence that begins, “This writer…”. So that’s good.

Lately, when people ask me if I like doing DevOps Relations/Advocacy, I bubble at them – “It’s like all the best parts of college. Go to lecture, cram your brain full, talk to brilliant people while you’re exhausted and say things like “But have you ever really looked at your deployment system?” and then take everything you learned and synthesize it and tell other people.”

I wasn’t motivated to go to grad school, and I feel like I got what I needed out of my time in college, but I never knew that there were so many jobs that could be about learning as hard as possible and then sharing it. That’s so cool! An off-the-cuff estimate is that I’ll go to ~300 talks this year. More like 400 if we count the 5-minute talks, which we should. This is why I always feel like I just heard a thing about that, or maybe you could try, or have you heard about…. because I’m getting to consume so much information!

You can, too. Not a lot of people get to go to 40 conferences a year, but so much of modern conferencing is available by video. The great thing about that is that you don’t have to go anywhere, you can watch it at slightly accelerated speed, and if a talk isn’t working for you, you aren’t stuck in the front row and can just leave. So now that it’s getting cooler (at least in my hemisphere) and curling up on the couch seems more appealing than zooming around outside, grab some popcorn and a video of a technical talk, and join me in reliving the cool parts of college. You don’t even have to take notes.

Here are a few to get you started:

Talk link Why I picked it
FixMe by @dhh at RailsConf 2018 Look, any talk that has a long discussion about conceptual compression and callbacks to both Marx and Piketty is a winner.
SRE for Good: Engineering Intersections between Operations and Social Activism by @lizthegrey and @emilygorcenski at SRECon EMEA 2018 A clear call to use our power as producers and managers of data to be ethical and drive our organizations to be ethical.
How to Crash an Airplane by @nmeans at The Lead Developer London 2017 Riveting failure analysis, top-notch storytelling.
Have You Tried Turning It Off and Then Turning It On Again? by @whereistanya at LISA 17 A super-interesting talk about “where you are in the stack?”. Chewy and funny at the same time. “Everyone’s back end is someone else’s front end.”
Testing Microservices: A Sane Approach Pre-Production and In Production by @copyconstruct at Test In Production Meetup Technical and cutting-edge answers for questions that a lot of us have.