“Don’t wait for a company to promote the culture you believe in”
DevOps is on everyone’s lips these days but how many companies have successfully implemented it and what are the elements that constitute a healthy DevOps culture? We invited Eduards Sizovs, leader of the Latvian Software Craftsmanship Community and JAX DevOps 2016 speaker, to weigh in on the importance of a healthy DevOps culture.
JAXenter: How is the collaboration between Devs and Ops organized in your company?
Eduards Sizovs: In my company, developers take responsibilities over operations, so there is no “Ops” team, as there is no “Testing” team. You build it – you run it.
JAXenter: What is the typical team structure of your IT department?
Eduards Sizovs: We work in small, cross-functional teams of three, where everyone is geo-distributed and remote. The level of experience varies, but there is something we all have in common – everyone cares about customers, the product, and code.
JAXenter: To what degree can these teams work autonomously?
Eduards Sizovs: I believe that small teams must work on small products and we organize our work (and architecture) accordingly. Most technical decisions are taken internally, product priorities are determined based on customer impact (which is usually derived from analyzing customer behavior / conversion). We have a Kanban board in Trello with “What’s next” list. The list is (roughly) prioritized and contains very brief, informal explanation of challenges that either we or our customers face. Once “In Progress” column is empty, the top item is picked, discussed, built and shipped.
Notice that before picking a new task, we make sure there is no work in progress. It takes some time to explain Little’s Law to the team, but once everyone grasps it – team dynamics (and delivery) improve significantly.
Also, “What’s next” list is very short – 3 to 5 items. We keep just enough items to keep the team busy and do not make any plans – we just concentrate on what matters now.
JAXenter: DevOps also deals a lot with company culture. For sure, this is not an easy topic. But would you say that there is something like a coherent culture in your company – or even multiple cultures?
Eduards Sizovs: Even in a small company, the culture matters. Every big company starts small, so getting like-minded people matters from day 1. It’s much easier to nurture culture slowly, step-by-step, rather than trying to change it when it’s too late.
Like most creative workers, we are driven by intrinsic motivators, described by Daniel H. Pink – autonomy, mastery, purpose. That’s what makes us tick and we do a great job protecting the environment that gives us freedom of decision making, professional growth and opportunity to work on products that matter.
Even in a small company, the culture matters.
There is also one nice thing that unites us – all team members have very low bullshit tolerance. If something is wrong / broken / annoying – we just fix it. No one suffers or complaints.
JAXenter: Somehow DevOps is more about things like the spirit of collaboration, an experimental culture, business agility, employees satisfaction. What can a company do to foster those aspects?
Eduards Sizovs: The word “company” sounds very abstract to me. Companies do not foster something, people do. Don’t wait for a company, management, colleagues to promote the culture you believe in. Start with yourself – collaborate, experiment, pursue agility, do what you love. Great behavior is addictive.
Great behavior is addictive.
Complete the following sentences:
In my experience, Devs and Ops work best together if …they truly work together.
The biggest obstacle for DevOps is …lack of leadership and courage.
What promotes employee satisfaction the most is …seeing great results of their work.
The biggest advantage of autonomously-working teams is …higher throughput, reduced time to market.
It is important for a positive company culture to …be nurtured with love, passion, and care.
Check out our ‘Demystifying DevOps’ series: