Field Notes from a DevOps Cultural Anthropologist

Written by: Thomas McGonagle
4 min read

This is the first blog in an ongoing series of blogs about DevOps culture. That is, the environment necessary to attain a DevOps culture and how that culture benefits teams – and, ultimately, returns value to the business. I have been in the continuous delivery and DevOps industry for nine years and have made a number of observations during that time. I have seen strategies succeed – and fail. My goal is to try to help you be one of the successes! I’d love to hear your comments and experiences with continuous delivery and DevOps, too!

According to Ian Head, a Gartner Research Director:

“By 2018 90% of organizations attempting to use DevOps without specifically addressing their cultural foundations will fail.”

These failures will be fundamentally failures of teamwork. This is unfortunate, because the benefits of teamwork, according to Wikipedia , are increased problem solving, healthy competition, development of relationships and the sharing of unique knowledge and ability. Teamwork is more than a DevOps competitive advantage, it is the way we as humans get things done and is also a significant critical business driver.

Dysfunctional teams will flail in their DevOps efforts. Organizations must make every effort to improve teamwork and utilize team-oriented approaches and tools. The CloudBees Jenkins Platform is one such tool. It provides the foundation for a DevOps team to organize and orchestrate its processes. It allows the team to focus on the mission at hand – accelerating the delivery of high quality software. It provides a team the ability and visibility to continuously assess their work. A continuous delivery pipeline is similar to a rowing or crew team. Each team member is working in concert towards a common goal. Their work developing the commit, build, test, stage and deploy phases require the dev, QA, and ops teams to work together. With the CloudBees Jenkins Platform, the process is orchestrated by Jenkins, the boat’s coxswain in this metaphor.

Jenkin’s similarities to rowing aside, the sport of rowing is considered one of the most difficult cardiovascular activities. A two kilometer race is the equivalent of playing two basketball games back to back. The sports grueling nature is a reason why we should look to it to learn about teamwork and apply it to DevOps. Championship rowing teams are built on trust, dedication, selflessness, determination, honesty and commitment. Teamwork is essential to keep the boat afloat. Without a common direction, the rowers will find they quickly run out of energy and resources. Rowers sit with their backs to the front. They can’t see where they are going. In order to be effective, rowers need to be able to trust the judgments of their leader and that other team members will do their jobs.

Teamwork is as important in rowing as it is in DevOps. The team should move in tandem, support one another and work towards shared success. Conflicting interests can destroy productivity and create turmoil. Teamwork is the fuel that allows a DevOps organization to be agile, to move in any direction, and with velocity.

In my next post, I will talk about a DevOps culture of CompOps a portmanteau of Compliance driven DevOps, its importance and how it could benefit your organization.

Thomas McGonagle
Senior DevOps Consultant, Global Services

Part 1: Field Notes from a DevOps Cultural Anthropologist​

Part 2: CompOps: Continuous Delivery Needs Continuous Compliance

Part 3: Five DevOps Metaphors

Part 4: DevOps Dojos: Safe Places for Practice and Mentorship

Part 5: Bramavihara: The Four Immeasurables of DevOps

Part 6: ChatOps: A DevOps Accelerant

Part 7: ­­Continuous Intelligence: More Signal, Less Noise

Part 8: Putting the Ops in DevOps: Part 1

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