How does one create a DevOps Culture?

CultureThis is probably the most frequently asked question related to adopting or rolling out a DevOps initiative in an organization.

We need to look at this question more closely based on the principles of DevOps.

While traditionally, organizations are structured into functional silos or departments, value for a customer is not created by any one of these teams alone. There is a need to align the objectives across functions to be inline with the expectations of the customer based on perceptions or promises made by the organization.

The next step, after goal alignment, is to look at the value stream that flows across departments.

With the objective to reduce wait, all non value adding activities should preferably be reduced, if not eliminated.

A way of working to enable that would be to move from cooperation to collaboration.

Getting back to our question : it is not ‘one’ that creates a DevOps culture. It must be the accepted way of working by the teams. This is best done when it evolves as the teams come together and rally around the cause of the customer.

This is easier said than done. For may teams – and team members – the big picture is rarely visible directly. Many times, the secondary indicators of target achievement and profits are used as proxy indicators.

This is where the role of leaders becomes very significant. Articulating the big picture and the goal for the organization, that would revolve around the customer is a starting point.

Once that is done, leaders should get out of the way! Become enablers for the teams to chase these goals in the optimum manner they choose to deliver.

Of course, this cannot be completely decided by the teams with no constraints. Constraints of time – date when deliveries have been committed – and budgets – costs that were calculated when business plans are made – need to be constantly kept as the guiding perimeter.

Visible, articulated goals help in aligning various functions to cascade their contributions to the goal achievement down the line.

Cross functional teams that can own the deliveries to customers will be able to better adjust their strategies and pace of progress by having an eye on the resource burn downs and value burn ups.

Essentially, the culture of an aligned and integrated organization will need to be pervasive beyond the DevOps activities alone.

It is not practical to have teams work in a ‘DevOps’ mode – say, for DevOps projects and in a different style for other projects.

The key enabler for such a transformation is a transformation of every individual.

From being individual contributors to becoming members of teams that deliver full functions or features, fully tested and ready for deployment into production.

From being command-and-control managers to inspiring and guiding leaders.

From providing answers and directions to enabling teams to explore, analyze and support their solution deployment.

And so on.

While the above model sounds very idealistic, we see teams where the members have

– a shared goal

– a high level of trust in each other and leadership

– organized themselves into feature crews

– acquired multiple skills, to be able to not only review and enrich others’ work products, but also to step into some other member’s shoes, if a need arises

have been able to derive significant benefits in terms of productivity and quality of their deliverables.

Image courtesy https://unsplash.com/patryksobczak

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