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Getting a group of people to perform as a team is not always easy

DevOps Is a Team Sport
By Necco Ceresani

I recently attended DevOpsDays Boston, where I had the pleasure of listening to a presentation by Katie Rose, a professional women’s football player. Her presentation on how her team works together to achieve their goals brought up the idea that DevOps is most definitely a team sport. While many of us were happy to leave our team sport activities at the middle or high school level, the lessons we learned from working together are becoming increasingly significant in today’s tech world.

Are You a DevOps Group or a DevOps Team?
Getting a group of people to perform as a team is not always easy. Just because a group of people may work and collaborate together under the direction of the one leader, that does not automatically define that collection of individuals as a team. To evolve your group of all-stars into a DevOps team you must all have a common identity, exhibit structured patterns of interaction and communication, and most importantly consider yourselves to be a ‘team’.

In Karlene Sugarman’s article, Understanding the Importance of Teamwork she gives us 10 questions to consider when looking at your team:

  1. Does your team have agreed-upon goals they created as a team?
  2. Do the players openly encourage and support one another?
  3. Do they have open communication with one another, as well as the coaching staff?
  4. Does each player know what their role on the team is?
  5. Is there mutual respect among the players and coaching staff?
  6. Do players use statements such as “we” when referring to the team, or is it more of an “every man for himself” mentality?
  7. Have they created a positive team image for themselves?
  8. Are the individual contributions of each player recognised (regardless of whether he/she is a starter or not a starter)?
  9. Is the team as a whole committed to improving performance?
  10. Does each member consider themselves as a “team player?”

By applying these questions to your DevOps teams, you can begin to understand the team structure and create a more cohesive perception of its goals and objectives.

front-end and back-end

Front-End and Back-End Dev friends watching the rest argue. – DevOps Reactions

What makes a team successful?
Many DevOps thought leaders talk about culture as being the deciding factor for whether DevOps is a success in an enterprise or not – a culture of teamwork. While there are many factors that contribute to team cohesion, the foundation of teamwork is built on trust and respect within the team itself. Once trust and respect is gained, the team can start focusing on the overall mission. Building this foundation can be easy, but not necessarily simple. Author Gregg Gregory gives us four simple ways to build trust in his article Why All-Star Teams Fail:

– Say what you mean and mean what you say
– Always speak and act with integrity
– Be consistent between word and deed
– Stay out of the gossip and rumor mills

Building a culture of trust and respect creates the foundation for your teams, but chemistry is what binds them together. Numerous factors go in to building team chemistry, which include, but are not limited to friendships, shared experiences, overcoming obstacles and sharing both professional and personal lives. Team chemistry can be threatened by several factors like poor team language (I or me centered language) or a lack of mutual accountability (team members not holding each other accountable).

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”

Andrew Carnegie

Setting clear expectations
If a team is to adopt common goals and objectives, the expectations of the team must be crystal-clear. A DevOps team is going to include people from different backgrounds and experience, so expectations need to be set on a role by role basis. Encouraging team members to define what they expect from each other creates ownership and builds chemistry. These team expectations should also be governed by the group and not solely by the coach (remember accountability). Having clear and agreed-upon guidelines and expectations set by the team is going to be key in achieving your goals, and moving forward as a DevOps Team

The final thing every team member and leader should remember is that feedback is a two-way conversation and should be received without defense or excuse.


Discussion: Do you have experience building and managing successful teams in the DevOps space? Leave your DevOps Team Tips in the comment section below.

XebiaLabs develops enterprise-scale Continuous Delivery and DevOps software, providing companies with the visibility, automation and control to deliver software faster and with less risk. Learn how…

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