Antifragility and DevOps: getting closer to Hydra and High Heels

This talk builds on the brilliant book ‘Antifragile’, written by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. It was published in 2012 and not many people realise its full potential yet. This talk explains that antifragility is actually the powerful engine under the hood of DevOps. And when you realise that, you will be able to locate the throttles in your organisation to maximise the speed and power of your DevOps transformation.

This talk answers two questions:

  • how is antifragility related to DevOps? The Chaos Monkey that was developed by Netflix to help manage its IT systems, currently comes closest to the most antifragile creature ever, the Hydra. The moment you cut off one of the heads of this mythological monster, it immediately grew back two of them. With every attack it got stronger. What can we learn from the Chaos Monkey and how do we bring our IT and IT organisation closer to Hydra level?
  • in what direction is DevOps evolving? It seems like the DevOps concept is still developing and accelerating. It may very well turn into a so called High Heel organisation, with an increasingly important role for DevOps, a very close relationship between DevOps and the strategic business level and the complete disappearance of some other parts of the organisation.

Some of the antifragile concepts in this talk:

  • ‘Skin in the game’. This means that a person has something to lose in a given situation. DevOps itself is a perfect example: a team that handles both development and operations has something to lose when they deliver lousy applications. Taleb mentions absence of skin in the game as the largest fragilizer of society, and greatest generator of crises.
  • ‘Via Negativa’. This shows the effectiveness of subtraction over addition. In IT it is about decreasing the downside of your systems in order to lower your fragility. An example is technical debt. The so called ‘4 colour mix’ is an excellent way to visualise the technical debt concept and address this issue at management or even boardroom level in order to gather support for repaying it.
  • ‘Lecturing birds how to fly’. This is something to avoid, because it is about overestimating formal education and minimising the intuitive experience-based knowledge. Thanks to the Phoenix Project, DevOps enthusiasts already realise that they should follow the Third Way (continuous experimentation). It is even the way we develop our most important tooling these days. Just by tinkering.

This talk is not only about IT. It is also about your business, your life and the decisions that you take. You can live more antifragile than you do now.



Jan de Vries

Jan de Vries is a senior business IT consultant and a trusted advisor in the fields of requirements engineering, business information management, application management and DevOps. He is a DevOps, ...