Friday, April 19, 2019

The Human in Devops

What was significant this week ?

This week a mild epiphany came to me right after a somewhat heated and tense meeting with a team of developers plus project owner of a web project. They were angry and they were not afraid to show it. They were somewhat miffed about the fact that the head wrote them an email pretty much forcing them to participate to make our DevOps initiative a success. All kinds of expletive words were running through my head in relation to describing this team of flabby, tired looking individuals in front of me, which belied the cool demeanour and composure that I was trying so hard to maintain.

It happened. In the spur of the moment I too got engulfed in a sea of negativity and for a few minutes lost site of what is the most important component or pillar in a successful DevOps initiative. The people. 

"What a bunch of mule heads !" I thought. It's as plain as day, once this initiative is a success everybody can go home earlier and everything will be more predictable and we can do much much more than we could before. "Why are you fighting this ?!" I was ready to throw my hands up in defeat when it finally dawned on me.

"Codes that power DevOps projects don't write themselves. People write those code" 
"Without people powering our initiative now, we are just a few guys with a bunch of code and tools that are irrelevant"

Boom! These thoughts hit me like lightning and in that moment I felt and equal measure of wisdom brought by this realisation as well as disgust at my stupidity of forgetting one of the main tenants and requirements to make the dream of a successful DevOps project a success.

It was then I realised 2 very important mistakes I had made so far:


  1. I was reaching out horizontally to push our agenda across. Developers loved what we proposed and that was pretty much it. It's cool and it's cutting edge. It stopped there. "Hey thanks for sharing that cool tool ! I will try it in my project when I get the chance!" is pretty much the maximum you can expect to get from such an exchange. For you to gain any traction, you have got to sell your proposed solution or improvement to the stakeholders or the decision makers. Efforts that usually require people to do the right thing or go out of their way to do some unplanned kindness or rightness usually results in zilch. 
  2. I did not try to see the tool that I was proposing from the eyes of the beholders. It was too much of a leap. Much like how Abraham it's impossible for you to frog leap from sadness to happiness, so it was how the developers felt. They knew it was good for them, they can see it was good for them, they felt it could have the potential to improve their lives but alas they did not internalise it. The proverbial light bulb did not turn on inside of them, more correctly said, I did not do enough to turn that light on. I could see some people opening up, but when this realisation hit me, I just ended the meeting. I have not done enough of understanding where these people that I hoped to implement DevOps were. I had to do that first. 

Do I miss coding ? Do I miss hunkering down and prototyping my way to showcase a tool or to get something to work ? Of course! Who wouldn't but main thing I keep on going back to is ... what is the main goal and expectation of the people who hired me to lead their DevOps push ? Is it to wire together some tools and configure something so they can use it ? At small enough scale probably that is enough of value, but when you want the horses you lead to the puddle to drink you need to give them a reason and just because you are drinking, you can't expect them to follow suit. 

I am going to reach out more, I am going to understand more and I am going to engage more. All the people pieces needs to be in place before the pieces start falling automatically. Stay tuned if this is interesting ... 


No comments: