Since its inception, the DevOps movement has been praised for revolutionizing the collaboration between development and operations technicians. The yearly State of DevOps Report presented by DORA and Puppet continues to demonstrate the widening statistical gap in performance between IT teams that have already incorporated DevOps and those who haven’t. Understandably then, DevOps is often appreciated for its digital transformation qualities only. But to achieve the benefits DevOps provides requires transformational leadership at implementation.
Before long, DevOps will undoubtedly become mainstream for IT. But, while teams may adopt the alignment of Development and Operations to improve automation and functionality, to actually achieve DevOps, organizations must embrace the full cultural shift. When the strategy fails, it’s not because of the tech, but rather the attempt to fit an IT team to the DevOps framework rather than optimizing the framework around the team. Think round pegs and square holes. Just as with Lean, Agile, and any other quality management strategy implementation, true DevOps begins from the top down.
The language of DevOps within a team is developed by the role that transformational leaders play. As this year’s State of DevOps Report demonstrates, successful DevOps implementation shines out in high IT performance, and there is a direct correlation between those supercharged statistics and the transformational leadership qualities that led the team to them. Transformational leadership—defined as “vision, inspirational communication, intellectual stimulation, supportive leadership, and personal recognition”—is about inspiring your team in the mindset of DevOps, not just the practicality.
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So, how do we execute transformational leadership? How do we rise to this standard of greatness that the words inspire? To get moving in the right direction, follow these steps:
1. Share the vision
Whether you’re a founder, C-level executive or team leader, communicating the business’s future narrative is key to motivating your team forward. From there, you can collaboratively execute plans to reach that proposed reality. Be persistent too—only if everyone knows the destination can you achieve the journey together.
2. Implement inspirational communication
Develop a progressive platform which advocates employee support and positive feedback. Be the role model for open communication by creating a work environment that promotes listening, learning, and analysis.
3. Foster intellectual stimulation
Empower your team by maximizing their capacity for decision-making within the development lifecycle. Facilitate organizational change by urging them to continually question, “How can we improve the situation?” Invite further questions and solutions which dig deeper into your work process and reinforces continuous improvement.
4. Positively influence the cultural change with supportive leadership
Offer guidance, motivation, and inspiration over negativity, egotism, and a lack of empathy. Appeal to your team’s values and sense of purpose to achieve the higher performance levels that DevOps can actualize. Avoid trying to solve issues and tasks quickly on behalf of your team members and instead, provide them with the time, tools, and guidance to resolve them by their own means.
5. Boost personal recognition.
Build a model of integrity and fairness. Be mindful of the individual personalities that glue your team together and appreciate each others’ differences. Encourage your team to look beyond self-interest. Set clear, achievable goals and acknowledge successes publicly—and privately—where appropriate.
Not only will these steps improve your overall workflow and discourage bottlenecks, but you credit your team’s abilities by continuously encouraging and supporting them. As well as being more valuable to the business, this leadership style also develops a more enjoyable process for you and your team to work within.
Great leadership can have a powerful impact on bottom-line results. Be aware though, transformational leadership is by no means the be-all and end-all solution because leaders cannot achieve DevOps outcomes on their own. As renowned CEO Jack Welch once said, “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”
For more information on putting the principles of DevOps into place with your team, check out my summary series on The Devops Handbook. Start here with The DevOps Handbook: Introduction Summary to Everything You Need to Know.
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