Someone famous one said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” or something catchy. The message was that culture is superior to an organization’s strategy because it defines how people think and behave. Another school of thought is that the actions that an organization takes defines its culture, which means that culture is formed by action.
When we hear the term “DevOps”, many people have different perception of what that means – is it a tool set, a set of practices, a mindset or a cultural shift? My opinion is that some combination of all these will usually define an organization’s DevOps strategy, and there is no single approach that works for all situations. Some organizations may begin this journey with one understanding or definition of their DevOps vision, and evolve it over time and end up somewhere they had not anticipated. A DevOps culture change is not always possible to predict and plan precisely because it involves us, human beings, who are intrinsically unpredictable and irrational at times.
So, what does it mean to “build a DevOps culture that lasts”? Is that even possible? The short answer is “possibly”. There are things that we can do to improve the probability of sustainability in terms of how we think and do work as a group of individuals that seek to achieve a common goal. Let’s take a look a few things that might help in this process.
Possible Tactic #1 – Be clear about the desired outcome
Any business organization must have a purpose in order to survive. Being financially viable and profitable is usually near (if not at the top) of the list, but there is usually something more. Organizations typically have an underlying mission that drive their actions, something inspiring that motivates the people to innovate and do great work. To build a lasting DevOps culture, especially within the DevOps domain, an organization needs to understand the value it wishes to bring to its customers and the world.
Possible Tactic #2 – Build an end-to-end value stream
Knowing the end state is a great start, but an organization must understand the process with which it delivers goods or services to the end consumer; this may be represented by the value stream which enables you to discover inefficiencies and bottlenecks.
Possible Tactic #3 – Establish disciplined approach for managing change
Many organizations that I have worked with attempt to deploy a DevOps strategy by following an ad hoc approach or a “big bang” approach, neither of which leads to a long-term, robust set of practices that is sustainable. This is where iterative, incremental feedback loop can provide tremendous results. A DevOps strategy is a series of complex changes that will take persistence and patience to execute, which means it may require several months or even years to reach its optimal state. This means that you could benefit from a successive series of small changes that provides quick feedback and enables refinement to take place on a consistent basis.
In closing, developing a DevOps mindset and culture is a challenging undertaking that will likely take longer than you imagined. However, all signs indicate that there is tremendous benefit to adopt this optimization approach. One way to get started is to conduct a value stream mapping exercise, then explore toolchains that may be compatible with your current technology stack; start with a vision and make small changes towards that vision, and you should be able to establish positive momentum relatively quickly.
For information on DevOps training options, check out these course offerings provided by Cprime: