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Can't you see this is urgent?

"The business is on fire!"
--Head of Engineering

The deployment problem

A software consultancy's project for its main client had its deployment pipeline down for over a week. No new features could be deployed. The client was growing increasingly frustrated. The Head of Engineering had been chasing the DevOps Lead to have the problem fixed. There were other projects with deadlines looming, and the DevOps Lead had been dealing with issues in their personal life. However, the stress and pressure from the main client was mounting and the Head of Engineering feared they were losing the confidence of their most important customer.

The Head of Engineering had tried saying the following things to get the DevOps Lead to prioritize fixing the deployment problem:

-The business is suffering.
-It'd be really great if you could prioritise this.
-Can you let me know when you'd be able to get it done?
-People are unable to do their work.
-The business is losing productivity.

The DevOps Lead would respond saying "I'll get to it soon" but wouldn't actually work on fixing the problem. The client was getting increasingly agitated at the lack of visible progress because new features were not being released on schedule.

The Communication Gap

The Head of Engineering thought that inability to deploy new features was obviously an urgent problem. "Deployment is down, isn't that obviously urgent?", he had told us. However, this was an assumption, there was nothing in the initial attempts to get the DevOps Lead to fix the pipeline that explained why deployment was an urgent issue. Saying things like "People were unable to do their work" and "Business is losing productivity" didn't land because they were vague. The DevOps saw people were busy occupied doing other work.


We coached the Head of Engineering to have the following conversation:

I'd like the fixing of this deployment pipeline to be given the highest priority. I'm worried we are losing the trust and goodwill of our main client because regular feature releases are the indicator they rely on to maintain confidence in our team.


Don't assume others understand why something is important. The Head of Engineering needed to explain that the ability to release new features was crucial to maintaining the client's confidence. It was only when the Head of Engineering explicitly stated the concern of losing the trust of the client that the DevOps Lead understood the urgency of the request.

*Due to the sensitive nature of our case studies, names and details have been changed to be anonymous.

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