Agile+DevOps Culture in a Virtual World
Transform, Change, Accelerate, Improve, Modernize, Go Faster, Get Better, Make It Cheaper. For most of us, our key goals are focused on one or more of these things whether we are commercial or government, for-profit or non-profit. We’ve worked hard to assess our current state, establish a vision for our new future desired state, and have embarked on our Agile and DevOps journey. High on our list is moving to a culture that embodies values, beliefs, and principles, such as lean, collaborative, cross-functional, empowerment, autonomy, accountability, teamwork, diversity, continuous learning, customer-focused, results-driven, and value delivered.
Transforming and maintaining culture is hard enough when team members are somewhat co-located and in physical spaces—even harder when the majority are working from home. Perhaps the one benefit of everyone working remotely is that it levels the field for everyone. We no longer have some team members in the office or others working remotely. At this point in time, other than time zone differences, most everyone is working remotely.
So how do we continue to maintain and grow our Agile+DevOps culture in a virtual world? The first question to ask is what cultural attributes may be more at risk when working remotely? The answer will be different for each of us, but some of the cultural aspects that may be more at risk are collaboration, communication, teamwork, continuous learning, fun, work-life balance, or even our focus on delivering a continuous flow of value to our customers.
Here’s one approach with some examples to help us continue to transform and maintain a culture in a virtual world:
- Intentionally assess your Agile+DevOps cultural transformation progress. Understand what cultural attributes are being embraced, and identify those that are lagging. For example, ask a cross-section of teams specifically about communication, collaboration, work-life balance, and other attributes in the context of working remotely.
- Identify any key cultural attributes that need attention and work with your teams to prioritize them, particularly those cultural attributes, norms, and behaviors that may have regressed in the midst of these unprecedented pandemic times. I suggest prioritizing these against key business outcomes such as the impact on delivering customer value, cycle time, competitive posture, and so forth.
- For the high-priority cultural attributes that need some attention, define and experiment with specific and practical ways to improve these cultural attributes. For example, if happiness and fun at work is an area of improvement, look for ways to build some fun into work, such as having movie-themed retrospectives or virtual happy hours. If work-life balance is an area of opportunity, revisit or establish specific team agreements around when team members are and are not expected to be available.
- Finally, whether formally or informally, keep the pulse on which Agile+DevOps cultural attributes are working well and which are not in this work-from-home world. Solicit ongoing feedback through conversations or more structured surveys, and be transparent about the results and the improvement actions that are in place to address them.
Remember that Agile+DevOps is not something we do. It’s what we aim to be and become—a journey toward a culture of delivering greater value more efficiently to our clients and stakeholders whether working physically or virtually together.