DevOps Institute

[EP78] Tackling Human Debt – the key to high-performing teams with Duena Blomstrom

Culture and Human Skills, DevOps Basics, Humans of DevOps, Transformational Leadership


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May 31, 2022

On this episode of the Humans of DevOps, Jason Baum is joined by Duena Blomstrom (@DuenaBlomstrom) co-founder, CPO, and CEO of People Not Tech and the author of People Before Tech. 🗣 They discuss:

  • Human Debt
  • Psychological safety
  • What leaders can do to reduce human debt

Psychological Safety, a group dynamic in teams, is a concept defined by academics – in particular Prof Dr Amy Edmondson from Harvard – and studied by Google – in their Project Aristotle looking at high performing teams – and it has been proven to be the cornerstone of any team’s productivity. Teams that have high Psychological Safety are up to 40% more productive.

The 2019 State of DevOps report “found that this culture of psychological safety is predictive of software delivery performance, organizational performance, and productivity”

Duena Blomstrom is the co-founder, CPO, and CEO of People Not Tech and the author of People Before Tech, a book about the importance of psychological safety and teamwork in the digital age. She’s also a speaker and a writer, publishing weekly LinkedIn newsletters on “Chasing Psychological Safety” and “The Future Is Agile” and a Forbes contributor.

She’s the creator of the Emotional Banking™ and Human Debt™ concepts and authored a book titled Emotional Banking about fixing culture in the FinTech world and listening to customers’ feelings about money.

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Lightly edited transcript below

Narrator 00:02
You’re listening to the humans of DevOps podcast, a podcast focused on advancing the humans of DevOps through skills, knowledge, ideas and learning, or the SK il framework.

Duena Blomstrom 00:16
Essentially, it’s a concept I’ve arrived at what is keeping big incumbent institutions in that case, banks from doing the right thing we all knew a giant is needed, we would all appear more human centered design, what seemed to be the problem.

Jason Baum 00:33
Hey, everyone, it’s Jason Baum, Director of Member experience at DevOps Institute. And this is the humans of DevOps podcast. Welcome back. I hope you’ve had a great week. On today’s episode, we’re going to just jump right in, because we need all the time we can to talk about this, we’re going to focus on psychological safety today. psychological safety to me is something that I feel is as a human right, I feel like we have the right to be psychologically safe in the workplace. That being said, it’s a little more complicated to that. It’s a group dynamic in teams. It’s a concept defined by academics in particular Professor Amy Edmondson of Harvard and studied by Google. In their project Aristotle. It’s been proven to be the cornerstone of any team’s productivity. Teams that have high psychological safety are up to 40% more productive. In 2019. state of DevOps report found that this culture of psychological safety is predictive of software delivery performance, organizational performance and productivity. Here to discuss the topic with me is Dwayne a Blum strim. Dwayne is the co founder CPO and CEO of people not tech, and the author of people before tech, a book about the importance of psychological safety and teamwork in the digital age. She’s also a speaker writer, publishes weekly LinkedIn newsletters on chasing psychological safety. And the future is agile a Forbes as well as being a Forbes contributor. She’s the creator of the emotional banking and human debt concepts, and authored a book titled emotional banking about fixing culture in the FinTech world, and listening to customers feelings about money. I have a lot of feelings about money. So Dana, welcome to the podcast. Are you ready to get human?

Duena Blomstrom 02:31
Yes, yes, very, very excited to be here, a big fan of the DevOps Institute have always been awesome. This is this is a treat for me. So thank you for having me.

Jason Baum 02:41
It’s very exciting to have you I’m really appreciative of you coming on to talk about this. This is this is a topic that’s pretty deep. I will say,

Duena Blomstrom 02:51
the mother lode of all topics,

Jason Baum 02:53
it really is, when you talk psychological safety. You’re the creator of the human debt concept. Perhaps our listeners have heard about psychological safety. I think it’d be great to start with human debt and talk about that. So maybe if you could explain it, maybe just kind of define it and explain what what that means.

Duena Blomstrom 03:17
The easiest definition I’ve got because I wrote it, so I can kind of change it as I give it back to you. But as long as we all agree and understand what the core of it, I’m happy. But essentially, it’s a concept I’ve arrived at, as I was studying, in short, what is keeping big incumbent institutions in that case, banks from doing the right thing, doing the right thing by their consumers is what I didn’t quite understand what the holdup was, we all knew Agile is needed, we were all clear on on human centered design, we all kind of knew all the buzzwords, we we even all of us were able to tell you what the perfect digital experience was. So what seemed to be the problem. So as I was accepting that it occurred to me that much as I don’t want that to be the answer, it is a organizational issue. And everyone has essentially too big of a cultural problem to be accessing the new mindset that we need for agile and to be accessing the speed we need to deliver and the kind of the type of collaboration that that needs out of our people. So when I was figuring out why they couldn’t do by better by their consumers, the answer really was it’s because they can’t do better by their own people. And really what that means to me or or to the definition of human that is that just the same way that we acquire technical debt and everyone listening to this knows full well what I’m on about is the same way that we’ve we’ve acquired human that which is the equivalent for people, practically anytime that we have started something to fix something in the workplace and kind of dropped it. Anytime that a problem that we were trying entreprise became a second hand citizen or forgotten or got funding called or the management change, or people fought and there was tension or there was a toxicity or there was no, just hundreds of examples in which we create human that is, we as humans, we as organizations, and it’s, unfortunately, if you start looking at it that way, you start seeing it everywhere. And there’s no real organization that doesn’t have any human that, the only thing you can do is start without it. And the big digital winners have done that they started from no human that. And then with that in mind, they tried not to get any. But for the rest of us who didn’t even know why it was weren’t quite that concerned, we didn’t put people first we put people as an afterthought, we created human data, and we are creating it every day that we don’t do human work. And if you look at the human work being done in the workplace today, you’ll be able to start hoping that that is because we don’t do any, we don’t even let people express the idea that they might have any kind of feelings at work that they’re meant to come in there, do some code and disappear and not bother us in any unprofessional way. That cannot continue, obviously. And we’re creating more and more of this human that. So in short human that is all the wrongs we have been righted by our people, your DNI or when we don’t pay them well, when we don’t respect them, or we don’t like them or when they don’t have psychological safety. And because of that human that we cannot be winning like the guys that don’t have it.

Jason Baum 06:33
I’m still fascinated by companies that are like, we give seven PTO days and our work from home policy is, you know, when the can be done on something that’s very wishy washy or, or parental leave, you get two weeks, something like that. And they and they float it like this is a good thing. Yeah, there is a lot of human debt out there. And I guess we’re starting to see companies recognize that. But as someone who talks to people like yourself, or companies who are incorporating a lot of these positive things to focus on the human, why is it forgotten? Pretty much all the time, and was the norm, right? How we operated prior to, obviously, it’s still going on. But I think this big shift, obviously caused by the pandemic, probably the, the one of the if not the only positive to come out of it? Is this recognition because everyone paused and said, Hey, wait a minute. But why was it the norm? And why do we still sometimes forget about it? I think it’s worse,

Duena Blomstrom 07:56
then we forget about it, I think collectively, we don’t want to admit it exists. When we do it feels too big to tackle. When we do tackle it, we then end up in print and the bigger the organization, the less providers you’re gonna have to superheroes that have, or you’re gonna have superheroes and people with their hearts in the right place is what I call is what I call these people that have already putting themselves on the line to make do the right thing by other humans in their organizations. But so I think what’s happening really is we were operating in an incorrect structure that wasn’t fit for purpose, the way the business was, was trying to shoehorn a completely different way of doing things into an existing very corseted way of doing things was never going to work. We all knew in the industry, that kind of by the industry, I mean, all of us that knew what Agile was, knew that something big will have to happen. And that there’s no way we can continuously come. We can have it here in this corner, while command and control are happening. While teams are not teams, while people don’t discuss the dynamics inside them, why we don’t allow humans to be humans at all, we cannot do that which is not happening. And we knew this all of us, but we just thought essentially, hopefully, eventually the the other shoe will drop and dinner will just come along, that would have happened. But in my view without COVID It would have been a much longer process. So I think in the wake of COVID Like you say the biggest win is this we have we can everyone that claimed it cannot be done has to shut up it can be done. And now that it is being done, how do we function? What do we do we you don’t have line of sight? You can be sure that this developer is not on Facebook, what do you do instead? And more so from an organizational perspective, I’d like to be clear about this. I hate the term organization and I normally very rarely ever touch it because to me organizations are it’s really Santa Claus, right? What is an organization if we wait for Have the organization to fix anything, it’s never gonna happen at all right? So we can’t be talking about it, it gets my goat every time I see these hundreds of, of LinkedIn posts about the organization should do this. Don’t we agree that the organization is that it’s nice and lovely to have a common enemy. And if we just wanted to do a bit over beer, we should keep it. But if I want to change anything we just stop talking about and then I mean, even like the big thinkers and stuff, everyone. So I Oh,

Jason Baum 10:26
you’re so right. I love it. I like I’m like preach, preach, do it. Because you’re so right with this organization, Mitt Romney who like I don’t whatever your feel about pod politics had this line about company or organizations are people like that that line? And it’s like, and that was stuck with me? Because it’s like, yeah, because no kidding, like, who makes up the organization, one of the newest titles that I heard that I really love. And I know it’s it’s probably maybe now it’s a couple of years old as the chief culture officer, someone whose job is purely to focus on,

Duena Blomstrom 11:00
I take great joy in asking why that position exists in most cases. And as you can imagine, that doesn’t land very well. People are not their favorite. I’ve liked to be the kind of human being who is smart enough to be strategic and diplomatic about this, because the size of the issue requires people who are strategic and diplomatic and know how to slowly and calmly seep into the consciousness of these sapient risk adverse execs and go, I’m serious. Now we’ve got to do this human work thing. Now this is now the time maybe there’s a way to do that. No, me I cannot, I just cannot comprehend how we can reliably just go to sleep and wake up knowing we are not doing the best we can. And the things we should be doing are not hard to do. We are simply for whatever reason have entered or collectively as humans, this denial of things are going to be the way things are going to be and I can’t really affect this because it’s too big. And it’s too complicated. It’s absolute bollocks to use an English word. I don’t know if it’s allowed on your podcast or not.

Jason Baum 12:08
But it’s absolutely allowed for there’s no filter here. Appreciate that.

Duena Blomstrom 12:12
And it’s kind of it’s borderline, I think even the BBC allows bollocks. But it is absolutely poppycock. Because we can do these things, there’s, there is no to do about the human that that isn’t breakable into an a list on a backlog and then into tickets that you can move on your to do it. If you’re not doing that, it’s just you don’t want to and in quite honestly, we’re going back to the organization thing. Now. There are now topics that are organizational, much of the organization itself is useless in terms of changing anything, it does exist as a post facto entity that fucks up everything for us if you stop to think about it, because most organizations and we’re touching now on the crux of the issue, have gone through this, like you’re asking, why is that? How did we end up that we ended up there because we made business, the business world respond to a different kind of to do than we were doing now. Right? We’d like in the industrial era, that was fine, the accountancy of the 90s, we could do that we can have people come into the office, and we’ll look at the screens, that’s going to be that’s going to work, she’s not going to work if we’re trying to write agile pair programming Dojo things, that’s just not going to work for us. So the reason it was old and needed shaking up wasn’t necessarily evil. But what that brought are structures that are now firmly in place, and no one will question them at most enterprises, and you’re going to have like these as if they’re coming from Moses scriptures or something we cannot touch the idea that we have this one department we cannot question what this person is doing, we cannot discuss and like concrete things like what is Why do you have a culture officer? And why do you have someone in charge of engagement? What does engagement mean to you? For instance, I’ll give you an example. You as an organization, what does it mean? What engagement because if it is calculating your NPS score, then you should scrap it and stop doing that did this ridiculous you have an entire department of people that are buying NPS quarter measuring, and then you have an entire workforce? It’s going off for God’s sake again, why are we doing this? Nobody cares. And if they care, they punish me for it. So there’s no real reason for us to even be concerning ourselves with the topic of engagement. It’s not that we don’t want our employees engaged. It’s just that we’re going about everything the wrong way. Because finally coming back to we were operating on these old structures in the new structures that we have to go about everything a completely different way.

Jason Baum 14:45
How my gosh, as you’re talking to so many things that are coming into my head, I love what you’re saying. I bang my head sometimes because you said you’re right. It needs to come from the employees right the organization as a whole is never going There’s there’s no change that’s going to happen if you rely on the organization. Why is it and there are a few things I want to ask you. But why is it that there seems to be those who who recognize this, they recognize those issues and are like, screaming about it right for for change? Let’s do this. Not only that, there’s studies that prove, right? I mean, look at what I had read the 40%. There are so many studies that prove that if you improve culture, if you give more time, if you help four day workweeks, I’ve been saying this on the podcast, the the it’s amazing, the productivity that the productivity improvement, so and even work from home. So I question these, these decisions are not necessarily based on hey, we’re going to make money, because that’s actually not proven. It’s proven the opposite. So it’s purely these are decisions based on I just want to, it’s better for I don’t know, maybe they want to be in the office, for example, I don’t know why these decisions are being made.

Duena Blomstrom 16:06
It’s really important point, you’ve touched on something amazing, which is why if we have this much clarity on the numbers, and we all know, you can wake up any CEO of any bank atonium. And they’ll tell you, I Yes. Active disengagement cost me 3 billion a year. I know that obviously for like everyone told me right, McKinsey told me must be true. So we they know, right? They know it costs money to have people that are in it stands to reason you’ve employed an army of people, some of which you don’t even need by nobody’s going to question who you do and do not need. And then you’ve mistreated them to the point that they’re now half useful. So obviously, it costs you twice the money, if not more, that you’re doing this, but it seems to be Why are you doing this? Why are you affording the luxury of having people this engage not at their best of their ability? Not high performing? What Why? Why is this happening to you as as an exec? Right? And I think the answer to that is, it’s this complete paralysis at the level that people are at, where nobody’s going to point when the emperor is butt naked. They’re not going to be there’s no psychological safety at the top. There’s no teams at the top. So who all is going to say, right, guys, this is bad. Let’s scrap everything and think of everything. Let’s look at the human diet. Let’s question why we have 500. Let’s question if we need HR, because maybe these guys in DevOps have gotten their heads around collaboration, team dynamics better, let’s let them do it for a while. Or let’s question why we have worked with to begin with why don’t people just produce outcomes that we need out of them? Let’s have those conversations, who all is supposed to have that? Who what exact thing do you know, that is a true team has a terrible Jira, but I don’t care what has a board has a physical board, or at least a shared email list of backlogs and they work off of it to make their enterprise better. None. They don’t exist. teams don’t exist at the top. We have work groups at the top where every exec comes in and tells you how great they are. They do a first of impression management, which is the dark side of psychological safety. And they tell you how amazing they are. No one looks incompetent, no one looks like they made any mistakes. There’s no one to blame or anything, everyone goes home is fine. There’s no themes at the top they are not psychologically safe. No one can point when we have these fundamental issues. And one of those issues finally we get to it is, like I was saying earlier, the topic of people is now falling through a major crack that major crack is the difference between HR and IT. Unfortunately for HR, they, for whatever reason, I can’t quite comprehend what happened to them. It’s tragedy but probably think about it. They lost the ability of advocating and helping people in the enterprise they have now reduced themselves I should say this I apologize to anyone listening to this who is HR and is woke and is a superhero and is trying really hard is no you guys it’s everyone else. But the everyone else has kind of shortened themselves to only do illegal things to only employ and unemployed people and send them a paper at home. It’s an admin job one we will replace with machines tomorrow. We don’t need you to do that. We need you to sit next to the CEO and tell him be counselor Troy and go like ah, I read the mind of these developers what they really need is another Dodger, that and Africa. That’s okay, it can’t be that. It you know who is doing that job these days. We make software that would help them you think when we made our software we thought silly years ago, we thought when we produce this and we let it out and we tell the world and Amy Edmondson has seen it and it measures psychological safety and he brings all this to the enterprise. People are gonna love it what all HR breaking out doors down in all of our clients. asked me how many of them started from an HR perspective, it’s a negligible amount. The vast majority of our of our of our of our clients are CTOs and CEOs who went like, Okay, I’ve ignored this people problem long enough, if I really want to be producing these KPIs, I’m gonna have to make these people have psychological safety have teams have an ability to work from anywhere, not because I like them a lot more, or I’m an advocate, but because I’m trying to make this thing happen, and nobody else is coming to help me. So our clients are people who just need the human bit to work, which is dramatic, it should be HR only if anything, we are a nuisance to HR, anytime we show up, they can immediately tell that the topic we’re fixing is so deep, and it’s so big that it was throw up all the other organizational issues, and they immediately dislike us and they would like us to go away and come back with an NPS score measure.

Jason Baum 20:53
Yeah, the shutdown.

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Jason Baum 21:46
Yeah, it’s, you know, I do have mixed feelings here. Because I don’t want to totally call out HR as a, as a field. However, I will say like when you’re talking about psychological safety, you know, my wife, and I always joke, it’s like, you have HR and they always tell you, Oh, you have a problem, go talk to HR, go talk to HR, you’re like, I’m talking to HR there. That’s the mouthpiece of the company, their their best interest, a, like you said is don’t sue us, right? I mean, that’s their vested interest is protection of the company, and not necessarily the individual. And so how do you feel set, you don’t feel safe? That’s my site that’s not endorsing psychological safety. So who then do you turn to who can you trust? How do you build that trust? Where’s it coming from? Is it coming from DevOps? Is it coming from your team, hopefully, your manager, they’re the ones have to push it through, right? But then you have the people and I, and some of them, they can be great people, but it’s like, for whatever reason, like you said, they’re so turned off to the idea of potential change. Or it’s just like, that’s not your job. And it’s no one’s job, right? It’s it’s never anyone’s job. We need to do this. Don’t focus on that that stuff. That’s, that’s a waste of time.

Duena Blomstrom 23:13
Yeah, no, I like I love this question, because it touches on so many things. And I think your comment, not a question, but I think it’s super important that we all go at the very minimum, we all go yes. For all our sins. If these are things that are making up human that we have some, what do we do about it? And by the way, there’s organizational level human that. And then there’s team level human that and one of the last ones that I always caught to my mind is when teams go, one of the things that create more that is when teams go, they blame the organization. So like, they’ll come fix it. This is known as this is them. That alone creates human that because no a lot of this work is and should be at your level. And I’m a humongous advocate that if we if we agree, yes, we have human that, then we have to do something about doing something about it has to be distributed at the team level. That’s the answer with the answer. It is not your managers, not your leadership team, not your programs that are led by I don’t even care about the HR, not HR conversation now. And again, for the record, there are amazing HR people out there, undoubtedly, obviously, just the vast majority of them have let themselves be not utilized that the best is what. But again, this is not about HR or not HR, this isn’t too big of a job for any magically to even if HR retain their ability to really kill it and do all these things, they would still not be the ones to have to run a fixing of the human that just because it is too big at this point. So at this point, the only thing we can do with all of these things we haven’t done is to distribute them to give them to the team to say to the team, look, I need your help. I know you we’ve been telling you you need to write this code and these are your tickets, but I clean some of your schedule. That’s what indeed servant leadership can do for them. And that’s what a good scrum master will do or a product owner or whoever they’re gonna write follow better. And everyone completely connects to that. The problem is everyone has overflowing agendas, is being the principles of agile that say, you have personal responsibility, you grab this ticket if you know you can’t afford the time frame and so on. So those agencies don’t exist, people don’t feel empowered to say no, I have way too much on my plate. And I want to have a team action with you guys and and understand about your kids, I can’t take this other coding ticket. People don’t do that. They’re not empowered, the nobody makes time for them. So they’re overwhelmed. So they have what I call human work resistance. They immediately immediately go even people people get on our on our product. All developers have a first No, not for me, this is not what they hired me for. I am not a psychologist, I don’t know what they want. I am not put here to talk about AI, me, you’re asking me to talk about feelings. I am not the guy to be talking about this. So there’s a lot of that plus, developers are not we everyone in the workplace has spent a good 1020 30 years, being asked to come in and be professional tenant of being professional is number one thing is do not have any emotion. Do not bring your personal life over here. Do not be a human to sit here and write code or answer the phone, whatever it is that we hired before. So now we’re telling them sorry about that, that was kind of dumb, looking at these guys that are doing it right? Could you be doing some of the other stuff where you recognize your emotions and understand the emotions of others and work with them better? Could you be doing that? But could you also be doing some other hours because these hours that I’m paying you for you still have to finish these tasks. That’s what where we’re at today.

Jason Baum 26:50
It’s I think I’ve referenced this show on on this podcast, but there’s a show on Apple called severance. And it’s about how they split the human mind, essentially. So that there is your work self. And then you have no memories of your home of your personal life when you’re at work. And then there’s another self that is your home life with no memories of work. So you have no idea what’s going on your work life exists in work only your brain you never leave, and then your home, you’ll never leave. So it’s so fascinating, because that just the concept alone of the show is brilliant.

Duena Blomstrom 27:39
I can’t wait to go check it out. It’s a good comment, depending on how they want to how they took it. But yeah,

Jason Baum 27:45
right. And it’s, it’s just kind of what you’re talking about. It’s like for whatever reason, that the norm, right? Yeah, you are, you’re your professional self. And then you’re, you’re everything else your personal and you have to separate them. And it’s like, well, it’s not as easy as just turning off who you are. When you’re at work. I’ve always I always struggled with it. Now it’s great. But it has because it’s more accepted.

Duena Blomstrom 28:10
No one should have done, the reality of it is no one should have presumed we only pay people for physical output. If we don’t, we always did pay them for I mean, you know, kind of if you take with a grain of salt, the incredible shambles, that performance appraisals of all kinds are right. And if you kind of in from that if you ignore the fact that the reality of it is because we didn’t ask them to be human at work, we don’t pay them for any of the human work. So that’s the second part of the resistance when people finally go like, Oh my God, this could make my life better. But wait a minute, do I really want to do this as an extracurricular activity? Because no one is paying me for this stuff, right? Time is valuable. Until that time, we go back and go like, right, this was wrong, we’re really sorry. He took half your time on your team stuff, and then half your time on your work stuff. And here’s all your money. And the more time you spend learning, the more we pay you, the more time you spend considering the emotions of your teammates, and that translates into psychological safety and collaboration, the more we pay you, that’s what we need to get to and the gap between not even admitting we have a problem to changing the way we work completely. And I don’t mean whether it comes to the office or not. But the structures in which we work is huge. But the show you’re describing is exactly what we have copious copiously ridiculously expected out of people. So far, it was never viable. But we’ll never stop to it wasn’t clear how unviable it was, in the old world when you didn’t have a choice when you didn’t have this extreme need for speed and collaboration. It is blatantly clear today. And if we want it solved, we have to help our people start to do this work for us.

Jason Baum 29:56
And we didn’t I don’t even know if we really do touched on psychological safety that much. And this covered I mean, we did we didn’t I’m not going to necessarily ask you to define it, because I think we defined it early on. But what is the difference between? Or is there a difference between psychological safety and trust? And then how do you build it amongst your teams?

Duena Blomstrom 30:21
Love that question. Absolutely. And all that was the most all encompassing of questions are tried to be successful, not always successful. definition wise, and you touched on it initially, it’s been studied by other academics, but the person has done most work on it has been Amy Edmondson, and she has this amazing body of research, what but that research comes from the medical field and the aviation field. And it wasn’t until like you said, Google, published project is total that the term psychological safety kind of entered the vocabulary of the DevOps community and became a thing to the business world through the IT side of things. So the definition that she uses, and it’s quite clear is, psychological safety is a state in which you are not afraid to take interpersonal risks in your team. And it sounds like so what if you are afraid of risks and so on, is the humongous difference between a team that is psychologically safe, and one that isn’t, is their ability to truly bring themselves to work and be their authentic selves, they can raise points, they always speak up, they’re never afraid to say what’s on their mind. And all of that, obviously just translate into a lot better outcomes. It’s quite that simple. We took that definition and kind of worked on it quite a lot over the last few years, because this is all we do. If people don’t like psychological safety, this is our day job, right? So we very early on workout, right? We have loads of human Dad, how are we going to fix it, we need something that fixes it quick. And if you look at Google’s findings, in project I started psychological safety is at the top. And then there are four other topics that they found are crucial if teams want to succeed, right? And those are dependability. And we thought to ourselves, when making software, how is our software going to affect the dependent dependability of any other software shop? No chance, we don’t even know what they’re measuring half of them? No, 90% of them are not measuring anything anyways. And it just depends on how they’re doing it. So we can’t really touch that, then structure and clarity, which is a huge one is probably the crux of why organizations are is as they are, which essentially just says, Are these people crystal clear whether there is or not? And that question is no, for most teams. So it’s also equally not something we could have affected. So we were like, we completely get how important it is the only thing the organization needs to give you other than money and resources. But you know what, we can’t help with that? Because that’s a very organizational thing. And then the other two topics are purpose and impact. Do you feel as a team that you have a purpose? And do you feel you’re making an impact, great things, but we couldn’t really directly affect those. That’s why we’ve really laser focused on psychological safety, when like, right, there is one thing is a team dynamic. And we can then separate it into behaviors and start working on each of those behaviors, then we have an empowered team that can do this for themselves, we no longer throw it on the manager, we no longer expect someone to modal vulnerability, which is, you know, I sound overly critical of that, because it’s nice to have in the vernacular. But the next step above that has to be No, everyone has to do things and those things are recognized my feelings, recognize my behavior, recognize the behavior of the people around me, and together want to work to change those things for the better. That is literally your only answer. And it’s doable. If you start splitting it, it’s absolutely doable. What stops us has been a lack of tools, things like the things we’re making are very, very new. To be fair, it didn’t exist whatsoever. So even if you wanted to measure psychological safety, you’d be like, Oh, I think we have some of it. People say they kind of do

Jason Baum 34:03
that. Yeah, you I mean, you were critical of the NPS score. What are Are there tools to measure psychological safety?

Duena Blomstrom 34:09
Well, you know, it’s really difficult for me to talk about because I really hate to sounding salesy, because we make it but when we went to the market to try and make a tool to measure it, we didn’t find anything. There was Amy’s question. Uh, there was a sportive, obviously, the Spotify questions. And then there were, there was it other than that there were engagement surveys completely not the thing that we needed at all. And then there were, you know, kind of performance surveys and KPI measurements and stuff, none of which were quite what we wanted. And when we went to the market, the reason we looked is because I thought let’s find what we the many psychological safety measuring tours and incorporate them into a platform. To my surprise, there were no many there were no none. So we had to make it from scratch. But the changes we hardware. What is it? Right? And it’s the question we’re having this right now. What is it really, I mean, we all get it instinctively. Right? As I was saying, we have a different definition. As people know, tech, it’s that moment that we all can relate to. When we were in a team, when we were literally making magic, we were going fast. Everyone knew what what everyone was at the best of their abilities. No one ever didn’t say something, there were no awkward, there may have been awkward moments, we were embracing them. People were saying freely when they something was wrong. We all know what it’s like to be in a magical psychological safety. But how rare is that? And some people have to think all the way back to kindergarten to remember one of those. And so if we all know that, what is it though, we cannot measure my developers, we’re like, okay, but we got we need titles for these, like, for the you know, we’re under the database, we cannot just call it the magical thing we can kind of feel so to, to, to actually define our algorithm, we had to undertake a very serious piece of research to separate the behaviors in psychological safety. And we ended up with six things that we’re mentioning today, which are is that inflexible? Is the team resilient? Because they can be flexible, but break over time? Is the team engaged? And our engagement means is the team emotionally connected? not engaged in PS code? Like but do they know each other’s kids names? Do they? Are they aware that this? Do they care about this other guy or not? That’s engagement in the team? And not? Would they recommend the manager? Nobody cares? And then we measure? are they learning together? Are they courageous? And are they speaking up and those things those each of those behaviors, you can work on it and you should work on it. And so we’ve created essentially what is like a CBT for teams, if that makes sense. So now that you know how you’re doing, and you’ve seen it in this particular this particular behavior is where you have issues, let’s work on it together, just us at this level, at this bubble level. And the fact that you see the data and the fact that you work on your team health together is transformational. Those same people that were telling us, not my job, I don’t have the time for this, I’m not a psychologist, those same people you give them some time with with the tool and the right empowerment and you tell them they can do it. They are transformed. They ask can I do more? Can I do more team actions? Can I spend more time with my colleagues, because they see the designs of that it’s like they’re happier, they do better one of the code is cleaner, they produce things faster. So they know that that transformation and they take up to it like you wouldn’t believe it. I’ve seen developers cry a bit. I’ve seen people go, Oh, my God, like, we don’t need to wait for the organization to come fix us. We don’t need to wait for HR to come fix us, we can and should do this thing ourselves. And I think that’s the key there. It doesn’t have to be only all tool or only psychological safety. There are other bits that need working on right, the ability of human beings to have self respect enough to be self caring, or making sure that they have the space to think of their well being fine. All those things need working on. But you can work on them. T Mobile, that is what I’m saying that we need to distribute it and distributed fast.

Jason Baum 38:06
It’s amazing what happens when you can invest in the employee, right, and the employee experience and their personal psychological safety and making sure that they can produce and be comfortable in the team and like the team. Gosh, that sounds nice, right? I mean, it’s

Duena Blomstrom 38:22
fun or anything good happening.

Jason Baum 38:26
You know, I gotta say, this is just me just just like putting myself outside a little bit. I’m new, relatively new to the tech industry. You know, this is in the second year. And I have to say how much I love it. Because ironically, the tech industry I feel is becoming the most progressive towards the human. And I think that’s so at first it’s there’s so much irony in that. But it’s it’s amazing, and it is refreshing.

Duena Blomstrom 38:59
It is there’s, you’re right, that is the irony of it. But the reason for that is what should keep execs awake is does not work any other way. We cannot have HR if we don’t do this paperwork, we cannot make things fast. If we don’t do this paperwork, we cannot do this paperwork just by kind of sending a program or asking people to look at a TEDTalk these are a ticket that has to exist in everyone’s like, exactly what we line every week every team should have what in the hell are they doing about x behavior? Like, if you really want to know why your code wants some type of way, then you need to have your your JIRA in a retro on this side. And your water had happened with the human work on this other side. So you can kind of start seeing patterns and work on the behavior and people want to they just haven’t been given the tools to do that and the permission to do that. Yeah, Yeah,

Jason Baum 40:01
I think we could talk about this all day. I love talking to you doing it. It’s it’s very refreshing to hear you speak. And and the authenticity just comes out. I think you you are very passionate about this topic and and I think I would love to talk to you and continue the conversation and have you back because I think we covered maybe one of my questions and we just ended up just going on our on our own here in this conversation. But it was it was wonderful and so great to have you as a guest.

Duena Blomstrom 40:32
Thank you so much. It was a meeting. You’re right, we have it always feels this is the size of the human that it always feels unfinished.

Jason Baum 40:39
Because it is right. Okay, so we always finish the podcast by asking a more personal question. So here’s yours. If you could be remembered for one thing, what would it be?

Duena Blomstrom 40:55
Wow. It’s, you said that we could edit if we wanted to.

Jason Baum 41:02
Yeah, there’s no right answers just however you feel.

Duena Blomstrom 41:06
But I would have loved to have believed that I have made some type of difference in terms of people getting a little less of the dread and a little less of my life is not worth it, if that makes sense. So I would just hope that there are some developers somewhere, I don’t want them to ever have seen my face or read my book or heard about me whatsoever, or that exactly. I just want us to finally get to a place where we have we are consistently doing human work at every level of the organization. And it’s a natural normal part of our vernacular, if I could have done anything to move that needle. That would have been amazing.

Jason Baum 41:47
I love it. I think we are 100% on the same page with all this, obviously, the humans of DevOps, this is what we’re all about. And yeah, like I said, I think I could listen to you speak all day. So well, happy

Duena Blomstrom 42:01
to come back and be up in arms about this anytime you like, because I feel like we have this lifting work. We’re going to be doing almost the same conversations, hopefully just as annoyed. Because the day we don’t, we’re not annoyed anymore. We don’t care enough anymore. So I’m happy to come back anytime you like.

Jason Baum 42:17
Awesome. Thank you so much. Join it, it was absolute pleasure. And thank you for listening to this episode of the humans of DevOps Podcast. I’m going to end this episode the same way I always do, encouraging you to become a member of DevOps Institute to get access to even more great resources just like this one. Until next time, stay safe, stay healthy, and most of all, stay human, live long and prosper.

Narrator 42:41
Thanks for listening to this episode of the humans of DevOps podcast. Don’t forget to join our global community to get access to even more great resources like this. Until next time, remember, you are part of something bigger than yourself. You belong

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