Chaos Monkey for systems of people: The ultimate performance hack

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Alois Reitbauer on performance hacking, DevOps applications, and fostering a culture of respect.


Subscribe to the O’Reilly Radar Podcast to track the technologies and people that will shape our world in the years to come.

In this week’s episode of the Radar Podcast, O’Reilly’s Courtney Nash chats with Alois Reitbauer, chief evangelist at Ruxit, about how DevOps is deeply woven into the Ruxit culture. Reitbauer also talks about how the term “performance hacking” came about at Ruxit, why Chaos Monkey should be applied to systems of people, and why trust across — and between — all departments in an organization is essential.

DevOps beyond DevOps

Performance hacking is a term that emerged at Ruxit about a year ago as the company prepared for the beta launch, Reitbauer said, when they realized as the company scaled up, they needed to bring everyone from all their teams together. “The idea of performance hacking, then,” he noted, “was really, how can we scale up this collaboration between the DevOps teams, the product development teams, and our go-to-market growth hacking teams while we grow as an organization.” The ultimate aim was to figure out how to continue to act like a three-person, one-room startup as the company scaled to a couple hundred people.

One of the approaches embraced at Ruxit is to apply some of the DevOps best practices to their growth hacking and product development strategies. As an example, Reitbauer offered up the idea of Chaos Monkey, as applied not to AWS instances, but to the organization as a whole. The way it works, he explained, is to send a member of a team — any team — away on short notice (or no notice) and see what breaks. Reitbauer said that they’d actually done this and outlined what they learned from the exercise:

We have done it, and it also came up as part of our regular organizational practices. Like, when we had our first very strong conference season — we sent people to different shows all over the place; we picked people from the team who had to go somewhere. And even if people knew they were going to be out of the office in a couple of weeks, they still started to behave as if they would be around all the time, that they wouldn’t be leaving the office. Then, suddenly they were on a plane. They had no time to do their everyday work, and suddenly they realized where they really needed help. So, you don’t even have to make it a total surprise. You just have to plan how to get people out of their regular working behavior to do something else. Then we were able to figure out, ‘We really need somebody else to be able to jump in here or to help somebody out over there.’ It might be a regular holiday or just not daily routine.

Subscribe to the O’Reilly Radar Podcast

TuneIn, iTunes, SoundCloud, RSS

Management scrum sprints

In the context of management-level scrum meetings, Reitbauer borrowed a page from the Agile philosophy and talked about the importance of rhythm to his company as a whole:

For us, it’s very important that the whole organization runs at the same rhythm, which for us is one- or two-week sprints. However, the backlog scope is much bigger. The backlog is half a year or a year in advance, what we already know is going to be in there. We break it down into two-week digestible units so we don’t get into a situation where suddenly, as our organization grows, everything starts to get slower and slower. We still try to break it down for really big parts of our product strategy that might eventually take half a year or longer to implement — how can we break it down still further? You have the same idea with a story in scrum. If the story gets too big, how can you break it down to fit into a sprint? That actually gets harder once you move up from a managerial perspective to more strategic topics. How can you break them down into those microsteps?

Fostering a culture of respect

Reitbauer emphasized the importance of respect and trust across, and between, his teams — between every member. “It’s really all about the culture and whether the people like each other,” he said, “and that’s part of our culture.” To cultivate this kind of culture at Ruxit, they employ an interesting hiring process involving workshop interviews that include members from teams across the organization — anyone whom the interviewee might work with, in any capacity. For the person to be hired, agreement must be unanimous. Reitbauer explained:

The rule is, if somebody just says ‘no,’ he doesn’t have to explain it in every detail. If he says, ‘sorry I can’t work with this person,’ we see that there’s no fit there because if the chemistry is not right, it’s eventually not going to work. We had certain situations where the people were really good. They were brilliant engineers, and someone said, ‘no, I don’t know what it is, but for me it doesn’t work.’ Usually, we then realize it was the right decision to not bring them on board.

If you’ve got people who don’t like each other, this can cause rifts to form between departments, which will ultimately foster a culture of finger-pointing and animosity, Reitbauer explained. “It’s not going to work,” he said. “That’s why there has to be this mutual respect from everyone for everyone else in the organization.”

This podcast was produced in collaboration with Ruxit. See our statement of editorial independence.

Cropped image by geralt on Pixabay, used under a CC0 Public Domain license.

tags: , , , ,