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Innovation through DevOps: Trust is the key to success

This is another blog in the DevOps-series written by Koen van Sabben and Sifa van Zutphen. DevOps is a broad concept and cannot be explained in a couple of sentences. This series of Blogs, starting with “The DevOps journey: Why the human is crucial in the automation of software”, should enable anyone to understand the main principles and actions required to apply DevOps in his/her team or organization.

Every company, department or team cannot survive by focusing solely on their own tasks. These days companies are becoming customer oriented regardless of what you try to sell. An increase in lease-deals and subscriptions-based contracts are popping up. For example, you can lease cars for quite a while now, but it also becomes more popular to lease bikes or even washing machines. Besides, software is more and more offered as a service instead of one product that you’re going to use for a longer period of time. This makes customers more flexible as they could switch more easily from (software) supplier than beforehand. Business are forced to innovate in their product offerings as well in their way of working.

Many innovations fail. Over the past decade many researchers (*) have reported high failure rates for innovations. Though, as we all know, an innovation that on the contrary does become a success, is worth most of the failures made in the past. Just one innovation can change your business radically, whether we’re talking about new product development, improved communication methods or breakthrough upgrades in your software products and services. But what’s the key to success? How can we innovate to improve our business performance? What’s at the core of innovation?

DevOps: one way of innovation

Lately, DevOps is becoming a more crucial way of working, recognized by people in IT departments as well by business leaders. This way of working is innovative, even though that already established concepts from other disciplines (e.g. lean/Kanban from logistics and multifunctional teams from human performance management) play a crucial role in DevOps. DevOps triggers people internally to think in end-to-end processes, to measure actions and their impacts and challenges them to do different tasks. Externally, Through DevOps the company is able to increase speed-to-market and to mitigate costs and risks.

Built and maintain trust

Ideally in a ‘DevOps setting’ a team consists of about 5 to 9 people. However, these people all have different knowledge, different experiences and different behaviors. Multifunctional teams appear to have a positive contribution to the organization, but without the appropriate foundation the team won’t be able to strive or function all. Of course, we’re talking about trust, also known as the willingness, to rely on the actions and expertise of one another and vice versa. Trust is crucial to communicate freely (within the team) and to create social relationships with team members. Team members should have trusted relationships with each other, at least on professional level. If a team member doesn’t have a trusted relationship with every member from the team, then probably the team is too big. But I already hear you thinking: ‘What if there is no trust at all?’

Well, don’t worry for new formed teams it is not rare to lack trust within the team. Unless the distrust is caused by exceptional experiences in the past (e.g. fraud), trust can be built and maintained. Apparently, the most important strategy to build trust is to foster personal interactions. Do teambuilding activities, have lunch together, try a bootcamp or just have a drink with each other. Get to know your team members, their pacing styles (=how you distribute your tasks in a period of time, e.g. early-oriented, deadline oriented) and most importantly learn from each other.

Create a ‘failure culture’

A ‘failure culture’ sounds perhaps a bit strange or completely the opposite from what we want to achieve, success, but without failures no successes guaranteed. You fail ones, fail twice, get back up again and fail again. During this cycle of getting up and failing it’s highly important to learn from the failures; to incorporate feedback loops. Failure should not necessarily be punished, as failure can be crucial to obtain success. Again, trust is crucial. You should trust that your team members are doing everything they can to make the project a success and they should trust you on that as well. Then, if you fail, there’s no reason to point fingers and to punish. It’s the responsibility of the entire team. So, if there’s trust and a failure culture, the team members will feel free to experiment to certain level while aiming to deliver success at all times.

Trust is the key to Business success

Trust in your organization also embeds safety. You can (hopefully) rely on the judgements and actions of your peers and vice versa. This would create an environment where people are allowed to think out-of-the box, they don’t forget the main goal and sharing (positive) feedback is encouraged. To become innovative, you’ll have to create trust first. You’ll fail over and over again, but with DevOps at least you’ll mitigate the risks as much as possible. You’ll implement small changes instead of large ones within a multifunctional team where everybody can support each other. Just remember that whether you want to change your way of working or you want to do other innovations, without trust you won’t stand a change.

Would you like to discover more about DevOps, or would you like to prepare for DevOps in your company?

Earlier, the blogs “The DevOps journey: Why the human is crucial in the automation of software”, “DevOps is also applicable for hybrid landscapes”, “Three steps that can change the mindset of Business and IT teams”, were post.

*) Source: Heidenreich, S., & Spieth, P. (2013). Why innovations fail—The case of passive and active innovation resistance. International Journal of Innovation Management17(05), 1350021.

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