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It's simple: Reward the DevOps culture change you want to see

Developing change catalysts is an essential part of any transformation. Making change not only mandatory but attractive is the only way to create a DevOps culture.

The only constant in life is change. So, why are we afraid of it? Too often, our companies and departments flee from change or have it forced on us. And that is inherently bad, because it forces us to react rather than be the harbingers of change. Whether it's adopting a DevOps culture change, moving to the cloud or implementing cloud-native applications via microservices, we know we must change as organizations.

But an organization is simply a group of people, and people hate change. Whether it's due to fear, uncertainty, doubt, inherency or accretion, the reasons to avoid change are numerous. As leaders, we must find ways to incentivize change, to make it be the new default option. To do so, you must reward the change you want to see.

The only way to see a long-lasting DevOps culture change in an organization is to make change appealing. And change we must. The question is not how to change, but how to convince your team they want to change. And the answer is simple: Reward those who engage and drive change. Those who fight change or sit on the sidelines will ultimately see the results and choose appropriately.

For example, one of our customers at Datical Inc. wanted to bring DevOps to their database. However, company leadership continued to run into challenges with feet dragging, outright refusal and the like. DevOps was very different than how this company manually deployed database change. For some, it seemed like more work than before. Others viewed it as an existential threat. Others were simply not convinced the organization would see the project through to completion. "So, why even bother?" was an often-heard comment.

Switching the conversation from 'Why should I change?' to 'Why aren't you changing?' is powerful.

To create an internal change catalyst, the VP of the group selected a few individuals who had embraced DevOps for the database and, therefore, improved their teams' metrics and recognized them publicly. One outstanding database administrator (DBA) was promoted in a rather public and noisy manner. That individual is now leading a companywide DevOps rollout for the database solution. Pretty soon, others began to adopt the change and were also recognized publicly. As more and more DBAs adopted the new DevOps process, the remaining laggards had to explain why they were not as productive as their counterparts.

Switching the conversation from "Why should I change?" to "Why aren't you changing?" is powerful. The burden of proof needs to switch to the negative, to the folks who will not change. This is like our views on social media. In the beginning, some viewed posting your personal details online strange, odd and maybe even dangerous. Now, those who do not have a Facebook account are viewed as strange and maybe even dangerous. The conversation has switched to proving why you are not on social media.

DevOps and infrastructure share
symbiotic relationship

This e-handbook examines the ways in which adopting DevOps impacts infrastructure. Because of automation and the fast-paced nature of DevOps, legacy infrastructure likely won't be able to handle the demands of continuous delivery. Updating your hardware may be a necessary step to successful DevOps adoption.

That can be accomplished with change inside your company and department. You simply invert the responsibility model to successfully fight against inertia and resistance to change. Every avalanche starts with but a handful of snow. What makes it grow is its ability to add to itself. For you to do the same, you simply must reward the DevOps culture change you want to see.

This was last published in August 2017

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What can organizations do to build change catalysts?