The DevOps movement has long emphasized the importance of workplace culture, particularly focusing on the relationship between development teams and IT operations teams. The degree (and effectiveness) of collaboration between development and operations is a significant predictor of IT performance, which is one reason why enterprise transformation and culture is such a hot topic.
People have a lot to say about DevOps from a technology perspective and a transformation perspective. In the grand scheme of things, however, people rarely talk or write about the individual, team, and organizational results of a cultural change. Instead, it’s more common to focus on tools, speed to market, quality of delivery, and fast feedback loops.
Cultural transformation requires a mindset shift, but we rarely discuss what the culture of a transformed delivery organization actually looks like. Discussing culture is challenging. For one thing, it’s hard to articulate the intangibles of feelings and experiences. For another, it’s hard to talk about and expose what’s really happening behind the scenes, let alone measure culture and cultural shifts.
The goal of a DevOps transformation is to enable people to work in new ways that reward action, celebrate failures and accidents as learning opportunities, and promote shifts in all areas of work: individual, team, and organization. What can individuals, teams, and the enterprise as a whole expect during and after a transformation? It’s an important subject, so let’s do a deeper dive.
Enterprise Transformation and Culture: the Shift from Power to Rules to Performance
Let’s start with the basics. As it turns out, the biggest predictor of job satisfaction is how effectively organizations process information. Sociologist Ron Westrum developed a useful Three Cultures Model that shows the traits associated with three kinds of workplace cultures: Pathological (power oriented), Bureaucratic (rule-oriented), and Generative (performance oriented). A generative culture is the healthiest and highest performing.
What exactly is a transformed (generative, performance-oriented) culture? We like to define it as the dynamic shared qualities that are transmitted from person to person and lived to their fullest in every way. In such a culture, new ideas are welcomed and people from across the organization act in the pursuit of common goals.
So how can you tell if a culture is healthy or unhealthy? The collective attitudes and behaviors of individuals toward their workplace culture can shine a light on what’s working – and what’s not – in teams and organizations. While identifying and assessing attitudes and behaviors before, during, and after a transformation is no easy feat, onsite and exit interviews, surveys, and focus groups are a good start. (More on this topic in a later post …)
A Performance-Oriented Enterprise
A culture is transformed in an organization when new ways of working replace the old. In a transformed organization, each team member strengthens individual competencies, and teams behave and work in a way that fosters open communication, rapid feedback loops, transparency, and continuous learning. All the while, teams continually improve processes and create more tangible value that drives organizational performance.
Tenets of Culture in a Transformed Delivery Organization
An organization’s culture is transformed as it empowers people to begin a journey of evolutionary change. We prescribe for an enterprise transformation and culture to evolve it must boost an environment that is:
Individuals feel safe enough to share information and opinions, as well as to ask questions freely without being shut down or punished.
IT products and services are created and delivered by a self-organizing team that co-owns solutions from ideation to production.
Teams and team members are empowered to make real-time decisions related to product design, development, and delivery.
Quick individual and team response to identify, correct, and improve team behaviors or working conditions before they compound and become larger problems.
Where to Begin
Cultural shifts happen from the ground up. In other words, transformation starts with each individual, moves outward to teams, and then expands throughout the organization as a whole. Because organizational leaders play a key role in increasing or decreasing team members’ feelings of fear, insecurity, and distrust, cultural transformation also requires leadership buy-in. Leaders have to learn to work collaboratively, support shared accountability, put trust in their people, and empower teams.
The result? Customer obsession, rapid delivery, and personal and team growth.
Customer obsession means doing everything for the benefit of the customer and delivering what customers really want and need. At Liatrio, we live a transformed culture, as well as focus on enterprise transformation and culture when training teams to help enterprises evolve. We tie training to enterprise tools and pipelines, helping enterprises select and implement the right tools and the right integration of those tools. Our engineering team works directly with enterprise teams to strengthen internal processes and model collaboration, accountability, autonomy, and resilience. We then support the new team dynamic.
We’ve just scratched the surface here, and there's so much more to say on this subject. We'll be talking more about enterprise transformation and culture in upcoming posts.