Ranger4 DevOps Blog

DevOps and Coaching

Posted by Daniel Breston on Thu, Jan 28, 2016 @ 15:01 PM


In ‘The Phoenix Project’ by Kim, Behr and Spafford, they use a coach named Eric to guide the management team on how to perform better, faster, safer and customer driven business transformation based on technology. You have to be passionate to be a coach or mentor, as this is the most personal service a consultant or manager provides. Mentoring is a long-term, on and off relationship while coaching is short-term and offers direct guidance which both facilitates improvement and learning.

The Beginnings

Unfortunately, not many are brave enough to ask for or become a coach or mentor. So how do you start? I start when I want to change something: it could be an organization, processes or myself, but the need for support to change things is when people need help the most.

Change creates a climate of altering perceptions leading to a springboard to launch sustainable improvement in attitude, culture and behaviour. Not an easy thing to do which is why you need a guide. The guide helps determine the answers but does not give them. Instead, the guide provides challenging hints via a series of questions or experiments to allow the participant to learn and improve. A great guide tries to make themselves no longer needed and this quote from the movie Nanny McPhee demonstrates that perspective: There is something you should understand about the way I work. When you need me but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me but no longer need me, then I have to go. It's rather sad, really, but there it is.

Why is it that for a movie you can get loads of people together to work as a team within a very short period of time but in an organisation this is deemed to be difficult? A coach is like a director in that you are helping to create:

  • A common purpose
  • A common stake
  • A common way of working
  • A common responsibility
  • A common way of solving problems

Leadership guiding

If this sounds like I am saying that a coach helps the manager become a coach as their number one responsibility, well I am. If the leader can create visual controls to help his team spot quality, safety, lead-time, cost, performance, etc. issues in a way that is non-threatening and encourage them to address to issues, then the organisation can begin the alteration away from being bureaucratic and towards being innovative.

Coaching for development is different than managing by directive. Changing your style of management to coaching will alter the attitude of your team and customers towards you. Coaching or mentoring (guiding) is an iterative commitment to people to develop capability. Coaching performed well benefits both the guide and the learner. If you have a chance to engage with this sort of DevOps coach, I strongly suggest that you will benefit from the outcomes, as will the rest of your organisation.