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Tuesday, August 4 • 14:00 - 15:15
The Secret of Our DevOps Success: Fostering Human Behavioral Change (Mark Nemecek)

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DevOps is all about continuous change and improvement. The only constant in a healthy DevOps culture is change. Conway’s Law teaches us that our systems will only change as our human communication methods change. That’s behavior. Ergo, if you cannot facilitate and provide for human behavior change, your DevOps culture will suffer as a result.
Problem: humans don’t like change. This is not a cynical statement. Humans evolved to be creatures of habit. Habit is safe. Routine is safe. The known is safe and the unknown is not. This one thing – the instinctive human desire to resist and rebel against change – is the single biggest blocker to a DevOps cultural transformation.
Our observations are that organizational rank is less relevant in this space. We can command that employees work, but we cannot arbitrarily command behavioral change. Introducing behavioral change via command without also aligning cultural perception tends to result in many points of subconscious rebellion that can ultimately defeat the original initiative without ever manifesting tangibly.
We have seen success here by selling ideas instead of instilling them forcibly. We have our partners, our teams and our change agents all arrive at a common truth via an interview and discovery approach instead of a command approach. In doing so, we align the culture on the idea and can then rely on cultural safeguards to see it through.
This is a powerful concept, but the path is fraught with pitfalls for the change agent, both external and internal. We’ve seen success and failure in this space, and the success/failure patterns may not be immediately obvious to newcomers. The ability to remove value judgments from change initiatives and willingness to prioritize the change atmosphere over one’s own ideas for change are among the critical characteristics we have seen in successful change agents. We will analyze these characteristics and others and discuss how to best stay on track for long-term transformational success even when short-term initiatives see rejection.
Attendees will come away feeling better empowered to attack the change needs in their respective organization.
Learning Outcomes:
  • Acknowledge that an organization’s ability to transform is directly dependent on the ability of its human resources to change behavior.
  • Acknowledge that telling people to work is very different from telling them to change; understand that change agency is difficult by nature, not because of any particular environment.
  • Learn that transformation that is worthwhile and successful is always born from a strong answer to the WHY argument, not the HOW argument. The HOW is transitive, but the WHY is your true north.
  • Learn to not attach personal value judgments to proposed changes; stop assigning “right” or “wrong” to initiatives when acting as a change agent, and thereby remove emotional attachment from the initiative; instead, one must make a judgment call on which change will provide the best cultural return on investment while keeping one’s eye on the long game.
  • Learn how to shift one’s approach to more successfully drive positive change in the face of resistance and adversity.


Mark Nemecek

Sr. Director, IT Infrastructure, CDK Global
20 year veteran of software development, including 12 years at Microsoft. Most recent 2 years spent in a DevOps-centric role in the hosting management org of CDK Global's IT division.

Tuesday August 4, 2015 14:00 - 15:15 EDT
National Harbor 12