You probably already know what DevOps is or you have heard of it, otherwise you wouldn't be here now. What many people do not know, or do know but underestimate, is that DevOps also has a soft side. The soft side of DevOps is everything that has nothing to do with technology, automation, software and hardware. It is everything that is interpersonal. The communication, the collaboration, the continuous learning and improvement process of individual team members as well as the team as a collective, and much more. This is a very wide range and there are many topics that are related to this, or that are a prerequisite. The importance of the soft side of DevOps is huge. In fact, it is precisely this side that ensures that you, as a person, team and organization, become better at what you do and can ultimately celebrate successes.
This blog is the first of many in the series “DevOps, the soft side”. Various topics will be discussed in this series. Think of the following examples: Resistance, Fear, Continuous Improvement, High Performing Teams, Self-organizing teams, T-shaped profile, Communication, Collaboration, Trust and much more. And do you know what’s so great? This topic doesn’t only affect DevOps. In every type of organization with every kind of people, regardless of the work they do and how they do it: all these blogs will be of interest to you. The upcoming blogs will help you, your team and your organization in improving collaboration, communication, productivity and the working environment which ultimately results in creating more value for your customers. Because that’s the sole purpose of your organization!
I regularly see organizations ”implementing” DevOps from a technical perspective. For example, people start with Continuous Delivery or Test Automation. Although automation is a very important part of DevOps, it is also a relatively simple aspect of DevOps at the same time. Some code-monkeying, editing scripts, setting up a virtual machine, implementing tools: a piece of cake for an IT professional.
I don’t think the key to success lies here. You’ll find that key on the soft side! Because if you are going to automate as a person, team or organization, but without sense of ownership and responsibility and without the need to work together, I can tell you already that you’re not going to achieve any results. Because with technology you don’t achieve pro-activity, taking initiative, continuously improving, putting the customer first, communication, transparency, commitment and giving constructive feedback. I will even go as far as to say that there’s a gap between IT and business and that IT is seen as a burden and some expensive department rather than an enabler for the business
I regularly use this quote from Peter Drucker because I fully support this. If you really want to embrace DevOps, prepare for a cultural change. And the average culture change needs a few years. Think about 5 to 8 years before that change is really effective.
My advice in this is, start small. Don’t carry out a “Big bang” culture change, because you’ll experience resistance. Sometimes a little, but usually a lot. Fortunately, you can take away that resistance. On the one hand by recognizing the resistance. Or actually by recognizing the fear. Because resistance usually comes from fear and fear is an emotion. And when you recognize emotions, people feel heard. That also results in increasing trust. Rather important to this whole story.
On the other hand, you can remove the resistance by showing that it works. This is especially true for the critics. The critics are sceptical and critical, and you don’t convince them by talking, but by actually showing them. So, if you decide to start with the DevOps way of working, start small. Start with a team that is already motivated or form a new team with motivated people. Then give that team the space to achieve their own ideas, give them your trust. Let them experiment and let them fail. And more importantly: do not punish mistakes but encourage your team to make mistakes. Because you learn from mistakes and ultimately you become better. If you are going to punish mistakes, you increase the culture of fear and that is exactly what you want to avoid.
As soon as the team gets the opportunity and the resources, you’ll see that they come up with very creative solutions. These solutions are successes and you have to celebrate successes, no matter how small they may be. Share them through all available channels within your organization. Shout them from the rooftops! Because that adds to the feeling that a team really contributes. That gives them more confidence and satisfaction from their work, which in turn contributes to a better working environment and so on…
Commitment from management is also important. It’s not a prerequisite, but it makes life a lot easier when the management stands behind it. Use management to remove impediments, to reduce the bureaucracy, or sometimes to circumvent. Also use management to take the rest of the organization with you in this change. But make sure that it is not a complete top-down approach.
Top-down approaches are generally not perceived as positive and result in no ownership being taken. Try to approach this culture change from both top-down and bottom-up approaches. Both management and colleagues from the work floor stand behind this. This increases the chance of success, because it creates ownership and responsibility.
That concludes part 1!
Now look at the culture within the organization where you work. On a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 is very immature and 5 is very mature:
What score does your organization get?
Before we barge in by telling you what DevOps entails according to S0L1D Heroes, we take you back to the creation of DevOps and the name DevOps. Even most DevOps Engineers or DevOps coaches do not know the original story. But you will after this ;-)
IT is rapidly developing itself. New tools, methods and techniques are rapidly coming towards us. In addition, the demands of users and consumers are also getting higher. The system or the software must always and in particular work properly. IT is becoming more and more a commodity. Just like water from the tap or electricity from the socket.