DudeOps: Why The Big Lebowski is About Building a Cloud
Talk about yourself but try not to be a prat.
At the heart of cloud implementations, the biggest challenge is not the technical aspects. While the technical details are challenging, as with any technology, they can be overcome. The more challenging aspect tends to be the organization management that is required to be successful. Take for example this picture from the civil war. These troops were ready to be deployed to the front line, yet there were no trains available to take them to the front line. In the end, they had to march several hundred miles to head into battle.
Enter the Dude. The Big Lebowski is a 1998 film on the trial and tribulations of Jeffrey Lebowski, also known as The Dude. The Dude is mistaken one day for another Jeffrey Lebowski, a rich businessman, whose wife owes money to a known pornographer. Two thugs enter The Dude’s house demanding payment, and proceed to micturate on The Dude’s rug. The Dude, upon advice from his friend Walter, meets with The Big Lebowski, to demand compensation for his soiled rug. This begins The Dude’s adventure.
During the story, The Dude meets a variety of players. Each one of these players have their own motivation, and The Dude must manage each accordingly. Much like your Cloud Journey; you will meet many different characters, and you need the skills to manage each person accordingly.
The Big Lebowski. Big is the one The Dude attempts to ask for compensation from for the thugs peeing on his rug. Of course, the Big Lebowski isn’t amused, and refuses compensation. The Dude tells Big’s assistant that Big gave him “any rug in the house”. Later, when Big’s wife is “kidnapped”, Big hires the Dude to be the bag man for the ransom. As we later learn, Big never gave the Dude the money, and instead gave him a ringer. This could be very much like a boss in your organization. He gives you a task, and sets you for failure right out of the gate. Or it could be another supervisor that will look to sabotage your Cloud project. But with all bosses, they have weaknesses. Big Lebowski’s weakness, as his daughter points out, is vanity. And honestly that is the case for many leaders of organizations. Altho it sounds like a cliche, making your boss (or other leaders in your org) look successful is key to being successful with any IT project.
There are always some unbelievers in the organization. For the Dude, his unbelievers were nihilists. The nihilists were the supposed kidnappers of the Big Lebwoski’s wife, and while they believed in “Nothing”, they were strong capitalists in the sense they realized money was an important means to an end. After threatening the Dude with castration, and that keeping wildlife, an amphibious rodent, for uh, domestic, you know, within the city they meet the Dude for a final showdown. The dude attempts to pay off the nihilists, but Walter has other plans and proceeds to kick the nihilists asses. Much like the Dude did, you will encounter nihilists on your journey to cloud. From an organizational management perspective, you can try buying them off, but unfortunately that doesn’t always work. Sometimes you just have to kick some ass.
When Big Lebowski’s daughter discovers the “kidnapping” of her step-mother, as well as a large withdrawal of money from a charitable foundation her father runs, she steps in to prevent the possible embezzlement of money from the “Little Lebowski Urban Achievers”. Maude is much like the Business stakeholders in your company. She has the overarching long term goals of the organization in mind, and seeks to resolve problems quickly and with little overhead. At the end of the day, the Business doesn’t give a shit about VPC, m1.large, IOPs, etc. They care about bringing in more revenue, increasing profit margin, reducing expenses, increasing EPS, and building a healthy business. Where many Cloud projects fail, is they only focus on solving the technical challenges, or technical problems in the IT organization. The Business doesn’t give a shit if you offer “Beans and Biscuits” as a Service, they care about making money. Find a business problem, not a technical one, and use technology to solve that problem for the business.
Not much to say here. Nobody fucks with the Jesus. I suggest you don’t as well.
Donny, one of the Dude’s bowling buddies, was a pacifist who loved surfing, and bowling. He died, as so many of his generation did, before his time, like so many bright flowering young men, at Khe San and Lan Doc (voice rising) AND HILL 364! While Donny was sat on the sidelines, when he needed to deliver, he could, and he gave very little resistance to the plans of Walter and the Dude. Many organizations have pacifists, those who love their jobs, will come in and execute, and will give very little resistance. These people are important to your cloud project. They are the doers and the manpower that you need, and they allow you to build alliances, maybe across teams or across your organization. Cloud impacts many people and many teams, and the stronger and broader the alliances you can build the better to achieving the goal of your project.
Oh yes, the Expert. Walter, the Dude’s other bowling buddy was an expert. He was an expert in everything from warfare, to negotiation, to spinal injuries, rulings of the supreme court, and more. Everyone has this guy in their organization. He been around forever, and has done everything. He might quip that he did Cloud 20 years ago on a Mainframe. He’ll be quick to quote you CAP theorem and Amdahl’s law, while doing very little to move your Cloud project forward.
He’ll also be quick to tell you that there are rules. There are ways of doing things that have been in place since 1996 and we need to continue to do things the exact same way because of some outage in the Summer of 1995. So how do you deal with this guy (or gal). First off, don’t step over the line, and if you do, mark it zero. Some strategies that have worked well for me in the past for these personalities are the following: Acknowledge his superior knowledge, then move on. Making these people feel important by validating them is one way to neutralize them. Second, isolate the person. Give them an important (or seemingly important) task that is not part of the project’s critical path, preferably something they can work on independently.
But what you don’t want to do is to burn this person. This person isn’t the expert for no reason. He (or she) has been around the organization for a long time, and someone in the leadership organization finds this person valuable. Keep them included, and keep them happy.
Similar to the expert, The Wise Sage is willing to give advice, but isn’t offended if it isn’t followed. Find these people, find what experience they have to offer, and use what you need.
In the end you don’t want the characters in your organization to “kill your fucking cloud”
DudeOps - Why The Big Lebowski is About Building a Cloud
DudeOpsWhy The Big Lebowski isAbout Building a Cloud Michael Ducy @mfdii
This Dude• Chicago (Maroon), THE Ohio State (Buckeye)• Linux Engineer• Operations• Software Pre-Sales• Cloud Architect