#125: State of DevOps 2021 - What it says about Culture

The State of DevOps report provides excellent insight through rigorous analysis of its wide reaching survey.

The research provides evidence-based guidance to help focus on the capabilities that drive performance.

One of those is Culture.

Why you might be interesting in this episode:

  • The impact on Covid-19 on home working
  • How culture affects the abilities for teams to weather change (such as the Covid 19)
  • Description of 3 types of culture - Power-orientated, Rule-orientated, Outcome-orientated
  • Which produces better outcomes in our software development and reduced the change of burnout

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Published: Wed, 16 Mar 2022 17:26:52 GMT



Hello, and welcome back to the Better ROI from Software Development podcast.

Over the last few episodes, I've been looking at the State of DevOps report and what it says about practises that help you achieve better results.

In episode 120, I summarised the state of DevOps Report 2021. In episode 121, I talked about what it said about Cloud Computing. In 122, what it said about Documentation. In 123, what it said about DevOps Technical Practises. And in the last episode, 124, what it said about Security.

This time, I want to take a look at what the report said about Culture.

So why might this episode be of interest to you?

Well, maybe you're interested on the impact of COVID-19 on home working?

Maybe you're interested how Culture affects the abilities for teams to weather change, such as COVID-19?

Maybe you're interested in understanding the types of Culture that the report considered (power orientated, rule orientated and outcome oriented), and which one produces better outcomes in our software development and reduces the chance of burnout.

But first, a bit of a recap.

If you've not listened to the last few episodes, I'll give you a quick recap of DevOps and the State of DevOps report.

For DevOps, I like the Microsoft definition:

"A compound of development (Dev) and operations (Ops), DevOps is the union of people, process, and technology to continually provide value to customers."

It's a marriage of traditionally opposing forces - innovation and change coming out of the development team - stability and limiting change coming out of the operations team. DevOps is the focus on the business outcomes that needs a mix of the two.

The State of DevOps report is now in its seventh year of reporting on over 32,000 professionals worldwide. Produced by the DORA Team - DevOps Research and Assessment - it's the longest running, academically rigorous research investigation of its kind. For me, it provides clear evidence of the benefits of DevOps and its practises. But many of these practises are universal. So even if you're not officially doing DevOps, I still think they can provide benefit to you and your organisation.

The report, unsurprisingly, took a look at the impact of COVID-19. They found that 89 percent of respondents were working from home. In the prior report, pre-pandemic, only 20 percent had ever worked from home. The pandemic forced a significant change to how we develop software, run businesses and work together. This put unexpected challenges onto teams and individuals, with burnout being a significant risk.

Due to this, the report looked at what facts help to reduce burnout.

The report found that the factor that had the largest effect on whether or not our team struggled with burnout as a result of working remotely was Culture.

The report said:

"Teams with a generative team culture, composed of people who felt included and like they belonged on their team, were half as likely to experience burnout during the pandemic. This finding reinforces the importance of prioritizing team and culture. Teams that do better are equipped to weather more challenging periods that put pressure on both the team as well as on individuals."

The report references Generative culture - so where does Generative culture come from? What is it?

Well, it comes from the Westrum Organisational Culture Topology. The Western Organisation Culture Topology is based on work done by Dr Ron Westrum. DORA have written a specific article, and I provide a link in the show notes. From that article:.

"Westrum's research included human factors in system safety, particularly in the context of accidents in technological domains such as aviation and healthcare.

In his work with these high risk, highly complex fields, Westrum noted that such a culture influences the way information flows through an organization. Westrum provides three characteristics of good information:

* It provides answers to the questions that the receiver needs answered
* It is timely
* It is presented in such a way that the receiver can use it effectively"

His work defined three organisational cultures:

  • Pathological
  • Bureaucratic.
  • And generative.

Pathological is power orientated. In that sort of environment, uou would recognise terms like:

  • Low cooperation
  • Messengers "shot"
  • Responsibilities shirked
  • Bridging (breaking down of silos) discouraged
  • Failure leads to scapegoating
  • Novelty crushed

Whereas Bureaucratic is rule orientated. You might recognise terms like:.

  • Modest cooperation
  • Messengers neglected
  • Narrow responsibilities
  • Bridging tolerated
  • Failure leads to justice
  • Novelty leads to problems

And then you have the Generative culture, which is performance orientated. In this, you would recognise terms like:.

  • High cooperation
  • Messengers trained
  • Risks are shared
  • Bridging encouraged
  • Failure leads to inquiry
  • Novelty implemented

I'll provide a link in the show notes to the article from DORA. It's definitely worth a read just to have a feel for what these types of cultures are and where your organisation feels in them. I can certainly recognise a number of different companies.

The report found that having that Generative culture had not only a positive effect on those teams having to work remotely, they found that a person's sense of belonging and inclusion within an organisation was a predictor for high software delivery and operational performance. They found that Elite performers who met their reliability targets are 2.9 Times more likely to have a generative culture, then their lowing performing counterparts.

In this episode, I've given you a brief recap of DevOps and the State of DevOps report. I've talked about the massive shift to home working brought on by COVID-19, the change from 20 to 89 percent of respondents working from home due to it. I've talked about the definition of the Generative culture from a Western organisational culture topology, where:

  • A Generative culture is one that is outcome oriented
  • A Pathological culture is one which is power orientated.
  • And a bureaucratic culture is one which is rule orientated.

And I talked about the report's correlation between the Generative culture and:.

  • The halving of the chance of burnout during COVID 19.
  • It helping to predict higher software delivery and operational performance.
  • And that 2.9 Times more likely that Elite performers meet their reliability targets.

In the next episode, I want to finish off looking at the State of DevOps report, and I want to look at the final subject, what the report says about Site Reliability Engineering. Site Reliability Engineering is a set of practise that have emerged from Google that helps them to meet the scale that they need to work at.

Thank you for taking the time to listen to this episode and look forward to speaking to you again next week.