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This post is from the XebiaLabs blog and has not been updated since the original publish date.

Last Updated Oct 09, 2017 — DevOps Expert

5 Tips for Leading a DevOps Transformation in Your Organization


Change is hard.

It’s hard personally when we’re trying to build new habits to make us healthier, like eating better, working out, and getting enough sleep. It’s especially hard for organizations trying to do much the same thing: adopt new ways of working to produce better results.

5 Tips for Leading a DevOps Transformation in Your OrganizationIf you’re a believer in DevOps and have tried to help others see the light, you may have run into some…challenges, like:
  • Lack of awareness or understanding of DevOps patterns and practices
  • Opposition from thinking rooted in “the old way” of working, and
  • Inability to relate to the perspectives of individuals in different roles and at different levels within the organization
Change is possible. It might be slow and bumpy, but it will be beautiful when it happens. It just takes time, persistence, and the right approach. Here’s how you can lead change within your organization and be more successful in your efforts to bring others in different roles and at different levels into the DevOps movement.

1. Understand their priorities

We have to start by meeting people where they are rather than forcing them to come to us. That’s what leading is all about. We need to take the time to understand the different perspectives of the people we’re engaging and find out what they care about. The more we can connect what we’re trying to accomplish to what they care about, the more successful we’ll be. For example, an executive cares about accomplishing business goals and meeting the organizational mission. How can we demonstrate that DevOps helps accomplish those goals?

2. Appreciate the issues they face

Different people in different roles encounter different issues in their pursuit of what they care about and their goals. Discover what those issues are and try to relate to the challenges those issues present for people trying to do their jobs. For example, a middle manager might be faced with budget cuts, while still being asked to do more with less. How can we show them that DevOps helps address those issues?

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3. Identify the target mindset

DevOps patterns and practices represent a new way of working, and that requires a new way of thinking. Conventional wisdom doesn’t always apply. In fact, in many situations, applying conventional wisdom is exactly the wrong thing to do. Remember the famous quote from Adrian Cockcroft, the former chief architect at Netflix, who said, “Do painful things more frequently so you can make it less painful.” Unconventional, to say the least, but exactly correct. How can you shift people’s mindset from wanting to control change to embracing change? Or managing through a “command and control” approach to empowering teams?

4. Develop your plan

Every organization is different and therefore every plan should be different. There is no “one size fits all” approach to leading change. What works for one organization in one context may be a total flop somewhere else. That’s why we have to take the time to understand our organization and the people in it, their goals and priorities, the issues they face, and how they think. Only then can we assemble the right set of tactics that will produce the kind of change we want. Do we need to start promoting collaboration and sharing? Do we need to map the value stream? Do we need to make work visible? Maybe. It depends on what you’ve discovered in your efforts to learn what makes everyone tick.

5. Execute your tactics

Once you’ve developed your plan, now it’s time to execute it. Start small and build on the successes over time. Don’t try tackling too much at once. Remember the lean principle of limiting work in progress? It applies to leading change, too. Other DevOps concepts that also apply here are frequent releases, fast feedback, and continuous improvement. Experiment with different tactics to see what works and what doesn’t, incorporate what you learn into your plan, and always keep trying to get better. Finally, realize your DevOps journey is never “done” – you’re always working toward “better.” For change agents, that should be an exciting thought. If you want more information about how to lead change more effectively, check out the Leading Change whitepaper. It’s a great resource to help you relate better to others within your organization and create a plan to help your organization adopt DevOps patterns and practices. Good luck in your journey!

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