How to Dev*Oops* more?

We all tend to blame others when something goes wrong. Why does that happen? How to be aware of it and what are some of the steps to take in order to shift to a blameless culture?

In the previous article - Why DevOps might be the wrong term? I argued that the fear of failure, and the blame that inevitably follows along, were the actual reasons for the silos between the teams in the first place.

Why DevOps might be the wrong term?
We all know by now what DevOps is. Or at least we think we do. It cannot be said that is one thing in specific, but more of a union of different things, including people. And that is where it gets a bit complex... The whole idea of DevOps had

With this article, I want to dive deeper into the topic - DevOops instead of DevOps. Main focus will be the blaming culture that follows along.

Why it is there in the first place? What are the steps to shake those bad foundations and eventually destroy them?

  • We all blame others when something goes wrong. This is in fact how our brain works, and we are not aware of it.

  • Sharing where you were wrong, being open about it, and focusing on systems approach to blaming and problem-solving, will help us destroy the old foundations, and build a culture where people are not afraid to fail.

You are prone to blame

This study shows that you, and everyone else, are hard-wired to blame others or other circumstances when something goes wrong. We are never to blame.

Why is that? Well, one of the reasons may be the fundamental attribution bias. We think that everything people do is a reflection of who they are. We are not even considering other factors that can influence their behavior. At least in most cases.

We all feel at ease when it's not our fault. In that way we don't need to change, others need to change. With this, we add one, or more, bricks to the foundation of the walls of confusion.

Another brick in the foundation may be a biological one. The above-mentioned research shows that positive events are processed differently than negative ones. Positive stuff is processed by the prefrontal cortex, which takes a while and usually concludes that good things happen by accident. Negative events are processed by the amygdala, the one responsible for the fight-or-flight response. That leads our brain to think that bad things happen on purpose. We do this so fast, that we don't even notice that we made an assumption.[1]

That brings me back to the quote I heard some time ago - Never assume anything. When you assume, that makes ass from u and me.

How can you fix this?

Fixing something we are all biologically or psychologically prone to do is not that easy. However, there are some steps you can take to implement the blameless culture and tackle the foundations of the silos. No matter what you call it.

Share your mistakes

People at Google are really into a Blameless Postmortem Culture. The basics are - after each incident they encounter, providing it is serious enough, they write a postmortem - what happened, why, what were the consequences, and what can we learn from it.

All engineers contribute to writing postmortems, and drafts are reviewed by more senior members of the team. They even have a postmortem reading club, where they discuss various postmortems, and how to write good ones. And also the Postmortem of the month newsletter where they inform people about the interesting postmortem they had this month.

Creating postmortems takes engineers' time. The time that they can spend on engineering stuff rather than writing reports. That's why it's important to make postmortems part of the workflow. Have a criteria for triggering them - you don't want to write a postmortem for each incident you encounter, only the ones that are serious enough.[2]

(Proactively) Blame the system

Instead of focusing on finger-pointing and adding bricks and mortar to the walls of confusion, blame the system. See the failure, or incident, as a system, not human error, and work on improving the system. Work on improving the system is key, just blaming the system without any action behind it is not that good.

Improving human (behavior) by blaming them is not getting us anywhere. Instead of asking - Who's fault was this?, try asking - Where did the system break down and why?. This will lead all of us forward, wanting to improve the system.


Seeing the system(s) as faulty and wanting to improve it (them), be it within a team, company, or even at a larger scale, all the while not blaming others, not only destroys the walls of confusion between all of us but helps us build better foundations for the future.



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