Better DevOps Through Oreos or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Business Agility

These days business agility is all the rage. Pundits tell enterprises they need to learn to go faster, faster, more quickly. Agile thinkers use airborne combat as a metaphor, advising companies to figure out how to “get inside your enemy’s OODA loop.”

I worry we’re creating an environment of corporate anxiety and raised blood pressure. I find myself imagining workplaces that resemble stock-exchange trading pits. Cloud and mobile make it possible to work anywhere, any time. Will the need for speed create the expectation that we’ll work everywhere, all the time? After hearing the story of the Super Bowl Oreo ad, I feel a little less fearful.

As the story goes, when the lights went out during this year’s Super Bowl, Oreo was able to conceive, produce, and release a clever ad on Twitter in only a few minutes. Understanding how important the Super Bowl was, they’d had the foresight to set up a war room for the game and to fill the room with everyone, from executives on down, needed to make and act on decisions. When the lights went out at the game, they didn’t need to run around like chickens without heads, or fire off a bunch of emails, or make panicked cell phone calls to get people on a conference bridge or anything like that. Instead, they were able to turn to the person next to them in the room and say “here’s an idea; what do you think?”

Bringing together everyone they needed to be able to decide and execute made Oreo simultaneously more agile and more relaxed in a high-pressure situation. Unnecessary silos, procedures, and boundaries don’t just cause waste and impede responsiveness. They also cause frustration, anxiety, and unhappiness. Reducing separation has the potential to let us have our agility cake and eat it too. Thanks to Oreo, I feel a little less anxious myself. Of course, it’s been that way since I was a kid – nice to see some things never change :-).

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