DevOps Agile Skills Association (DASA) Provides Core Skills Key for DevOps Success!

The eagerly awaited State of DevOps 2018 report is available. In this article, I want to share some of its findings, from people and their cultural perspectives and how these relate back to the DASA DevOPs Competence Model Core Skill areas.

DORA – State of DevOps 2018

I also have added critical findings from earlier State of DevOps reports for those of you just starting out on your journey to ensure you do not miss their crucial prior success factors and tips.

The DASA Core Skill Areas

  • Courage: Evangelism, coaching, self-confidence, proactivity, reflection, trust, open discussions, experimentation, fail fast, the courage to change.
  • Team Building: Understanding the other’s point of view, collaboration, mutual accountability, common purpose, ability to support the service/product integrally.
  • DevOps Leadership: Facilitating teams to high performance, humility, transparency, service lifecycle mindset, stakeholder management.
  • Continuous improvement: Today we do our work better than yesterday, Kaizen mindset, quality at the source, first time right, knowledge-sharing, ability to adapt.

State of DevOps Report – 2018

What were some of the key findings in the latest State of DevOps report, relating to People and Culture?

Culture has always been a key part of the DevOps, Agile, and Lean movements.

State of DevOps 2018

The report finds that technical and management practices shape culture and that culture, in turn, helps to improve performance outcomes. However, the report added …we caution organizations not to ignore the importance of their people and their culture in technology transformations.

Our (GamingWorks) Findings

Taken from more than 400 organizations who have participated in our Phoenix Project DevOps simulation still reveal a strong focus on the technology side of DevOps and reveal that organizations continue to struggle with the ‘Culture Thingy’ challenges.

…but how do we influence culture?

The report stressed the importance of influencing culture through leadership practices and learning the culture, finding that when leaders give their teams autonomy it leads to feelings of trust and voice. Adding that ‘Voice’ is how strongly someone feels about their ability and their team’s ability to speak up, especially during a conflict—for example when team members disagree, when there are system failures or risks, and when suggesting ideas to improve work. Trust and voice, in turn, positively affect organizational culture—which is a core skill defined in the DASA Competence Model as ‘Courage.’ Here is a recent article about ‘Courage & Leadership’.

Trust is The Glue

How can leaders most effectively help their teams gain autonomy in their work? One way was clear communication of outcomes and goals to the team which is ‘key’, and then a good leader trusts team members to execute according to their expertise—which takes ‘courage’!

Learnings

The report went on to stress another way to influence organizational culture is through learning, such as done through retrospectives, also called learning reviews, and the importance of making these activities ‘blameless’—once again a Leadership challenge and way of gaining Trust. But it is not just learning, ..teams that leverage findings from retrospectives to implement changes to tooling, processes, or procedures see the strongest impacts. Another core DASA Skill Area ‘Continuous Improvement’. Teams demonstrating this skill can help foster leadership trust for letting go.

The report references Ron Westrum, a sociologist who found that organizational culture was predictive of safety and performance outcomes, adding …things important to DevOps teams: cooperation, surfacing problems (training messengers to bring us bad news so we can find and fix errors). Breaking down silos (bridging encouraged), postmortems (failure leads to inquiry), and continually experimenting to drive improvement (novelty implemented), also reporting Google team findings most important factor in predicting a high performing team is psychological safety, or feeling safe taking risks around your team. Two other core DASA Skills are ‘DevOps Leadership’ to create a safety culture as a foundation for effective ‘team building’.

Having a strong climate for learning can be a strategic advantage for teams and organizations, but again leaders must ensure opportunities for learning and growth provided during work time if they want to gain ‘Trust’ and create high performing teams.

The above are findings from the 2018 report. I have added below some of the critical results from earlier reports for those just starting their DevOps journeys.

State of DevOps Report in 2015 Confirmed

…to sustain high-performance organizations they need to invest just as much in their people and processes as they do in their technology. State of DevOps finding 2016: IT Performance & Employee Engagement. Employee engagement is not just a feel-good metric—it drives business outcomes. Employee engagement in the report correlated with The extent to which the organization collects customer feedback and uses it to inform the design of products and features., The ability of teams to visualize and understand the flow of products or features through development, all the way to the customer., The extent to which employees identify with their organization’s values and goals, and the effort they’re willing to put in to make the organization successful.

As can be seen, an essential role for Leaders is building team engagement and team skills. The DASA DevOps Quickscan is a good way for leaders to assess their current skills and knowledge areas to identify learning gaps which the DASA Qualification Program can help fill, coupled with the Phoenix Project simulation to help translate theory into practice, explore and experiment with the core skills and engage employees in identifying improvements to take away and apply.

The State of DevOps 2016 Findings

People are an organization’s greatest asset, yet so often, we treat them as expendable resources. When leaders invest in their people and enable them to do their best work, employees identify more strongly with the organization and are willing to go the extra mile to help it be successful. In return, organizations get higher levels of performance and productivity… An important DASA skill area ‘Team Building’ and investing in appropriate skills and learning.

Improving quality is everyone’s job. High-performing organizations spend 22 percent less time on unplanned work and rework. As a result, they can spend 29 percent more time on new work, such as new features or code. A core DASA Skill area ‘Continuous Improvement’. The DevOps mantra of continuous improvement is both exciting and real, pushing companies to be their best, and leaving behind those who do not improve.

In past reports, we’ve found that organizational culture was one of the top predictors of IT and organizational performance. Pathological (power-oriented). These organizations characterized by low cooperation across groups and a culture of blame. Information is often withheld for personal gain, Bureaucratic (rule-oriented). Bureaucratic cultures are preoccupied with rules and positions, and responsibilities are compartmentalized by a department, with little concern for the overall mission of the organization, Generative (performance-oriented). The hallmarks of a generative organization are good information flow, high cooperation, and trust, bridging between teams, and conscious inquiry.

Our (GamingWorks) findings from the Phoenix Project workshop reveal that many teams come from a compartmentalized background with a strong focus on ‘Rule-based’ ITSM processes and perceived bureaucracy. The shift to the DevOps mindset and behaviors causes conflict and suspicion and perceived as the ‘Cowboys Wild, Wild West’ of getting rid of Service Management processes such as ITIL—mainly the CAB (Change Advisory Board). Strong ‘Leadership,’ end-to-end ‘team building’ and employee engagement, and ‘courage’ is needed to help with this mindset, behavior and culture shift that’s is not achieved overnight. ‘Continuous improvement’ is required experimentation, failing, learning and improving—without blame!

The State of DevOps finding 2017

Not sure of how important IT leadership is? Consider this: By 2020, half of the CIOs who have not transformed their teams capabilities will no longer lead their organizations Digital Leadership Teams. Transformational Leadership enables the necessary practices that correlate with high performance, and it also supports effective communication and collaboration between team members in pursuit of organizational goals. Such leadership provides the foundation for a culture in which continuous experimentation and learning is part of everybody’s daily work.

We wrote a series of three blogs on the DASA website titled DevOps demands a (re)new(ed) kind of Leadership.

My Final Thoughts

Since the beginning of the State of DevOps reporting on Culture and leadership have been named as critical success factors, and remain one of the most challenging aspects to tackle. Management teams seem poorly equipped regarding leadership skills required to foster the necessary culture change. Creating these high-performing teams requires breaking down traditional silo’s, departmental cultures and ways of working and developing new communication and collaboration skills within organizations.

How well are your managers equipped to enable these changes? How balanced are your team skills? Take a look at the DASA DevOps Quickscan, and the DASA certification program and the white paper Active Learning Delivering Business Value to see how experiential learning can help develop team skills and support a culture change in your organization.

Paul Wilkinson

Owner / Director, GamingWorks

Paul is the co-founder of GamingWorks, a simulation training company based in the Netherlands and a DASA Training Partner. He has been involved in the…