How well do DevOps and the German work culture get along?

 How well do DevOps and the German work culture get along? 02.09.2019 - In an article on the Heise Online portal, Justin Vaughan-Brown reflects on how well DevOps (a process improvement approach and artificial word from the terms development and IT) fits in with the culture in German companies. In general, it should be noted that DevOps is not always easily compatible with the working culture of Germans. Nevertheless, Justin Vaughan-Brown argues that the effort is worth it. Everywhere one hears meanwhile about the fact that DevOps spreads itself in German enterprises. In Germany, more than a quarter of the IT specialists already work in a DevOps team. This is the conclusion of the State of DevOps report by Puppet. How far DevOps is really applied in German companies, however, there are no studies on this yet. What is certain is that interest in DevOps is growing in Germany. In larger cities there are special Meetup groups almost everywhere. In Stuttgart this group has 1200 members, in Berlin even 2700. Apart from practical topics these groups also work on the question to what extent DevOps can be reconciled with the German one. Justin Vaughan-Brown emphasizes that in Germany the inclination to expertise, bureaucratism, strict hierarchies and perfectionism are still part of the working culture. If you look at the principles of DevOps, it is difficult to reconcile them. In the following we summarize the article for you.

Differences and challenges

The tendency towards expertise is already anchored in the German education system. Pupils are trained to specialise early on. Those who have once chosen a training path hardly pay attention to other areas of the professional world during the dual training period or during the academic years. Experts are trained everywhere and generalists are a rarity. This is not only due to tradition, but has also guaranteed a stable and successful German economy for decades. Now and again, however, the question arises whether the system might not be softened in some places. After all, agile work environments and Scrum have become standard in many companies. In these systems, however, many experts feel out of place. We are looking for people who can work across functions and disciplines. This is a complete paradigm shift. In contrast to Scrum, Kanban offers the possibility to continue working with specialists and not, as in Scrum, to assign all tasks to everyone. In Kanban, there is more division of labour, which often accommodates the specialists trained in Germany.
Bureaucracy and hierarchies - inhibition or blessing?

Bureaucracy is a word with a rather negative connotation. In an agile environment, more value is attached to the actual work than to the documentation of the work. This often contradicts the German work culture, in which the complete documentation of projects is regarded as particularly important. What is not written down has virtually not happened at all. It has to be said, however, that in traditional project management the documentation of decisions and project steps has always played a role, no matter if it is only for an evaluation at the end and for gaining experience. However, DevOps attaches much more importance to pragmatic work. Agile teams have neither a treasurer nor a secretary. Especially in particularly small teams and fast-moving projects, bureaucracy is often an obstacle. If you want to do without it, you have to change the way you work. With DevOps this is possible. Strict hierarchies are completely dissolved in the concept of DevOps. In a DevOps team everyone sits at one table. Equality is important for successful cooperation. For many German companies, it is difficult to soften or dismantle hierarchical structures because they are omnipresent in people's minds. Not only the leaders, but also the team members have to adapt. The initiative for change can now come from each individual. This results in undreamt-of opportunities, but also, of course, risks. DevOps requires visionary thinking and other leadership qualities.

Perfectionism in German companies

DevOps promotes the principle of Continuous Delivery. This means that results must be delivered not just once a year or once a quarter, but always. The fail-fast approach plays a role here, according to which errors are to be detected and corrected as quickly as possible, not every three or twelve months. Continuous Delivery also means that results are not only presented when they are perfect, but continuously. This contradicts many experts trained in Germany because they are reluctant to show semi-finished results. Justin Vaughan-Brown believes that it is safe to work on this. For him there is no way around DevOps. Although these points of friction between German corporate culture and DevOps are indisputable, he assumes that there are a thousand good reasons for introducing DevOps. Companies must therefore first recognize the benefits of agile systems for themselves and then work to reconcile both. Justin Vaughan-Brown proposes to meet the need for perfectionism by comprehensively monitoring applications. Reporting, which is always possible in DevOps, can also be used to cover the demand for continuous documentation as far as possible. Thus there is a documentation, which demands however clearly less writing expenditure. In questions of hierarchies and leadership, change must take place in people's minds. Agile management must be desired and promoted by management, otherwise it will not work.

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