The Three ways

Laurens van Gunst
3 min readDec 22, 2020


The Three Ways

In the past I’ve been working with multiple DevOps teams in all sizes, shapes and figures. And there was always a discussion on the tight integration between development and operations, the handover moments, the speed of delivery. Most heard sentence was:

“We’ve worked like this forever, and it works (for us).”

In a modern IT team this is limiting.

I loosely base my teams on an approach which I got from a book called The Phoenix Project.

If you haven’t read it, please do so, because when I did, I made the the importance of IT Operations in an (business) organization very clear and show the way we’ve mismanaged the entire process over and over again. Although the book covers many important concepts, I’d like to talk about The Three Ways.

The phrase “The Three Ways” is used to describe the underlying principles of the DevOps movement, on which I’ve written in a previous post.

The Three Ways

Described briefly, The Three Ways are:

  • First Way: Work always flows in one direction — downstream
  • Second Way: Create, shorten and amplify feedback loops
  • Third Way: Continued experimentation, in order to learn from mistakes, and achieve mastery

Let’s take a look at The Three Ways individually:

The First Way:

The First Way states the following, about the flow of work:

  • Work should only flow in one direction
  • No known defect should be passed downstream
  • Always seek to increase the flow

The First Way helps us think of IT as a value stream. Think of a manufacturing line, where each work center adds a component — value — to the line. Since each work center adds value, it is preferred, that each work center does it right the first time around.

The Second Way:

The Second Way describes the feedback process as the following:

  • Establish an upstream feedback loop
  • Shorten the feedback loop
  • Amplify the feedback loop

The Second Way teaches us to think of information as a value-addition. When timed right and used the right way, feedback can help optimize the value stream.

For example:

  • Why was there so much wait time at this particular work center? Resource A was held up.
  • Why did this process have to be redone? Because it wasn’t done right the first time.

The book quotes a sign from a Toyota production line that reads: “Improving daily work is more important than doing daily work.” So culture is just as important as the work…

The Third Way:

The Third Way describes the environment and culture, as the following practices

  • Promote experimentation
  • Learn from success and failure
  • Constant improvement
  • Seek to achieve mastery through practice

The Third Way teaches us that culture and environment are just as important as the work being done. It advocates a culture of experimentation and constant improvement. This results in measured risks and being rewarded for good results.



Laurens van Gunst

The Cloud Therapist. Does the hard Cloud, so that you don’t have to.