Lead with DevOps

On Facebook group Back2ITSM, Daniel Breston asked a great question:

    DevOps has a lot of meanings and intentions. I am wondering if after a decade of having the term and another 20 years in some cases of building the practices that underpin the term DevOps if it is now time to use DevOps as a Lead with DevOps mentality. The values, the principles (yes we borrowed from ITIL Practitioner principles), TOC, Lean, etc. Can DevOps help individuals tasked to manage become better managers?

Christian Tijsmans replied, and it was so good that I reprint it here with his permission:

    DevOps does a good job of telling a compelling story that appeals to a lot of people. It describes management principles in a nice way and puts focus on systems thinking, flow, collaboration, cultural change and organizational design supported by extensive automation. I believe it is the storytelling around all that is DevOps along with practical advice that makes it a strong proposition. People love stories and easily remember concepts through storytelling.

    ITIL, COBIT, Lean IT etc. don't have their version of The Phoenix Project (TOC of course does in The Goal) which tends to make these approaches seem less tangible.

    DevOps however suffers from the same problem as earlier management approaches : people (often managers) hear a buzzword and jump on it because they believe it will solve all their problems, but they fail to truly understand the principles behind the approach resulting in corner cutting where they should not, and as a result not getting the expected benefits. Examples of this are doing only the tools & automation part (nice and shiny), creating cross-functional teams but not guiding the cultural change, not truly understanding what flow is and how to create and manage it,...

    DevOps is also not all encompassing (which approach is?) so it is not the answer to all management challenges. The more fundamental problem in my opinion is that organizations fail to make 'old' approaches work right and then jump on the next shiny thing which they also don't put the necessary effort in to make work as it is supposed to. If for example you 'do ITIL right', you can be doing DevOps. ITIL does not say that you need to create a development and an ops department and not have them work together as one. Change and release management is something you do across the organization, not only in OPS.

    Since no approach is all encompassing (although I personally believe Lean IT provides a holistic foundation of widely applicable principles, tools and methods), an organization needs to determine which of the available management approaches are useful in their environment and apply (adopt and adapt) what makes sense, while respecting the principles behind the chosen approaches and not cutting corners.

    DevOps does put a clear focus on the role of management in the success of the organization, however I wonder how many managers care to read the Phoenix Project, the DevOps handbook or go to a DevOps training so they understand their role and what DevOps actually is?

    A long answer to your question :-) In short: is DevOps THE thing that will enable managers to become better managers? No, it is not but it definitely inspire them if they care to take the time to understand it.

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