7 min read

Root Cause Analysis: Leonard, Howard, and the 5 Whys

By Amanda Babb on Mar 10, 2021 9:50:40 AM

Blogpost-display-image_Root Cause Analysis- Leonard, Howard, and the Five WhysDIY or DIE!

For those of you watching from home, I have been on a home improvement journey for quite some time. Applying an Agile mindset to home improvement (or really anything I do) is one of my passions. Even at my most recent Women in Agile meeting, we discussed applying Agile concepts to daily life and feeding these back into building a great resumé. One of the principles of the Agile Manifesto reads: At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly. We all know this applies to Agile development practices, but it also applies to IT Service Management. Specifically, Incident and Problem Management. For me, it applies to my recent home improvement adventure. 

Strong fences make great neighbors

My neighbor and I spent the better part of a Saturday fixing our mutual fence. You see, I have two dogs: Leonard and Howard.


Both are rescues. Leonard is eight and was "free to a good home" while Howard is four and was adopted from my county's animal shelter. Both dogs have been with us since their puppyhood and, as any dog owner will say, they are the BEST. DOGS. EVER. Except when they're not. This was not the first time my neighbor and I had to work on the fence. Observe one of the troublemakers in his natural habitat. 


This epic saga started in May of last year. I would diligently fix loose boards, prop items against the fence to "patch" holes, and monitor their outdoor activity while I was awake (awake being the key word here: 3am barking and fence-patching sessions are no fun). I supplied my neighbor with fence planks because, well, they're my dogs. We fixed the section above and let the others lapse until a series of shenanigans prompted my neighbor and I to spend our Saturday replacing three additional sections. My neighbor and I became united in making sure my two didn't escape. While my neighbor "doesn't care" that my dogs are in his yard, my (very good) boys take the opportunity to break out of his fence and wander the neighborhood. Howard usually comes back, but Leonard meanders through the streets, swims in pools or the lake, and generally causes mayhem until I can coax him in my car to come home. 


Not in my back yard...

Before this latest patch, I was determined to find the root cause. Previous to May of last year, this was not a problem. My puppers would frolic in the backyard and simply bark at other dogs in the neighborhood as they walked by. I made sure they were let out several times per day to make sure they were relieved in addition to daily walks. While I was traveling, they were also well-taken care of and monitored. What changed? 

Root cause analysis is, simply put, problem solving. While it is widely used in sciences and engineering, it is also a key element of IT Service Management Incident and Problem Management. When reacting to an incident, the team must restore functionality as quickly as possible. Upon resolution, root cause analysis helps us understand why. It then prompts us to ask, "Is there an action I can take to prevent this from happening again?" Incident Management leads to Problem management and through root cause analysis, we can move from a reactive organization to a proactive organization. 

Of the many techniques of root cause analysis, my favorite is the "Five Whys". It is the simplest technique: ask why until you've identified the root cause. Not like a petulant child, however. Asking the first why should be easy, then continuing to ask well-curated questions based on the previous answer helps you determine the root cause. I applied this to my situation: 

  • Why do I have to replace parts of the fence? 
    Because the dogs are chewing through the fence.
  • Why are the dogs chewing through the fence?
    Because they can access the backyard whenever they need.
  • Why can the dogs access the backyard whenever they need?
    Because we installed a dog door.


HA! I found it. The root cause. And it didn't even take me all five whys. 

Any root cause analysis technique does not stand alone. There exists a plethora of other techniques. Pareto charts determine that 80 percent of your problems are derived from 20 percent of the causes. An Ishikawa (fishbone) diagram looks at measurement, materials, methods, machines, management, and mother nature. Scatter plots let us look at correlation and causation. Was the dog door the root cause? The existence of a dog door doesn't change the behavior of my boys. Having access to the backyard doesn't make them chew through the fence planks. Did we ask enough questions to actually identify the root cause? Did I also consider a Pareto analysis, an Ishikawa diagram, or a scatter graph to understand why I was constantly chasing my boys through the neighborhood? 

I stopped at three whys: "I have a dog door."

What happens if I keep asking why? 

  • Why did we install a dog door? 
    Because Howard wasn't fully potty trained. 
  • Why wasn't Howard fully potty trained? 
    Because I didn't take the necessary time to train him. 

AHA! My Ishikawa diagram identified "management" as the issue. My Pareto identified the 80 percent as my time to train my puppers. My scatter plot showed the amount of time spent correlated to the amount of dog-induced shenanigans. I would add these to the post, but won't because...reasons. More importantly, I simply kept asking, "Why?" until I identified the root cause. 

Actions speak louder than words

Now that I have a root cause, what is it that I can do to prevent this issue from recurring? When looking at Incident and Problem Management, Atlassian products such Opsgenie and Statuspage can ingest, aggregate, correlate, and trigger the creation of Jira Service Management issues. With Confluence, we can create specific root cause analysis templates to be shared with our customers and stakeholders. However, it's up to our techniques and processes to help us determine the actions we need to take going forward. 

For me and my puppers, it's simple. 

  1. Take at least 30 minutes out of my day for dedicated doggie exercise
  2. Reinforce good behavior while in the yard
  3. Lock the dog door overnight (no more 3AM "let me sing you the song of my people" moments)
  4. Finish replacing the aged planks on the fence

By taking these actions based on my root cause analysis, I should have this solved quickly with redundancies built in. My puppers will be safer and happier, I will have a beautiful new feature of my home, and the three of us will have less stress day-to-day. Using root cause analysis techniques, and Agile mindset, and drawing from IT Problem Management, I can easily solve this problem and any additional ones around my home.

BRB, gotta run and get some more fence planks.


Topics: blog confluence plan problem statuspage incident-management itsm women-in-technology agile opsgenie jira-service-management health-check
2 min read

3 Ways Atlassian Tools Help You Avoid Common DevOps Mistakes

By Morgan Folsom on Jun 4, 2019 11:42:00 AM

Using Atlassian tools for your DevOps endeavor sets your teams up for success. While there are many challenges in a new DevOps implementation, the tools you use don't have to be one. A quick search will show you that there are many ways to fail at DevOps - it requires massive organizational change and lots of moving pieces to function, so getting started can be tough. It might be a painful process to initiate, but as we've seen, it's absolutely worth it. With that in mind, while you focus on the big questions (Like how in the world can I deploy daily/weekly/hourly?), the Atlassian stack helps you out in some ways you may not have even considered. With one (or all) of these questions out of the way, you can get back to focusing on what matters: the people and processes that you're revolutionizing.

Below are a few common DevOps mistakes that Atlassian can help you avoid:

1. Failing to Automate Effectively

Automation is an essential component of DevOps - and one of the hardest. Rather than finding one product that tries to do a million things well, with the Atlassian stack you've got the killer combination of several awesome products that integrate seamlessly. The native integrations mean that in just a few clicks, your Bitbucket branch creation or pull requests, your Crucible code reviews, or even your Bamboo builds can move your Jira issues through their workflow. This is essential when you're working with several different tools - trying to keep track of where the work is will slow you down and has the potential to delay important milestones. Additionally, while the Atlassian tools work together like one product, if your team uses an alternative to one of the options, you can integrate them as well with the same ease.

Don't let your work tracker become just another bottleneck - make sure your tools are effectively integrated and refocus your energy elsewhere.

2. Ignoring HA Principles

The best systems aren't worth much if they're not up. When you're committed to High Availability (HA), you need your systems to be up as much as you (and your users) are - avoiding single points of failure, focusing on redundancy, and immediate failure detection. Jira and Bitbucket Datacenter products provide high availability so you can trust your systems will be up when they need to be (which is to say, always).

3. Mishandling Incidents

DevOps isn't just deploying quickly, but managing your code in an intentional way. This means making sure that if something goes wrong, you know it. Jira Service Desk has built in automation to keep work up-to-date and moving through its lifecycle. When you pair that with real-time build information, accurate visibility into things like pull requests and open incidents, then staying up to date is a breeze. Tracking incidents and development work in the same tool means you don't have to jump between issue trackers to know what's going on, and you can set up Jira Software and Jira Service Desk to keep everyone on the same page.

You'll often hear that DevOps is too focused on tools, and that you need to refocus on people and processes. This is absolutely true - the key is to work with tools that help you get out of your own way so you and your team can Get S@!# Done.

To read more about how Atlassian works with DevOps, read DevOps + Atlassian = Doing it Right by Senior Consultant Michael Knight or Top 5 Ways Atlassian Facilitates DevOps by Bryan Robison, Principal at Praecipio Consulting.

Topics: atlassian blog devops tips women-in-technology stem
7 min read

Women In Technology

By Suze Treacy on Mar 5, 2019 3:11:00 PM

Instagram has turned people into stars, Google has changed the world, and Uber has disrupted the transportation industry. These technology giants are now household names and are just a few of the hundreds of tech companies that are changing the way we live, work, play, and communicate.

For example, with social media sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, people now have a platform (that once didn't exist) to express themselves on a larger scale and use their voice to join cultural movements.

In fact, social media has played an important role in recent movements where we've seen women demanding equality in the workplace. The technology of social media has allowed people to stand in solidarity, sparked conversations, and empowered people to demand change. More recently, we've seen attempts of policy reform in respect to closing the gender pay gap, seeing more women in leadership positions, and calling for more flexibility and inclusivity in the workplace.  

Ironically though, with an industry as groundbreaking as one like technology, there are so few women in the industry. You would think of all sectors, technology would be the most progressive with shifts in social paradigms—like gender equality in the workplace—but women only hold 20% of the jobs in the technology space.  

In honor of National Women's Month, we explore why there are so few women in the industry and some of the initiatives that exist to increase the number of women shaping the technology space. 

Decline of Women in Technology

What % of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) jobs in the United States are held by women? According to a 2017 report from the U.S. Department of Commerce, "Women filled 47 percent of all U.S. jobs in 2015 but held only 24 percent of STEM jobs.” Back in 1984, 37% of computer science graduates were women, but today, this figure has fallen to around 12%.  With women such as Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Meyer, and Susan Wojcicki leading the way with high profile tech jobs, why is this figure so low and why is there a declining trend of women in tech?

Factors behind the decline

  • Gender socialization starts at a young age. According to the Generation STEM report, researched and produced by the Girl Scout Research Institute, outdated stereotypes and the subtleties of society and culture unconsciously discourage girls from math and science. In fact, the report found that girls become interested in STEM at age 11, but lose interest by age 15, and have more interest in careers where they can help others and make the world a better place.
  • A lack of opportunity. A 2018 survey of thousands of women with 10+ years in STEM careers found that 40% of respondents believe they have been passed over for a promotion in favor of someone less qualified of the opposite gender. A lack of female mentors in tech has been blamed by the Girl Scout Research Institute, with 95% of leadership positions in technology firms being held by men.
  • Pay discrimination. The Institute For Women's Policy Research (IWPR) report that in 2017, female full-time, year-round workers made only 80.5 cents for every dollar earned by men - almost 20% gender pay gap between men and women. A report by Forbes found that within the tech industry, women were being offered between 4% - 45% less starting pay than their male counterparts for the same job. The gender pay gap can also be attributed to women undervaluing their market worth, asking for less pay 66% of the time, often asking for 6% less salary than their male counterparts. As an employee progresses within an organization, salary increases are largely dependent on current salary; the pay gap can be directly attributed to a job gap; a lack of opportunity at more senior levels, thus keeping women out of higher paid jobs and exacerbating the gender pay gap.

Ironically, despite the decline in the number of women holding jobs in technology, research shows that in school, girls actually surpass boys with their performance in STEM subjects.

In a recent study conducted by psychologists at the University of Glasgow and University of Missouri, they found that 15-year-old girls in 70% of countries outperformed boys in math, reading and science literacy, regardless of their levels of gender equality. Not only that, but according to research conducted by a group of computer science students, women proved to be better at coding than men.

Women are clearly capable of participating in technology, so it is time for society and organizations to help shift the paradigm. 

Fighting the decline in the technology industry

Multiple companies and organizations are working to encourage women's interest in STEM and coding, as well as closing the pay gap and creating policies that are geared towards flexibility and inclusivity. Here are just a few of the initiatives you can check out to see how people are working to reverse the trend and bring more women into tech jobs. 

  • Girls Who Code - Girls Who Code has a simple mission: to close the gender gap in technology. Since being founded in 2012, the program has reached almost 90,000 girls across all 50 states. Companies like AT&T, GM, and Uber have sponsored clubs and college programs to recruit more women and help them advance their careers in the technology world.
  • Salesforce - First taking a stance on pay equality in 2015, annual reviews and two pay adjustments since have seen Salesforce spend $6M to close pay gaps and ensure equal pay for equal work within their organization. As well as striving for pay equality, Salesforce is also a pioneer in equality; there is a policy within the firm of interviewing at least one woman or underrepresented minority candidate for each executive position, and, through supporting 9 diversity networks including the Women's Network (for gender equality), Outforce (organizer of many Pride marches), and AbilityForce (an ability inclusion forum), Salesforce is giving people a platform to actively curate change.
  • Million Women Mentors - Sponsored by large companies such as BP, Boeing and Cisco, Million Women Mentors describes their mission as "a movement to spark the interest and confidence of girls and women to pursue and succeed in STEM careers and leadership opportunities through the power of mentoring." With more than 2 million pledges to mentor women and girls in STEM, the organization works to bring corporations with communities and government organizations to encourage women in technology.
  • Family-Friendly Workplaces - Even though there is great disparity between women and men in technology, surprisingly, many tech companies are paving the way to make their workplaces more inclusive for employees who decide to have families. Google offers 22-24 weeks of paid leave for birth mothers, and starting in January 2018, Microsoft began offering assistance with fertility treatments and adoption expenses.

Hopefully in the near future, we can see more representation of women in technology as organizations build on these initiatives and people continue the conversation about bridging the gender gap, especially in the tech sector. Women should be part of not only shaping technology, but shaping the future as well.


Topics: women-in-technology stem

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