DevOps Institute

How Leaders Can Influence DevOps Adoption Success

Transformational Leadership

By: Romnick Acabado

Every decade has its own “cool” software methodology, but in many cases history has shown them to be ineffective and what we really need to focus on is the business outcomes and not just being cool.

Now we see continued evidence that DevOps delivers value through its key capabilities and practices to help organizations improve their software development, delivery and sustainability. It’s also becoming increasingly evident that DevOps is no longer a trend but promises to be the standard for how software development and operations continuously offer a better quality of life.

According to Gartner, eighty-five percent of organizations have adopted, or plan to adopt a product-centric application delivery model and they predict that through 2022, 75% of DevOps initiatives will fail to meet expectations due to issues around organizational learning and change. George Spafford said:

“Organizational learning and change are key to allowing DevOps to flourish. In other words, people-related factors tend to be the greatest challenges — not technology.”  George Spafford.

These people-related factors that lead to DevOps failures are things like:

  • Insufficient consideration of business outcomes
  • Poorly managed organizational change
  • Lack of collaboration
  • Trying to do too much quickly
  • Unrealistic expectations

The state of DevOps adoption shows where an organization stands relative to its investment of time, effort and discipline into the initiative. DevOps differs in every organization and may be applied enterprise wide or only to chosen products and services. When investing in DevOps capabilities, particularly in large organizations, focus needs to be on both team-level and organization-level efforts. DevOps design, continuous integration, automated testing, deployment automation, trunk-based development and continuous monitoring are some of the efforts that work well at the team level. Examples of organization-level capabilities include:

  • The ability to create loosely coupled and elastic architecture
  • Clear change processes where change approval policies that span across departments and teams are defined
  • Code maintainability

On both the team and organizational levels, having a collaborative culture, cloud services and disaster recovery testing are essential.

Here are the five stages of DevOps evolution, according to Google Cloud, for your reference:

In order to take a step and move forward in every DevOps adoption, a DevOps ambassador or a champion can provide thought leadership with a high level of understanding and emotional engagement while co-leaders can provide support and streamline the technical practices and product management capabilities. These humans of DevOps are part of the innovators and early adopters that serve as the true enablers for every change management strategy or new technology implementation. To be specific, within the community of DevOps ambassadors and champions are the DevOps leaders who act as the main change agents and develop the vision, change plans, roadmaps and artifacts. They are the evangelists who help in the creation of target operating models (TOM) and organizational designs. They are focused and resilient and embed change incrementally.

It is crucial for DevOps leaders to have a passion for continuous learning and the grit to deliver the change in the face of resistance. They are never done on learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are motivated by new possibilities and new ways of thinking. Their experiences, skills and techniques pave the way to lead and influence pilot groups within the organization that can reinforce the behaviors, introduce tools and techniques, and streamline processes organically.

You can start by asking yourself, what kind of change leader you are:

What are the Core Behaviors and Traits of a DevOps Leader?

As with other leaders, being a DevOps leader is a privilege and it is a title that provides NO rights. It means that your organization trusts you to make the right calls, guide your team, create and align the goals to overall strategy and success. A DevOps Leader is accountable for and critical to building a high-trust culture environment to support psychological safety, defining structure and clarity within teams, communicating the meaning and impact of work, promoting cross-pollination of knowledge within the organization and monitoring progress and adaption to necessary changes to achieve the goals.

Taking a servant leadership approach is recommended. Servant leadership inverts the norm and prioritizes customer delight. When leaders shift their mindset and serve first, they help the organization grow as a result of the employees’ growing commitment and engagement.

Leaders are not in place to command, control, intimidate, criticize or evaluate people through a forced set of metrics to focus on results but they ensure and influence high-performing teams through organization’s core values that serves as guiding principles to become more self-diagnosing, self-organizing, self-improving, skilled at detecting problems and corresponding solutions and multiplying the effect by making the solutions available throughout the organization.

Leaders listen to their teams sincerely and attentively. They ask deep questions to challenge thoughts and promote growth. They empower skilled and motivated team members to encourage accountability. They take actions, reinforce behaviors and increase insight into every important topic or event across the organization.

Their focus is to develop others, promote lifelong learning, minimize constraints, inspire and align expectations and focus on continuous improvements. Leaders also serve as coaches in developing and setting shared goals, providing access to resources, and focusing on changing mindset.

Become a Certified DevOps Leader

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, leaders are very important in planning, driving and adapting to changes that can help the entire organization. A leader has the privilege to be a role model to create and connect new generations of leaders that can significantly influence our future in building and maintaining an advanced technology ecosystem to continuously satisfy our evolving needs and aspirations.The Skills, Knowledge, Ideas, Learning, ambition and beliefs of the people in our industry will give us the ability to adapt, prosper and inspire in every era that we are part of. We don’t know everything but if we want to we can try to make it possible through knowledge sharing and helping everyone be smarter on a daily basis. As George Bernard Shaw said:

“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.”

Through the abundance principle, we learn that the more we share our knowledge, the more we learn. The more we know the big picture, the more we create value. Leaders must continue taking the lead in inspiring, engaging and empowering the humans of DevOps.

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