It can be challenging to create a culture within any organization. Building a DevOps culture is no different.

IEEE recently conducted a review and found the following ten critical challenges to adopting DevOps culture: (1)

Figure: List of identified critical challenges through systematic literature review

Not every organization will experience the same challenges in the same order of criticality. Yet, most will find themselves facing some of these challenges as they attempt to change their program’s culture, and many of the challenges will stem from a long-standing makeup of the existing:

  • Definition of the objectives — how do the management by objectives (MBOs) instruct the team to perform as they march toward the big picture?
  • Routine of the daily activities — how do the project plans, team meetings, status reports, and other parts of the program guide each person daily?
  • Mindset of the team — how do the platform, processes, and tools define how tasks and actions are performed – are things done a certain way because that’s how it works best, or is it a matter of that’s how it’s always been done?

Not every culture can lead to a successful program. According to Gartner, as many as three-quarters of DevOps initiatives will fail to meet expectations due to issues around organizational learning and change.(2)  However, when organizations get DevOps right, Forrester Research analysts have found that the program can reduce time-to-market, increase enterprise agility, and make businesses more resilient. (3)

Establishing a DevOps culture is worth the investment. Below are a few steps to ensure the team’s mindset aligns with the desired outcome.

  1. Validate strong leadership, transparent management, and a straightforward approach exist.

This is an opportunity here to do more than just lead—leading by example can go a long way to establishing the culture the organization desires. Sharing previous models of success—and creating new ones with the team—will help to demonstrate the desired actions and can help to establish a mindset that everyone can relate to and embody.

  1. Promote collaboration and communication while embracing accountability.

Trust is paramount—not just between the leadership team and the team members but also amongst the team members. Building trust and confidence in and across the team requires creating an environment that welcomes open feedback, constructive criticism, and a path forward for each team member to hold themselves and each other accountable.

  1.  Invest in developing skills, sharing knowledge, and establishing operational best practices.

Teams constantly growing, learning, and sharing with each other will also find it in themselves to improve the program. By investing in the team in this way, they will, in turn, invest in the creation of a robust and positive culture.

  1. Look for signs of anti-culture.

Sure, you may come across a team member that doesn’t like to play by the rules. That’s not what this is about. Instead, DevOps leaders can look across their organization and their program to find signs that highlight areas for improvement:

  • Does a complicated infrastructure delay how a team brings a release from design to deployment?
  • Does legacy infrastructure create unnecessary steps in the engineering process? Does this frustrate the team, introduce human error, or add time to the schedule?
  • Is there churn in the quality process that suggests poor requirements management or that metrics are being missed?
  • Does the team seem to be in a never-ending cycle of finding and fixing security issues that sometimes even resurface after they’ve been “fixed?”

These and other attributes can be discovered when the program is examined. Upon examination, the team may find weaknesses not only in the areas explored but also in the 3 points made above: leadership, collaboration, and knowledge.

Leading by example with transparency, instilling trust in the team, and investing in training, education, and collaboration can all lead to a better DevOps culture.

What does your DevOps culture look like? Look to some of the challenges you are experiencing, and you might find the answer.

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1 – Critical Challenges to Adopt DevOps Culture in Software Organizations: A Systematic Review, IEEE, February 2022

2 – Scale agile and DevOps for digital transformation using process, people and culture to deliver platform ops, Gartner, June 2020

3 – DevOps 2030: People, Practices, And Platforms, Forrester, June 2022