DevOps Coaching: Understanding Its Facets and Assessing Its Impact
As little as one may know about what it means to be a DevOps Coach, there’s one thing that virtually everyone agrees upon. DevOps Coaches help organizations and teams to a higher “performance level” by working more efficiently and effectively.
In many organizations, the Scrum Masters are the DevOps Coaches, but not everywhere is Scrum used as an Agile framework. There are many hybrid situations in practice. It’s not a surprise the following questions pop-up in many discussions and meetings on how to develop high-performing teams: What exactly does the DevOps (Agile) Coach do? What makes a good DevOps Coach?
In this article, I’ll try to briefly answer them. To do so, I’ll share two ways to help to assess DevOps Coaches’ impact and explain that they function under 5 different important modes: Training, Coaching, Mentoring, Facilitation & Consulting.
It is crucial for DevOps Coaches to know when, why, and how to apply the correct mode.
That, on its own, however, is not enough. There are a number of personal characteristics that are desirable in DevOps Coaches. They all are very much linked to innate skills but can be developed throughout time. At the risk of oversimplification, it can be said that any influential DevOp Coach has the capacity to:
- Ask complex, meaningful questions
- Reinforce behavior
- Increase insight
How Do Coaches Assess Their Value-Added Impact?
We now know DevOps Coaches play a far more complex role than the title itself can suggest. It goes beyond coaching. Does this make it harder to know whether a DevOps Coach is good at what he does? Perhaps, but thankfully there are a few tools that can be used to help us assess his or her value.
Net Promoter Score
The simplest way to demonstrate added value is to simply ask those who are being coached for a rating, a grade. This can be done, for example, by using the Net Promoter Score (NPS). “On a scale from 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend this Coach?”. All coached persons need to be asked multiple times. Not everyone is a fan of a Coach, especially if that Coach has just provided critical feedback to the respondent. The person who rates 9 or 10 is considered a promoter. A score of 7 to 8 is neutral and a 6 or lower is given by critics.
It should be noted, however, that the request to demonstrate added value usually does not come from the people being coached, but from others within the organization. Those who want to know the benefits vis-à-vis the costs. It can also be done by those who see their own position in danger because DevOps Coaches learn that teams operate autonomously, and are being taken to a higher level of self-organization.
While good coaching is key to developing high performing teams, ultimately it’s the team members’ efforts and coachability that define their success.
We can measure the values of team performance by means of a Maturity Assessment, an important coach tool where we assess people and their cooperation as well as the efficient and effective execution of the process. We can prove more frequent delivery and added value for the customer and the organization itself. The most important indicators from Evidence-Based Management (EBM) focus on Key-Value Areas (KVAs).
(EBM) Evidence-Based Management – Key-Value Area’s (T2M, CV, A2I en UV)
In a Maturity Assessment we use the following important indicators (KPIs) per KVA:
- T2M – the release frequency is a good indicator of the speed of the team
- CV – customer satisfaction is a good indicator of the quality of the delivered result
- A2I – the time it takes to create new solutions or to recover from failures indicates team resilience
- UV – the independence of the team and the extent to which they continuously improve indicates the autonomy of the team and their potential
There are plenty of variables that impact team performance, but that is harder to assess due to how indirectly they affect results. Examples include team happiness, mindset, culture & behavior, team goals, velocity, story points, etc.
Can we attribute great KPI scores to the coach? Partly, yes. Particularly when associated with NPS.
How Do You Become a DevOps Coach?
One good starting point is to ask yourself whether you have the necessary practical experience and personal characteristics. In order to master facilitation and training, you will have to give many pieces of training and workshops yourself. Learning earns by doing and honing your skills is the way! When things do not go as planned, you will have to improvise.
From the consultant and mentor perspective, you need to ensure that you are at the forefront of knowledge. That means a lot of reading. Books, blogs, whitepapers, LinkedIn articles, etc. If you do your part and publish interesting insights, even better!
If this appeals to you, then you definitely should consider training followed by the possibility of certification such as DASA DevOps Coach. That is the cherry on top of the DevOps Coach cake. The DASA DevOps coach program was the first formal DevOps Coach certification program and has a global following. This program is designed in a way that you also learn a lot from and with your fellow students.
Additionally, it is great if you have the opportunity to join a global network of (DASA) DevOps Coaches. This is important as this is a new role and exchange of experiences, workshops, insights is critical to stay ahead. If you have any questions about this role, feel free to either contact me or DASA and we’ll make sure to get you the information you seek about this pivotal role.
This article is a re-work of articles I previously published on Medium, which can be found here.