Culture shows in the operating system that forms between folks who work and live within groups over time. It is also a reflection of the group's history and evolution (how the group 'knows to' deal with growth, with conflict, abundance, scarcity, defeats and victories, etc). Cultural presence is as undeniable as . . . the collection of tropes and protocols that govern group interactions and activities.
I've done multiple start-ups and I find the bonds -- and cruft -- of culture are already at work in the muscle memory of the company by employee 5. By the time you hit 100 folks, you can see it emergent in how individual departments behave.
And what you do is a whole lot more important than anything said. When I've joined big companies (like the recent acquisition of StreamStep by BMC), I do spend a good amount of time just being the shy kid at the party while I figure out what the practiced rules and practices are, as opposed to the posted ones (you can call it my business culture OODA loop ;).
It's not unlike the fictional exchange in the Tom Cruise flick "A Few Good Men" where the guy is questioning a cadet and he asks him to turn to the page in the Marine Code Manual that explains where the canteen is.
And the cadet says, it isn't in there.
And the guy goes, well, you eat, don't you?
And the cadet replies, yes, sir, three times a day!
. . . But not according to the manual, obviously, because it isn't in the manual.
There is a quote by Arie de Geus (retired VP from Royal Dutch Shell, a company that has pivoted over the last 200 years from the business of importing seashells to . . . ocean-going supertankers and networks of consumer gas stations). I think it's a great quote. I retweet it in partial form (not every pithy maxim is under 140 characters in length) every so often from @BMC_DevOps. I'd say it's profound because you can reparse it and gain something each time.
Anyways, here's the quote. I don't expect everyone to agree with me about it but I believe it contains an essential, incontrovertible truth.
Companies die because their managers focus on the economic activity of producing goods and services and they forget that their organization's true nature is that of a community of humans.
So the next question Mark was asked was, Is DevOps good for config management? and he walked it straight over to the cultural dynamic.
edit add: i removed several sentences about decreasing lifespan of F500 companies and a link to a awesome blog post by Alastair Croll. I didn't like their fit in the first place and so I've pulled them!
Mark Burgess: I think it’s a great thing.
It’s a great thing for exactly that reason, which is that the relationships that we have with our tools and our technologies should not take precedence over the relationships we have with the real business of what we’re trying to do in whatever kind of organization. Whether it’s public or private services that were into, our primary goal is to run some kind of an organization with goals and purposes that are much more important than fiddling around with technology...
[...] I think what DevOps says, is, look, guys, get away from just slaying dragons on your command line and dealing with low-level, mind-numbing slavery to the machine and focus instead on talking to the guys in your department, the people creating the business value, if you like, in your organization and make sure that your servicing their needs and you have a relationship with them, so that they treat you well and you treat them well.
And it’s that human connection in a sense being revived by DevOps.
And there are lots of people talking about this but I know some of the key speakers, Damon Edwards, John Willis, Patrick Debois and all these people -- I think it’s Damon Edwards said, you can’t change culture but you can influence behavior and behavior becomes culture and that is, that human aspect again of the business.
And I think that’s important thing to get out of the dealing with low-level technologies part of the story and I’m thinking of how IT is a strategic part of the value chain in businesses.