May 12, 2020 DevOps Institute DevOps Journey Playbook Journey Playbook...¢ Pivotal Labs...
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DevOps Institute DevOps Journey Playbook
May 12, 2020
Culture: How To Build A Winning DevOps Culture Of Innovation
By Shaaron A Alvares, Sr. Agile & DevOps Transformation Coach at T-Mobile with Eveline Oehrlich, JP Garbani and Karen Skiles, DevOps Institute
Shaaron A Alvares Eveline Oehrlich
The key challenges to DevOps adoption and transformation are not technology related but organizational and cultural. Leaders must invest in their DevOps organizational change capability and their cultural people strategies in order to remain competitive while delivering continuous value at scale. We identified DevOps cultural characteristics that are required to support organizations’ DevOps adoption goals, continuous innovation, speed and quality at scale. Creating cultures of high trust and collaboration, enabling continuous experimentation, improvement, and upskilling are key investments that support DevOps return on investments.
Creating a Culture to Support DevOps Transformation
As major global organizations are adopting or scaling their DevOps capability, 75% of these initiatives will fail to meet their objectives through 2022, according to Gartner1. The top reasons are not related to technology but to managing the organizational, cul- tural, and people side of the change. As John Willis shared in 20102, “If you do not have a culture to support your DevOps adoption, all automation attempts will be fruitless.” While the focus remains on the DevOps technology and tooling, more research and sur- veys conclude that DevOps is primarily about culture and its success is ultimately based on creating a culture sponsored by leadership that effectively accelerates cross-function- al and generational collaboration3 innovation and supports technological investments. A recent MIT Sloan management Review and Glassdoor study4 confirmed that healthy corporate cultures positively impact results and revenue. Based on surveys across multi- ple high performing organizations, the study identified “Big Nine Cultural Values”.
DevOps Requires Moving Away from Taylorism Leadership Principles
Although considered to be a team focused culture, DevOps requires a radically different approach to leadership that encourages autonomy to support the pace of rapid innova- tion. This leadership style requires moving away from Taylorism and adopting values and principles inspired from Westrum and Transformational Leadership models. Within these models, leaders work closely with teams to design and adopt a company culture based on empowerment, ownership, and shared accountability. Both models are focused on moti- vating and inspiring individuals in a positive way.
Westrum leadership model supports positive climates: In 2004, Ron Westrum published “A Typology of Organiza- tional Cultures5” where he introduced three organizational culture models, “Pathological”, “Bureaucratic”, and “Genera- tive”. Each are characterized by seven cultural criteria relat- ed to authority and leadership, communication and collabo- ration, supportive or punitive environment, and employees behavioral response to the models.
In order to embrace DevOps as a holistic framework and philosophy, and fully benefit from its potential, organiza- tions need to work towards becoming a “Generative” culture and establish the level of collaboration and cooperation, openness and transparency that teams and individuals need to be successful. A Generative culture focuses on a positive climate of motivation, encouragement, failure as opportuni- ties, affirmative, and nurturing support, rather than seeking to blame and punish experiments.
Transformational leaders inspire others: The concepts of transformational leadership were introduced by James Downton in 1973. In 1985, Bernard Bass6 later introduced better ways for measuring the impact of transformational leadership on people and organizations. Transformational leadership believes that employees are inspired to deliv- er their best and feel engaged when leaders demonstrate ethics, authenticity, accountability, and empathy. Leaders understand the importance of trained employees and relay the decision-making process down to teams to give them the ability to be more creative and innovative. Key trans- formational leadership continuously displays authenticity, cooperation, transparency, and open communication. In these organizations, leaders foster a vision with clear values, goals, and priorities. They model behaviors themselves that encourage teams and individuals to embrace a mindset of trust, empathy, and collaboration enabling them to focus their energy delivering on common shared goals. Bass add- ed that leaders need to rise above their own self-interest and prioritize the ethical interest of the organization and its employees.
Reward Innovation through Continuous Experimentation and Relentless Improvements
Innovating means generating and trying new ideas. For this reason, the most innovative DevOps organizations and culture not only support experimentation, but they encourage and reward it through various active strategies such as Test & Learn practices, Hack- athons, and continuous collaboration with customers and end users. Through the intro- duction of these practices, organizations and leadership progressively learn to change their attitude towards failure. Teams that are empowered to experiment and decide on improvement opportunities develop a great sense of purpose and ownership leading to greater engagement. The following are key concepts to inspire innovation.
Continuous experimentation leads to new ideas: The DevOps Research and Assessment (DORA)7 reported that successful teams are empowered to experiment with new ideas and to make changes to features without having to request permission from management. As they experiment, they can and will fail. Leadership and management need to support and reward an environment where developers will be confident trying and testing new ideas, which in turn leads to creating a culture of learning. A key objective and benefit of testing, failing fast, and learning is to mitigate the risks of making major investments in initiatives that will not work. Booking.com established a culture of experimentation and testing supported by one of their core company te- nets: Anyone can test anything; this without management’s permission. This culture allowed the company to transform from a start-up to being one of the world’s largest online accommodation platforms8.
Relentless improvements focus on continuously challenging the status quo: Leveraging the principle of relentless im- provements enables a team to challenge the existing status quo and look for areas to holistically improve processes, technology, performance, speed, resources, and investments to support innovation velocity, time to market, and quality. This means moving away from a mindset of defined long- term goals and perfectionism. Organizations need to design flexible systems, teams’ structures, and ways of collabo- rating and making decisions to not only quickly identify opportunities but to quickly act on them. LEGO success- fully reinvented itself by establishing Lean and continuous improvement strategies empowering any employee to log improvement ideas and opportunities in an application accessible globally across the company. They shifted their ways of working to include rapid prototyping and customer involvement in product design.
Team autonomy and empowerment fuel engagement and innovation: When autonomous teams are empowered to not only establish their own work practices but also define features, they develop a stronger sense of purpose and engagement leading to greater knowledge, creative prob- lem-solving, and innovation. Because they are proven to de- liver successful outcomes more consistently, many organiza- tions opt for these teams dynamic and structure over other types of teams. These successful empowered teams re- vealed a unique set of organizational requirements. Because they work to solve technology and integration problems across multiple disciplines, they need an organization-wide commitment from leadership to support their autonomy. Leaders must foster an entrepreneurial environment with a flatter, more adaptive reporting structure to enable quick decision-making and pivoting faster to market trends and changes. Lastly, leaders need to create an environment where everyone is a leader, and anyone can lead without a title. Leadership becomes an integral part of these organiza- tions’ DNA and their way of life. These organizations en- courage open space agility and ways of collaborating, there by inviting everyone to voice their ideas.
Building a customer-obsessed culture leads to better products: The most successful companies do this by en- gaging their customers and end users in every step of the product lifecycle, from ideation to operationalization, and adoption measurement through telemetry. This results in effectively training engineering teams to empathize with customers, understand the business language, and build effective relationships with the people who buy their prod- ucts. Here are some ideas on how to do this. At the incep- tion steps, include engineers in ideation, iterative design thinking, human-centered mapping, and design workshops. Throughout the iterative development phase, invite real customers to test features in development stages.