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Forget the DevOps mindset, and change habits and behaviors instead

DevOps is not a state of mind, but rather a series of behaviors and practices. Expert Rob Lambert explains how a focus on habits can be a DevOps game-changer.

People talk about the DevOps mindset. They say it's a way of thinking, as if DevOps is only achievable if you use the power of your mind. And if people don't think in a certain way, then DevOps will remain elusive.

That may be partly true, but I'm not very good at reading people's minds. Most people aren't.

Habits over DevOps mindset

The reality is there is no DevOps mindset. DevOps is a series of behaviors and habits that people have. You don't need everybody in your organization to all think in the same way for DevOps to succeed. What you do need is to understand what behaviors lead to success. It's easier to explain and understand behaviors than it is to explain what a DevOps mindset is.

If you follow the right DevOps behaviors and habits, a culture will form. Culture is nothing more than group habit. It's what people do every day. If you want a culture of DevOps, you'll need to change what people do.

So I take a much simpler and easier to understand approach to DevOps. I focus on behaviors.

To start with, if you want to adopt a DevOps culture, it's probably not helpful to tell people DevOps is a mindset. It's more helpful to explain to your team what behaviors will lead to DevOps success.

Behaviors start with self-discovery

You don't need everybody in your organization to all think in the same way for DevOps to succeed.

These behaviors and habits will be different for different environments. Each organization will have different people, goals, technology and financial constraints. It's hard to say what behaviors you need people to exhibit, but a study of how they work will reveal the answer. It helps to ask a few questions to understand what behaviors will lead to DevOps success:

  • Where are your problems with delivery, service and reliability?
  • What are your customers complaining about?
  • What problems is your team encountering?
  • What stops your team from delivering great service?
  • Where are the delays in your delivery?

If you really compile and study how your organization answers, you'll uncover the behavioral changes you need to make. For instance, "We need to start measuring delays between hand-offs," is much more effective than saying, "Hey, we need to change our mindset."

As a manager and leader, I'm not too fussed if people have the right "mindset" or not; it's not easy for me to ascertain this information. But I am interested in whether people exhibit the behaviors that lead to success. I can observe behaviors. I can give people feedback about behaviors. In my opinion, there is no DevOps mindset. But there is a set of behaviors that build the right culture. Once I discovered the behaviors that led my team toward its purpose, I saw almighty gains as people understood what success looks like.

This was last published in May 2018

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