Written February 17, 2015

Anticipating the DevOps Cultural Change

Recently, I have been preparing a whole series of blog posts on how developers can lead DevOps cultural changes within their organizations. In researching for these pieces I have come to the realization that there is an unfair but immediate assumption that discussions of cultural change are a response to an existing dysfunction or cultural defect. While there is obviously a just cause for that assumption, and I don’t mean to be trite when I say this, I think there is a great opportunity here to think and act differently.

Many of the great DevOps talks, or ALM ones for that matter, focus explicitly on addressing defects and dysfunction. “Want to stop production fires” they say, “give the developer the pager and make them get up at 2 AM.” This is certainly one way to drive change. Simply force responsibility back up the product pipeline. I do however worry about the unintended consequences of this approach. Personally, I would like to hear an honest account of the impact this technique has had on innovation and the willingness of developers to go out on a limb stretching for new solutions.
My hunch is that organizations implementing a DevOps culture in a reactionary manor will become dramatically more risk adverse as their workforce turns over.

The solution in my mind is for developers to drive the cultural change out into the organization by assuming responsibility, rather than having it dumped on them. This approach however is a lengthy process, an evolutionary approach to preparing a business for the future. Management sponsorship of an influential developer or a broad based education initiative can be just the ticket to get the ball moving in the right direction. Engineering and Operations management can continue to address defects and deficiencies within the organization using existing techniques while simultaneously empowering developers with the financial and emotional encouragement to improve existing process.

For organizations currently in a moment of stasis, this is the perfect time to begin the transformation in anticipation of changing business climates.