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Thursday, November 6, 2014

The DevOps Culture Cocktail

(also posted on

As I have written in previous posts, I believe that IT has accumulated decades of cultural debt that is now due.  We are a young  industry that grew up in silo neighborhoods, each with it’s proprietary practices, language and population of like-skilled specialists.  Left unchecked, the resulting “framework culture” contributed to IT’s cultural debt and is partially the motivation behind DevOps.

The goal of DevOps is not to undervalue or replace the frameworks that are in place.  On it’s own, DevOps is not a framework – in fact,  successful DevOps relies on combined effect of best practices such as Agile, Lean and ITSM.   By recognizing and adapting the best of each, IT can formulate a potent recipe for enhancing performance and increasing customer satisfaction.

So let’s belly up to the bar and mix ourselves a DevOps Culture Cocktail by taking the best guidance from the top shelf of each of the frameworks and practices.  

Ingredient 1:  'Git R Done' Scrum
Scrum is the most prominent of the Agile frameworks and with good reason:  it focuses on getting work “done” in manageable increments while reducing work in progress. 

Pair it with a Kanban Board
While deceptively simple, Kanban is a powerful method for visualizing workflow, identifying constraints and keeping a team focused.

Ingredient 2: Automation
There is a lot of debate around the balance of automation use in DevOps, but there is no dispute that automation and metrics play a key role in successful DevOps. 

Ingredient 3: IT Service Management
ITSM is the deployment's "ever after".  Agile and repeatable service management processes lead the way to stable continuous delivery and increased flow.

 Ingredient 4: Lean
Let’s make it a skinny by creating more value for customers with fewer resources and less waste.

Ingredient 5: People
The most important ingredient.   DevOps relies on the way people think, behave, interact and trust their colleagues.   According to Lloyd Taylor,  "You can’t directly change culture. But you can change behavior, and behavior becomes culture.” 

Finally, add a splash of common vocabulary and a shot of the alcohol of your choice and you now have a DevOps Culture Cocktail!  Serve it daily, share it with your neighbors or sip it while reading a good book like The Phoenix Project.   It does get more potent with age.

I recently had the opportunity to present the DevOps Culture Cocktail Party at Fruition Partner’s FruDevCon Conference.  One of the attendees, a hobby mixologist,  formulated her vision for a signature DevOps Culture Cocktail during my presentation.  We asked the hotel bartender to mix it up, passed it around and a new cocktail was born. Here goes:

The DevOps Culture Cocktail
1 part pear vodka
1 part St. Germain
1 part Chardonnay
2 parts simple syrup or 7 up
Top with a spear of pineapple and a cherry.

Improvement recommendations are of course welcome.  Could this become a staple at all future DevOps events?