When you consider what makes someone good at practicing DevOps, you probably think about technology talent, automation know-how, and functional skills. But human skills – like empathy, time management, and communication – are getting the spotlight recently. These are often thought of as “soft” skills, but they are no less valuable than “hard” skills, especially now that more finesse is required to engage with coworkers in remote working environments.
DevOps.com recently published an ebook, DevOps: Mastering the Human Element, that covers team building and avoiding job burnout. Although this ebook had been planned before the pandemic hit, it is especially relevant now with the new challenges faced in managing decentralized teams. The eBook offers expert advice on building a sustainable DevOps work environment and developing the right culture, based on insights from the DevOps Institute’s 2020 Upskilling: Enterprise DevOps Skills Report.
The topic of “humanizing DevOps” was covered in-depth during a recent DevOps.com panel webinar. HCL Software DevOps product manager, Steve Boone, joined the discussion to offer his insight into the unique challenges presented by the sudden pivot to remote work.
“Part of the challenge is many managers and team members think they know what everybody’s working on, but they’re not actually sure, so you get a lot of, ‘I thought this was somebody else’s responsibility,’” said Boone. “All of a sudden, you start to see how, as a group, we have to communicate better and have to have better visibility into work so we can share those responsibilities so we don’t end up pointing fingers or assuming things are getting done. We have to make the work visible so we can understand who’s doing what when and where.”
Even though “making work visible” is meant to help individual contributors and avoid the blame game, some developers worry that this level of transparency could act more as a hall monitor than a helper. But Boone says that’s not the goal at all, and that value stream management is more about spotting good performance than bad.
“Value stream management is an opportunity to look where things are going right. It’s about listening instead of criticizing,” said Boone. “If you can find teams that are working well, you can identify, elevate, and reward them, then start to build best practices around them that you can share with teams that need support.”
Above all, Boone stressed the need for empathy and human connection in managing teams.
“We could all use more empathy for one another – a little love goes a long way. You might hear small kids in the background – that’s the ‘new norm’ and you have to understand people’s situations,” said Boone. “More importantly than that, it’s understanding how the rest of the organization works. It takes a village of documentation, marketing, sales, support, and more to get software out the door. Helping people expand their knowledge of how the overall business works and how each team contributes keeps things in perspective.”
To download the DevOps.com ebook and watch the recorded panel webinar, head here.