Learning about DevOps, or nearly any technical topic, can promise to be somewhat dull. A Business Simulation, however, is a fully interactive and engaging method for learning with wide appeal and proven results. A simulation of this type will focus both on the theory and the application of theory, and teaches the audience how use the lessons learned in their own organization.
The HPE Education team is delighted to now announce, that we have licensed the DevOps Simulation Game based on the well-known book “The Phoenix Project” ( Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, George Spafford) from its developer, GamingWorks. Our licensing makes this simulation experience for learning DevOps available to all HPE customers, with the global support, consistent quality, and language translation that you have come to know and trust from HPE Education.
This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Jan Schilt, the founder and CEO of GamingWorks, developers of this simulation. During the conversation, Jan shared a video taken at a recent simulation session – which you can see here:
Here is some of our conversation:
Kelly: Jan, tell me how a typical simulation session is run.
Jan: It’s important for people to understand first, that this simulation “The Phoenix Project” is not a computer-based simulation. The game is a real face-to-face, interactive workshop. Ideally, we have 10-12 people participating, and a facilitator. Students arrive at the beginning of the day, they select the roles that they want to play. And then they walk through scenarios based on the book, “The Phoenix Project.”
This book is well known within the DevOps community as providing practical, real-world case-studies on how teams run into problems when they adopt DevOps. The team will experience the learning-by-doing cycle. They will ‘Decide’ how to run the first round. Then they ‘Do’ their work and after this they ‘Reflect’ on the results and ‘Think’ about improvements before the cycle will continue. This learning cycle is crucial for their DevOps journey. To be successful the team must learn to communicate effectively and collaborate to ensure an end-to-end flow of work aimed at delivering value.
Kelly: This seems like such an exciting way to learn. Especially for technical people; I would imagine that the idea of playing a strategy game to learn is an attractive concept.
Jan: Yes, exactly. People like to play the game. It’s engaging. They really put themselves into the roles, and they like to see how well they can perform. We also make sure that it’s very realistic and relevant, which appeals to the delegates.
Kelly: How long have you offered game simulations like this?
Jan: For topics such as ITSM and Project Management, we’ve offered simulation games for more than 15 years, having played more than 8000 times all over the world. The DevOps simulation is the latest addition to our portfolio; we just introduced it in January of this year. We’ve run around 15 games in 8 countries so far, and we’re running new games every week. There is huge interest in DevOps across the globe.
Kelly: How have people attending the games responded?
Jan: They are loving the experience. I had one student say to me last week ‘Wow – I wish we’d had this approach 5 years ago.’ They noticed how much more quickly their team was able to become productive because of the simulation. New teams find this invaluable to put them on the right track from the start. Teams that are stuck also need something like this, to help get them over the problems. Even experienced people can use the simulation; for those people we let them fail a little during the game so they can find their weak areas.
A common reaction from people, is that they say, ‘You know, I thought I understood these concepts. But, it’s not as simple as I thought. I can see it takes collaboration, interaction and communication to make this work.’
So, it’s the experiential learning that we are providing that makes all the difference with this.
Kelly: So you know that people are engaged in the process, and that they are enjoying it. But how do you know for sure that it’s an effective learning experience?
Jan: We evaluate the training outcomes at four levels. The first level is what I said before: we look at how engaged people are, and whether they like to play the game. There is a flow to the day. If people leave early or don’t come back quickly from breaks, that tells us something. If people are enjoying the game and like to play it, then it is doing its job.
At the second level, we look at learning outcomes. We capture what people tell us they have learned, we make them aware that they were applying lessons learned in the subsequent rounds and we use that to assess the effectiveness of the simulation. At the third level, we capture what people will take home and apply in terms of new skills and work. To help with this, we ask people questions before they leave like, “what problems can you solve now?” and “what mistakes can you avoid?” This helps them to think ahead about applying their new skills and perspectives.
This third level is hard to measure and there for we train our trainers to help the customers during this phase. We teach them how to use Action Learning, coaching and other techniques to support the customer with the transformation of gained knowledge from the game into day to day work. This is where the action learning will take place. The fourth level is about measuring the Impact in terms of performance, costs, customer satisfaction. If these KPI’s improve because of the training, we all did a very good job and we can measure the ROI of this training. However this level four is a difficult one to measure, but ultimately what it is all about ‘realizing value from a training investment’, which is more than simply obtaining a certificate.
Interested in learning more about how you can work with HPE to participation in a DevOps simulation, contact us and ask to be put on the list to receive information about our game schedules – and when it is being offered in a location near you! You can also ask about bringing our team to yours, for on-site game simulations at your location.
Our team is going to be at the upcoming DevOps Enterprise Summit (#DOES16) event in London at the end of this month. Find us there if you plan to go!