The quest for new approaches to software development is continuous and has seen many companies gravitate from the waterfall model to agile development and DevOps.
63% of companies that adopt DevOps release software more frequently and improve the quality of their product deployments.
However, this approach is of a significantly revolutionary nature, meaning that they aren’t always that easy to settle into.
DevOps champions greater collaboration between development and operations teams, which has far-reaching implications on company structures and leadership regimes.
Difficulties in the DevOps transformation.
One of the highly considered hindrances to organisations embracing DevOps transformation is the existing orientation of multiple functions towards risk avoidance.
Employees in various departments are usually focused on ensuring that they follow all the applicable internal rules when creating or handling work product and other resources.
Additionally, when serving in industries like banking, healthcare and more, there are stringent industry-wide regulatory standards that these people have to comply with.
The fear of being slapped with fines and lawsuits by organisations makes employees reluctant to reimagine the procedures associated with their respective functions.
DevOps transformation is also often hampered by the siloed nature of many companies.
Many employees are familiar with working on personal or departmental goals and do not attempt to envision the bigger picture that involves organisational goals.
Little consideration of the relationship between their roles and those of employees in other departments renders minimal harmony in their goals and they won’t sync to milestones.
Such scenarios are characterized by a lack of proper communication between the teams across the different departments. Successful institution of a DevOps transformation requires identifying all the facets of the company that are lacking in synergy.
Organisational directors and managers have to identify the gaps in cooperation and ensure that all concerned parties are made aware. Leaders also have to encourage contributions from the team members on how to remedy the issues at hand.
They should embark on a cultural shift that transcends interpersonal behavior and extends to the use of relevant tools with introduction of new work practices.
Bridge gaps between leaders and teams.
To achieve quick success in the organisation’s DevOps transformation journey, leaders can make an effort to work better with the teams.
Pushing top-to-bottom change.
Before DevOps transformation can be infused at the lowest level, managers, directors and other leaders need to alter the way they work with each other to be exemplary.
Company leaders and executives need to adjust their availability and accessibility such that team members can always get crucial messages to them in a timely manner.
They should make a great effort in attempting to be more present during collaborative meetings where the changing needs of team members are being discussed.
The goal is to pinpoint more opportunities where leaders can learn more about the team while also imparting knowledge to the team regarding the new mission of faster delivery.
Consequently, employees below these executives in the company’s hierarchy can do the same at their various levels and this wave can continue to the bottom.
As members tweak their approach to work and collaboration, they can discover limitations that may be unique to their level or function and relay them to the next supervisor.
The employee feedback can be a variety of variables including how often to meet, what tools to send messages with, how to package and present deliverables.
As leaders learn more about the team members’ hurdles, they can move to provide the required resources or suggest solutions and also solicit some from within the team.
This continuous improvement in organisational communication can facilitate and foster a DevOps transformation that is tailored to the organization’s unique needs.
Without trust, members are bound to give each other and their leaders the wrong data.
This communication weakness leads to missed deadlines, release of a quality that is lower than expected, misappropriation of resources and many other curve balls.
The first step to build trust is to bring the team together in the task of setting goals.
Leaders must ensure that members’ goals are not in conflict with the broader long-term goals by ensuring that before work commences, everyone has agreed on the goals.
The next step is to remind members that everyone is on the same team.
This can be done by calling upon them to interact with whoever they didn’t know previously, find out what they do and how it complements their own roles.
Tasks to be assigned should be modelled as group tasks rather than individual tasks.
Once members have mini-projects that need two or more of them, they can start to appreciate each other’s contribution to the project and thus facilitate building trust.
They will also eventually look at the leader as someone whose actions are causing them to work better as a group and therefore be more likely to follow the leader.
Getting team members out of old habits.
It takes a lot of effort, time and convincing to nudge people out of their old habits, especially if they have had company while indulging in those respective habits.
DevOps requires employees to make substantial changes in the way they approach problems, whether creating solutions individually or in a group.
Here are some techniques that can help managers and executives in facilitating the necessary changes in employee habits at the workplace.
Tolerate smart failure.
DevOps calls for faster iterations which inevitably jeopardizes quality. It is therefore important to let team members know that they can experiment with different solutions.
Encourage open-mindedness and risk-taking by implementing mechanisms that enable team members to revert to earlier trials, anticipate and single out errors and issues.
Team members are more comfortable with a strong support system, both people and tools, that can be quickly channeled towards troubleshooting and fixing problems.
People working together should understand how each person approaches a problem with meticulous documentation and information sharing whenever they tweak a product.
When the engaged team members know that they have quick pointers available when working on a specific project, they will find it easier to jump in and contribute.
Subsequently, the employee who embraces and practices transparency will receive help to reach their goal faster and learn extra tactics that they can apply later.
Foster proactiveness and autonomy.
For teams to be able to move at a fast pace, executives will need to reduce the number of instances where people need to first receive instructions or secure permission.
Particularly for abrupt eventualities, team members should be able to quickly come up with a course of action and implement without worrying about bureaucracies.
Team members shouldn’t be put in an environment where they always have to ask for the way forward and whether they should try certain solutions.
Once team members have some autonomy, they are motivated by the responsibility that comes with it and think of ways in order to be ready to improve on the deficit.
Team members should ask themselves, “How does this eventually benefit the user?” as they are able to channel out all the distractions of nice-to-have but insignificant features.
Employees are enticed to eliminate any tools and methods that come with more sophistication than actual problem solving aspects from their internal work.
Create robust value streams from the onset with every team member knowing what they are trying to help the user to do when they code, test or perform an action.
Throw out some of the serious language and present tasks to members in simple, user-centric terms like “make the path to categories shorter” or “speed up the search function.”
DevOps adoption is the way forward.
There are many ways to induce cultural shifts that lead to successful adoption of DevOps.
Emphasize automation as it frees up members’ time for more creative tasks, while still promoting planning and prioritization when writing tests and choosing patterns.
Dedicated cross-functional teams go a long way in promoting DevOps adoption as companies gain a more varied set of skills which supports end-to-end responsibility.
Teams developing products with the entire picture in mind are able to refine their approach to work and strike the perfect middle ground between speed and quality.
For DevOps to take root, leaders have to embrace it too as employees have to see the change in executives and managers for them to be moved to embrace the change too.
A DevOps transformation can not be completed with one flip of a switch.
Managers have to create strong feedback loops and track several metrics regarding the techniques used, the performance gains realized and the resultant value created.
DevOps is continuous in nature and therefore executives have to keep trying different techniques, keeping and improving what works, and dropping what doesn’t.
Gerald Ainomugisha is a freelance Content Solutions Provider (CSP) offering both content and copy writing services for businesses of all kinds, especially in the niches of management, marketing and technology.