What initially drove the need for embarking on the DevOps journey in your team or at your company in the first place? Was it:
- Market shift?
- New leadership or an acquisition?
- New product or service idea?
- Cost savings or consolidation?
- All of the above?
Whatever drove the need, my guess is there were pre-sales demos, reorganizations and training on new tools that were promised to solve all your DevOps problems along the way. Now, I must break your heart just a little: Buying new tools or apps will not, on their own, ensure positive DevOps outcomes.
A tool-first approach is ineffective. In fact, it may actually generate backlash from the individuals or groups who are invested in protecting the status quo and result in a wasted implementation effort. Imposing new methodologies or processes across teams through new tools can cause people to dig in, generating responses ranging from passive-aggressive to overtly destructive—both contributing to failure.
It Starts With Culture
Your success on the DevOps journey starts with culture. Culture transcends tools, methodologies and processes, making use of all but not relying on any. Culture was, and always will be, present, and much like continuous development—routinely referenced in DevOps—it is continuously influenced by everyone and everything in its environment.
The successful implementation of DevOps must begin with a conscious effort to reassess and evolve a company’s culture, supported by the tools. For example, continuous deployment as an initiative will only find traction when members of the team all believe, philosophically, it is best for the organization. It requires a certain kind of individual.
A culture of rapidly evolving and adapting teams focused on continuously discovering, developing and delivering demands a commitment to evolving toward a more contemporary integral DevOps toolset, not the other way around.
Culture Alignment as a Competitive Advantage
Cultural alignment is not a buzzword bingo box that gets checked off. One’s sense of alignment with a clearly articulated mission and set of values, coupled with a way of working in a team and supported by the right tools, generates velocity and efficiency. This alignment becomes a competitive advantage.
But, doing so demands all participants to be more conscious of how what they do affects everyone and everything else, in real time.
Culture Change is Difficult but Achievable
It can be very daunting or even scary if your company culture has a long history, producing images of the Borg or Hive, depending on your age bracket. Changing a culture is difficult. Here are some thoughts on where you might start.
Learning agility: Focus on learning to dance with VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) instead of being consumed by it.
Diversity: Commit to working with people with wide-ranging intellect, backgrounds, titles, CVs, life experiences, ways of learning, gender and energy, instead of working with your mirror.
Trust: Build a work environment based on psychological safety—a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject or punish someone for speaking up. Knowing takes time and deliberate effort.
Leadership: Adapt and promote a leadership style such as the 3 C’s of change leadership–communicate, collaborate and commit.
Coaching Culture: Consider championing a coaching subculture by applying a methodology such as LACE to work through difficult conversations:
- Listen to understand.
- Ask powerful questions.
- Challenge and support with feedback.
- Establish next steps and accountability.
We started with a little heartbreak. But I have had enough conversations about DevOps success and failure to believe that you already knew it was not just about tools. We have all felt the weight of culture when it is not in alignment. Employing some or all of these recommendations will set you down the path of creating your own language that is a requirement for building a culture. Now stop looking at the next great messaging protocol and start working on building an agile, aligned culture.