Let’s take a small break from all those new and shiny practices, processes and approaches, and let’s focus for a minute on the business side of things. Or rather, let’s take a closer look on the business culture point of view. I would like to make sort of a philosophical monologue on what DevOps means for those persons involved in operations change.
Executives in a company aim to keep stability as an objective. But the idea behind all business effort is to generate profit in a steady and regular way, slowly evolving and growing. This means that there are two big balls to juggle: evolution and reliability. As most things tech-related tend to evolve very quickly, change management must deal with a reasonable pace for variation.
On an earlier post, i showed a handy diagram describing DevOps as the meeting point of Development, Quality Assurance and Operations. However, in terms of management resistance, the “sticking point” will be generated between the Development and Operations related individuals – and it’s not by chance that those two departments are the ones that give name to the DevOps movement.
This friction is born from opposite mindsets: developers are the evolution force on the software side of things, and infrastructure work towards making the system as reliable as it can be. Without the proper handling their objectives can be perceived as harmful for each other. That is when the silo mentality comes into play and information stops flowing freely. Enmity between departments can be perceived as childish behavior, lack of training or team inefficiency. That is when management must take a step forward, recognizing this risk and creating solutions that build up teamwork and ingrain to the related actors that we are all aboard the same ship: it’s not their toy or the others’, but rather the whole company’s.
What can you do when silos block a healthy work flow?
Start by listening to the challenges each “side” puts to the table. In most cases there will be a legitimate reason for a change, or to avoid one. The way to solve each issue is to find a compromise on all involved parties. Where is the origin of this complaint? Is it a matter of capacity, of lack of knowledge, or is fear taking shape? Understanding the origin of all that noise can show you the way to break down these artificial walls.
Another point to take into consideration is personal conflict: act as a middleman to dissolve hostilities. Most workers can take rejection to their ideas as a personal attack to their craft, or consider that objections take root in their persona rather than on the changes they are pushing or holding back. This might be the trickiest obstacle to save, and unless checked, it can quickly turn into a toxic work environment, destroying your change initiatives.
Finally, as a manager, don’t assume you know all the answers. Maybe the latest version of a technology is not adequate for you. Perhaps this development refactoring does not increase value on your product or service. Make sure to rely on the opinion of the experts that you hired, as the expertise they bring to the table is what drives your business’ success.