Five people sit working around a circular table.

Practical routes to healthy culture

Steve Fenton

The recent release of the Accelerate State of DevOps Report has once again highlighted the value of organizational culture. If you create a generative culture with high trust and low blame, you'll receive a 30% boost to your organization's performance.

Successfully updating the culture of a whole organization depends on its leader's passion, support, and attention span. At the ground level, when you pay attention to cultural signals, you'll find ways to make continuous small improvements.

The outcomes for high-performance organizations

The research team describes high-performance organizations as those with:

  • More customers
  • Higher profits
  • A larger relative share of the market

Imagine you're part of a team responsible for delivering software. The DORA Core model's well-established set of technical practices will help you improve your software delivery performance.

You can add documentation to increase the impact of technical practices. And user focus will help you connect software delivery performance to organizational outcomes.

Cultural change for technical contributors

A common source of cultural problems is the relationship between business and technical teams. If a technical team has a problem with stability, it's common for the business to impose heavyweight processes and change approvals to try to reduce change failure rates.

We now understand that the result of these good intentions is it makes things worse. To increase software delivery performance, you need to simplify change approvals and strive to deploy smaller batches of changes more often.

The technical team can start the trust-building process by improving the reliability of their deployment pipeline. Test automation will help you discover problems sooner. Deployment automation will ensure you can repeatably and reliably push new software versions.

Improving the observability of the software will help you spot production problems. In some cases, you'll be able to find and fix issues before they become service-impacting.

These technical practices improve user satisfaction and the technical team's reputation. This starts the trust-building process and encourages the business team to reduce the process burden.

Cultural change for technical managers

Technical managers can make a significant impact on team culture. You can support the technical practices needed to improve deployment pipelines and present a trustworthy team to the business.

While the team improves their throughput and stability, as measured by DORA metrics, you can build relationships with the business people whose agreement you need to remove heavyweight process.

You can also look for some common cultural traps teams fall into.

The team should be automating toil work to free their time for more valuable tasks. But, some teams instead depend on some team members to perform these tasks. Women and under-represented groups receive a 29% higher allocation of these tasks, which increases their chances of experiencing burnout.

Documentation quality has a considerable positive benefit in converting technical practices into great business outcomes. You can increase documentation quality by ensuring all team members contribute to changes.

Team members may experience a different code review or pull request service level. While some developers' work gets reviewed quickly, others may wait hours or days. Increased code review speed is good for team well-being but also improves team and organizational performance.

You should monitor work distribution for signs of bias. Even distribution of work, automation of toil, and equitable treatment of code reviews will improve team culture.

Culture has widespread benefits

Rather than well-being representing a cost to business, healthy cultures benefit the organization. With reduced burnout, individuals can do better work, which increases job satisfaction and boosts the organization's performance by 30%.

Business leaders should publish their target culture and consistently reward healthy behaviors. Software teams can use technical capabilities to drive cultural change, and their leaders can monitor for signs of work distribution issues.

You can use Westrum's typology of culture to review your progress regularly.

Happy deployments!

Tagged with: DevOps