Skip to main content

DevOps Leader: 5 Tips for Managing Cultural Change

It has become a truism within the DevOps movement that embracing DevOps is much more about making a cultural change than about adopting new processes and technologies.

But changing an organization’s existing internal culture can be profoundly difficult. As Peter Drucker famously noted, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” All the best-laid DevOps plans in the world might not make a bit of difference if you can’t get your team to shift its mindset.

As a DevOps leader, managing this cultural change will likely be one of your most frustrating — but ultimately most rewarding — challenges.

Here are five tips from DevOps experts to help manage that change:

1. Cultivate the 5 leadership traits that lead to high performance.
Pick up any self-help book, and you’re sure to read some variation on the mantra that you can’t control whether other people change, you can only control yourself. It might be trite, but it’s true.

Fortunately, as a DevOps leader, you can make changes in yourself that tend to lead to better performance for your team. The most recent DORA State of DevOps report revealed, “The characteristics of transformational leadership — vision, inspirational communication, intellectual stimulation, supportive leadership, and personal recognition — are highly correlated with IT performance.” By developing these characteristics within yourself, you can help set your team up for success.

2. Get to know your team.
Writing for, Helen Beal examined the importance of understanding other peoples’ motivations. “Conflict often occurs when people don’t understand each other,” she wrote. But rather than embarking on a frivolous team-building exercise, she recommended using a more scientific approach to learning more about your personality and the personalities of the people you work with. That might involve the SCARF self-assessment, the MBTI or another well-researched instrument.

3. Ask people to explain their current processes.
In a podcast, Gene Kim talked about how Capital One successfully scaled DevOps throughout its IT organization. One of their techniques was to ask people to walk them through their current processes. Most realized about halfway through the explanation that their way was no good. “Just having people explain what they do leads to this aha moment where they are convincing themselves that they need to change,” he said. “I just love that.”

4. Focus on changing behaviors, not beliefs.
John Shook is an expert on cultural change. In the 1980s, he helped introduce GM workers at the NUMMI plant to Toyota’s way of producing cars, and the result was a radical improvement in quality and much happier workforce. He wrote, “The typical Western approach to organizational change is to start by trying to get everyone to think the right way. This causes their values and attitudes to change, which, in turn, leads them naturally to start doing the right things.”

He continued, “What my NUMMI experience taught me that was so powerful was that the way to change culture is not to first change how people think, but instead to start by changing how people behave — what they do. Those of us trying to change our organizations’ culture need to define the things we want to do, the ways we want to behave and want each other to behave, to provide training and then to do what is necessary to reinforce those behaviors. The culture will change as a result.”

5. Measure and reward the right things.
As soon as you begin measuring something, you will begin changing behavior. Make sure you’re rewarding people for meeting business goals, not just for crossing off boxes on their to-do lists. In the words of McKinsey & Company advisors, “Measure and reward the result, not process compliance.”

You can learn more about managing the cultural change necessary for DevOps through our DevOps Leader (DOL) Certification. Learn how to design a DevOps organization, get ideas for organizing workflows, define meaningful metrics, gain value stream mapping skills, discover the Spotify Squad model, and much more. Get certified today.

To learn more about ITSM Academy's DevOps and Agile Service Management classes: DevOps Campus

About the Author
Cynthia Harvey is a freelance writer and editor based in the Detroit area. She has been covering the technology industry for more than fifteen years.


Popular posts from this blog

What is the difference between Process Owner, Process Manager and Process Practitioner?

I was recently asked to clarify the roles of the Process Owner, Process Manager and Process Practitioner and wanted to share this with you. Roles and Responsibilities: Process Owner – this individual is “Accountable” for the process. They are the goto person and represent this process across the entire organization. They will ensure that the process is clearly defined, designed and documented. They will ensure that the process has a set of Policies for governance. Example: The process owner for Incident management will ensure that all of the activities to Identify, Record, Categorize, Investigate, … all the way to closing the incident are defined and documented with clearly defined roles, responsibilities, handoffs, and deliverables.  An example of a policy in could be… “All Incidents must be logged”. Policies are rules that govern the process. Process Owner ensures that all Process activities, (what to do), Procedures (details on how to perform the activity) and the

Four Service Characteristics

Recently I came across several articles by researchers and experts that laid out definitions and characteristics of services. ITIL provides us with a definition that can help drive the creation of value-laden services: A means of delivering value to customers by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific costs and risks. An area that ITIL is not so clear is in terms of service characteristics. Several researchers and experts put forth that services have four basic characteristics (IHIP): ·          Intangibility—Services are the results of actions not things. They have no physical presence and represent a logical set of elements. One way to think of service is “work done for others.” ·          Heterogeneity—Also known as “variability”; services are unique items because of the mechanisms used to deliver services-that is people. Because the people element adds variability, the service is variable. This holds true especially for th

How Does ITIL Help in the Management of the SDLC?

I was recently asked how ITIL helps in the management of the SDLC (Software Development Lifecycle).  Simply put... SDLC is a Lifecycle approach to produce the software or the "product".  ITIL is a Lifecycle approach that focuses on the "service". I’ll start by reviewing both SDLC and ITIL Lifecycles and then summarize: SDLC  -  The intent of an SDLC process is to help produce a product that is cost-efficient, effective and of high quality. Once an application is created, the SDLC maps the proper deployment of the software into the live environment. The SDLC methodology usually contains the following stages: Analysis (requirements and design), construction, testing, release and maintenance.  The focus here is on the Software.  Most organizations will use an Agile or Waterfall approach to implement the software through the Software Development Lifecycle. ITIL  -  is a best practice for IT service management (ITSM) that focuses on aligning IT services with