“It’s hot. Damn hot! Real hot!” - Classic stuff from the 1987 movie – Good Morning Vietnam.
When looking at DevOps we could say the same, couldn’t we? The trend is certainly hot, and just like the weather outlook in the tropics, we can expect a similar pattern to ensue for some time. Sure, there’ll be vigorous debate around various approaches and tools, but in the end most of us accept that most of the heat really comes from building and sustaining the strong DevOps culture needed to digitally transform businesses.
So if DevOps is really about changing company culture and replacing traditional silos with collaborative teams, what can we do practically to ensure the business forecast remains, shall we say, hot?
Before heading to the vast academic libraries to skill up on organizational culture, just apply some common sense thinking. Remember, culture is really about changing behaviors - so why not change your own approach – look at it less as a problem and more as an opportunity.
Here’s a few lessons I’ve learned:
Football – my son is a pretty good right wing soccer player. He’s got good ball skills and a quick set of heals. What’s really cool, however, is watching the on-field relationship he’s developed with a fellow mid-fielder. Every game they just seem to have an uncanny positional sense– trusting in each other’s ability; always covering and interchanging – glorious stuff to watch – the only thing is they don’t actually like each other that much.
It’s pretty much the same for all of us, isn’t it? Hopefully, like me, you work on a great team, but how many of them would you invite to a Saturday afternoon BBQ? You may even work with a range of folks that could include a motley crew of narcissists and egoists, very few of whom would make your holiday greeting card list, right?
But does this mean a strong culture can’t be developed? Of course it doesn’t.
As a very good manager once told me – “you can have a good relationship with a customer, but that doesn’t mean they’ll buy from you.” This is especially relevant in the workplace --you can love the dude who works in the next cube and HR can organize all kinds of “touchy feely” cultural improvement sessions, but until you have trust and respect you’ll get no improvement – zilch, zip, squat.
Trust especially is a huge element of DevOps culture. This means Operations trusting that Development is working on what’s best for the business. It means Development trusting release teams won’t hold up a deployment. And of course it means Development teams trusting operational feedback to guide improvements. All of which is clinically objective and data driven.
But a word of caution. A trusting and respectful organization takes time to build (like any relationship), but can be broken in a heartbeat. So start worrying if the motley crew I mention above, or any other individuals with an illusory sense of intelligence and superiority become your DevOps cultural attaches and evangelists.
Fashion – one ofthe best examples of the value of a strong DevOps like culture doesn’t come from IT at all – it comes from the world of retail fashion. Now I’m no hipster or fashionado, but Zara tick all the cultural boxes. Here’s an organization that’s disrupted the fashion game by applying some common sense thinking.
Rather than maintain separate design and manufacturing teams (silos), Zara made the unprecedented decision of bringing both teams together. So when designers dream up the next fashion statement, they work side-by-side with the manufactures, refining those designs based on immediate operational feedback. The result – a new business model that’s enabled Zara to outpace competitors in a business where seasonal responsive is what really cuts the cloth.
Well match my accessories and color my apparel, but isn’t this exactly what we should be striving for in IT. Like for example, agile parallel development to rapidly deliver defect free code.
Appliances – Another often discussed, but still great example of cultural hotness comes from GE and their decision to insource the manufacturing of the GeoSpring water heater. They brought together a bunch of designers, manufacturers, plant works – even sales --to see how best to build and market the product. After some soul searching it was quickly discovered that the actual design was so poor (ala defect laden code) that no-one wanted to build it (over the wall, huh?).
What happened next was again indicative of the power of a strong DevOps-like culture – an integrated team quickly huddled to figure out what redesign was needed – basically refactoring to deliver a better product that actually didn’t cost as much to manufacture as the outsourced version.
In IT we should be adopting a similar approach to driving business value from the software solutions we create. Like GE, this means accepting everyone – from creative marketing types to sysadmins should be involved in providing essential and valuable feedback – building a culture that thrives on open communication.
Of course the easy way out for many organizations is to avoid culture; placing it in the too hot to handle basket. Many others believe that defaulting straight to tools is the road to DevOps success. But beware – the true test of a tools value is when it can be quickly implemented and applied to reflect, shape and reinforce your cultural goals.
Read more: https://blogs.ca.com/author/peterwaterhouse/
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