Destroying DevOps Culture Anti-Patterns

I have had the opportunity to present this topic any many conferences this year and feel it is a critical topic for teams trying to make progress in their DevOps journey. Please feel free to continue the discussion with me on twitter @tomcudd.



Problems we continue to face

    • The tyranny of the immediate
    • Important, competing, contradictory priorities
    • Disparate, parallel business and technology processes
    • “What are you working on?”
    • “Are you busy right now?”
    • Open office plan is synonymous for “constant interruption”


Tools are not DevOps, and teams are not DevOps. This is more to it than that. DevOps fits into many other modes of operation, but how? Why should I care about having a good culture and implementing DevOps ideologies instead of just doing what I’m doing or something like ITIL? And wait, what about all these other things like Agile and Lean and whatever? What is so special about DevOps?

Maybe it helps to know what most people think DevOps actually is? I know there’s about a million definitions, but I’m going to hone in on one that seems to concur with what the folks like Gene Kim, Jez Humble, Martin Fowler all seem to align with. That it is about the tools combined with the culture. And culture is more than just going to an art show, a street fair, a concert. Culture is about participation.


The study was specifically to research safety in the medical field, but it ended up correlating orgnasational performance to communication/information flow.

“From case studies and some systematic research it appears that information culture is indeed associated with error reporting and with performance, including safety.”

How organisations responded to problems and challenges, those with the greater information flow within the system were the highest performing (more likely to achieve stated goals).

The right information is presented to the right person at the right time (by any means necessary).

Google team study

Project Aristotle analyzed something like 119 teams to dig into the measures of performance, with almost no pattern to the makeup of teams. Every time they came up with an idea to test, they found two high performing teams that did the exact opposite. So what did they figure out?

Successful teams had equitable distribution of communications or “conversational turn taking” and high “average social sensitivity” (people can figure out how others feel). Psychological safety made teams work.

Lean Enterprise

MISSION COMMAND encourages a high trust organizational culture which improves team culture, job satisfaction, and organizational performance. Orders describe INTENT and PURPOSE and let subordinates make the best decisions. A high trust culture requires a focus on continuous improvement (Kaizen). In a high trust org, you must believe people have positive intent. Intrinsic motivators get better performance in “heuristic” work, like software engineering. PEOPLE are the advantage

NUMMI was the joint Toyota-GM venture to bring Toyota Production Systems processes, procedures, trainings, and capabilities to the Americas in 1984. Toyota figured out it was the culture, not the tools. In continuous improvement, solution emerge naturally, hence other places couldn’t just adopt “Kanban” or “andon cords”. Employees don’t just exist to provide labor, but to actively participate to create value. There is NO TALENT SHORTAGE.

Intrinsic work motivates AUTONOMY, MASTERY, PURPOSE. Success is not in the form of the organization, but rather how the people act and react.


Continuous Delivery impacts culture. Employee loyalty means better performing org. Better practices improve culture (Lean, continuous delivery). High software delivery performance correlates to job satisfaction and organizational performance.

Invest in capabilities. Automate things people are bad at (rote), focus on things people are good at, like thinking through complex problems

Managers are COACHES, not COMMANDERS. Autonomy – allow teams to choose tools (as they know what’s best for the work they know). Standardize on infra and architecture. Architecture should focus on engineers and outcomes, not tools and tech. Respect, focus on learning, communicate purpose and develop employees. Invest in capabilities of experimentation and learning. ALLOW YOUR BEST PEOPLE TO MAKE DECISIONS USING their skills, experience, and judgement.


Even with the best tools, DevOps is just another buzzword if you don’t have the right culture.”

The Anti-Patterns

Click here to see the summary.

All of the notes of things I talked about are basically in my blog posts.


I really like using Pixabay for free images. So here’s the ones I use. It’s just users that upload the images and they don’t really get anything from doing it except they probably use other images themselves.

Karate Martial Arts Computer · Free photo on Pixabay
Art Painting Flowers · Free photo on Pixabay
Virus Microscope Infection · Free image on Pixabay
Solar Panels Installation Workers · Free photo on Pixabay
Renewable Energy Environment · Free photo on Pixabay
Paragraph Maze Passers By European · Free image on Pixabay
Stamp Secret Important · Free photo on Pixabay
Supreme Court Building Usa · Free photo on Pixabay
Capitol Washington Dc Government · Free photo on Pixabay
Bruce Lee Hong Kong · Free photo on Pixabay
Electrical Cable Mess Energy · Free photo on Pixabay
Road Sign Town Training · Free photo on Pixabay
Moscow Tolstoy Writer · Free photo on Pixabay
Kata Karate Martial Arts · Free vector graphic on Pixabay
Football Youth Sports Coach · Free photo on Pixabay
Coach Coaching Football · Free photo on Pixabay
Holding Hands Handshake Helping · Free photo on Pixabay
Clipboard Paper Clip · Free photo on Pixabay
Feedback Survey Questionnaire · Free image on Pixabay
Team Building Success · Free photo on Pixabay
Road Highway Travel · Free photo on Pixabay
Silo Tower Industry · Free photo on Pixabay
Forest Trees Woods · Free photo on Pixabay
Good Bad Opposite · Free photo on Pixabay
Good Bad Opposite · Free photo on Pixabay
Checklist Clipboard Questionnaire · Free image on Pixabay
Robot Arm Technology · Free photo on Pixabay
Lost Places Hall Industry · Free photo on Pixabay
Dvi Vga – Free photo on Pixabay
Googleplex image on Wikimedia Commons

Conferences presented at:

  • Music City Tech 2018
  • Nebraska.Code 2018
  • KCDC 2018
  • Scenic City Summit 2018
  • DevOpsDaysKC 2018
  • Lean Agile KC 2019