Welcome!

DevOps Journal Authors: Trevor Parsons, Carmen Gonzalez, Jackie Kahle, Roger Strukhoff, Dmitriy Stepanov

Related Topics: SDN Journal, SOA & WOA, .NET, Web 2.0, Big Data Journal, DevOps Journal

SDN Journal: Blog Feed Post

Creating High-Performance Teams: Get Rid of Judgment

Real teams are formed around a common purpose, not a common manager

The biggest difference between high-performance teams and more average teams is that the high-performance group actually acts like a team.

That statement is so obvious, I am going to let it stand on its own.

If you look at most groups, they tend to act less like teams and more like loose affiliations of individuals that are connected through a common manager. The manager is an orchestrator, maybe even a facilitator at times, but that doesn’t mean the group is really a team. Rather, they are individual contributors that are linked by a common task management protocol.

Too many people make the mistake of thinking that teams are natural byproducts of a reporting structure. We should be clear: a reporting structure is useful for defining lines of communication and determining who is responsible for the administrative tasks of people management (expense reports, PTO requests, reviews, and so on). But a reporting structure has nothing at all to do with forming a team. Think of reporting structure more as a necessary evil because of the HR systems that we use.

Real teams are formed around a common purpose, not a common manager. A group of people all committed to a single end goal is a team. Who they report to is irrelevant; it’s the objective or the mission that defines the team. This is why open source projects can be effective. Even when people report into entirely different corporate entities, they are capable of working together to deliver a common objective. That is teamwork.

But what separates the good teams from the bad teams?

The best teams work in concert to accomplish something. They work in concert. This is different from the way many “teams” operate (quotes used for emphasis). Think about how a typical team works. There is some team lead who works to break the objective down into a set of tasks. These tasks are then farmed out to the team members based on their skill set or interest or seniority or whatever. The hope is that by pushing the individual activities out, people can execute against their parts in parallel, effectively speeding up the project.

The subtle point here is that the first thing the leader does is break the objective down into parts so that the team can go off and act independently. This isn’t teamwork; this is a hub-and-spoke management model. In fact, for many teams, the only time they come together as an actual team is on weekly staff or project calls designed to solicit status from each of the isolated individuals.

How do you know this isn’t teamwork? How many of us has been on one of these status calls, bored to tears because 97% of the discussion is irrelevant to us? We hate listening to people give status because we don’t actually care that much about what they are doing. It doesn’t impact us, so we find the detail irrelevant at best and absolutely maddening at worse. When someone takes time to get into the details of what they are doing, we think they are either grandstanding or rat-holing. If you ever have felt these things, you know you are not part of a team.

Real teams work together. They are engaged not just in their tasks but also more broadly in the initiative as a whole. They talk. They brainstorm. They strategize. They celebrate each other’s success. They share in each other’s setbacks. The real measure of a team is how well they collaborate.

Collaboration hinges on the free exchange of ideas. And there is no greater killer of collaboration than judgment.

Whenever people work in a group setting, they are taking on risk. The challenge of teams is that your performance is public. It is difficult to hide when everything you do is out in the open. When you perform well, it is exhilarating because everyone sees it. But when you fall short, it is terrifying because everyone sees it. And if those failures carry with them too much judgment, the person will naturally pull back until they are an individual working alongside a team.

When you give critical feedback, it is important to be specific and honest. But it is equally important to withhold judgment. You want to comment on the performance without judging the individual. You want to talk about actions, but refrain from commenting on character. When someone falls short – even if it is more frequent than it ought to be – you want to talk about the performance and not the individual. Someone might not be prepared, but that does not necessarily indicate laziness or lack of dedication. An individual might offer up a poorly thought out idea, but that does not mean the person is inferior or incapable. Talk about the idea, not the person. By keeping the discussion about the performance, you can have a very candid conversation without assailing the individual.

This is important because when people feel attacked, they either fight back or fall back. In the case where they fight back, the ensuing discussion is emotional. Neither side will be able to land points. There is nothing productive about this kind of exchange. If the person falls back, you run the risk of them withdrawing over time to the point where they don’t offer up thoughts or effort at allt. If this happens, you revert from team to collection of individuals.

As a leader, people will key off of your response. How do you treat your team’s setbacks? Do you offer up feedback along with a healthy side serving of judgment? Or do you comment on the performance and leave the individual out of it?

The answer might not be as clear as you think. It is difficult to self-diagnose because we frequently carry judgment not in our words but in our tone or facial expressions. If you are thinking it, people will be reading it, regardless of whether the words ever actually come out of your mouth.

There are ways to see how you are doing. If you ask your team about the status of something that is late, do you get a 15-second response or a 2-minute response? If the person you are querying gives you a lengthy description of everything they have done over the past week, she is justifying the lateness. That justification is because she is afraid of being judged. If this is a typical response, you might not be fostering the kind of judgment-free environment that you think. If instead, she gives a short answer about the status (“I haven’t finished yet, but I expect to finish by tomorrow.”), you are creating a safe space to talk freely.

When people can talk openly without fear of being judged, they naturally become more generous in sharing their thoughts. This makes collaboration easier. And ultimately this transforms groups of individuals into teams.

[Today's fun fact: Owls are one of the only birds who can see the color blue. Yeah, I don't know what the other ones are either. Our PR firm only gave me half of the fact apparently.]

The post Creating high-performance teams: Get rid of judgment appeared first on Plexxi.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Michael Bushong

The best marketing efforts leverage deep technology understanding with a highly-approachable means of communicating. Plexxi's Vice President of Marketing Michael Bushong has acquired these skills having spent 12 years at Juniper Networks where he led product management, product strategy and product marketing organizations for Juniper's flagship operating system, Junos. Michael spent the last several years at Juniper leading their SDN efforts across both service provider and enterprise markets. Prior to Juniper, Michael spent time at database supplier Sybase, and ASIC design tool companies Synopsis and Magma Design Automation. Michael's undergraduate work at the University of California Berkeley in advanced fluid mechanics and heat transfer lend new meaning to the marketing phrase "This isn't rocket science."

@DevOpsSummit Stories
The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential. The DevOps Summit at Cloud Expo--to be held November 4-6 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in the heart of Silicon Valley--will expand the DevO...
We had three quick questions for Mike Kail, and he had three quick answers. Mike is SVP of Infrastructure at Yahoo!, and formerly VP of IT Operations at Netflix. He'll be speaking at @DevOpsSummit about his experiences in integrating DevOps on a big scale in big-scale projects. Here's what we asked and what he said: DevOps Journal: You mention “eventual consistency” as a goal. Is there a timeframe? Mike Kail: It is really a strategy for successful transformation instead of a strict ...
Having just joined a large technology company with 20 years of history, it would be suicidal to believe that I can immediately move the entire organization to the DevOps mindset and model. For those not familiar with the term, “Eventual Consistency” is a model used in distributed computing to ensure high availability. In this context, it’s a model for replicating best practices and automation across IT teams and business units. The logical place to start with automation is the on-boarding of a ...
The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential. The DevOps Summit at Cloud Expo--to be held November 4-6 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in the heart of Silicon Valley--will expand the DevO...
DevOps Summit at Cloud Expo Silicon Valley announced today a limited time free "Expo Plus" registration option. On site registration price of $1,95 will be set to 'free' for delegates who register during this offer perios. To take advantage of this opportunity, attendees can use the coupon code, and secure their registration to attend all keynotes, DevOps Summit sessions at Cloud Expo, expo floor, and SYS-CON.tv power panels. Registration page is located at the DevOps Summit site.
Software is eating the world. Companies that were not previously in the technology space now find themselves competing with Google and Amazon on speed of innovation. As the innovation cycle accelerates, companies must embrace rapid and constant change to both applications and their infrastructure, and find a way to deliver speed and agility of development without sacrificing reliability or efficiency of operations. In her keynote DevOps Summit, Victoria Livschitz, CEO of Qubell, will discuss ho...
DevOps Summit at Cloud Expo Silicon Valley announced today a limited time free "Expo Plus" registration option through September. On site registration price of $1,95 will be set to 'free' for delegates who register during special offer. To take advantage of this opportunity, attendees can use the coupon code, and secure their registration to attend all keynotes, DevOps Summit sessions at Cloud Expo, expo floor, and SYS-CON.tv power panels. Registration page is located at the DevOps Summit site. ...
Despite the fact that majority of developers firmly believe that “it worked on my laptop” is a poor excuse for production failures, most don’t truly understand why it is virtually impossible to make your development environment representative of production. When asked, the primary reason for the production/development difference everyone mentions is technology stack spec/configuration differences. While it’s true, thanks to the black magic of Cloud (capitalization intended) with a bit of wizard...
SYS-CON Events announced today that AppDynamics will exhibit at DevOps Summit Silicon Valley, which will take place November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Digital businesses like yours need a way to turn data into actual results. AppDynamics is ushering in the next digital age – the age of the software-defined business. AppDynamics’ mission is to deliver true application intelligence that helps your software-defined business run faster, leaner, and more ef...

BOULDER, Colo., Sept. 24, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- VictorOps, the leading collaboration and incident management platform for DevOps teams, is hosting a webinar that will discuss how to take full advantage of your project post-mortems with or without a template.

DevOps Journal: Cloud, Big Data, and the IoT all carry disruption within enterprise IT. The same goes with DevOps. Which of these is the major disruptor, in your opinion? Andi Mann: It may well be cloud, because it fundamentally enables all the rest. Cloud scale is why we are now considering Big Data; cloud connectivity is a key enabler of IoT; cloud agility has enabled DevOps to take hold. But in the end, the cloud is “just” a platform, while the results of DevOps speak for themselves--l...
These days, implementing automatic deployment for .NET web projects is easier than ever. Drastic improvements started in Visual Studio 2010 when basic deployment strategies and tools were incorporated into VS itself. Yet, documentation was quite poor at that time, so you had to scour the Internet to find good tutorials in blogs or conference videos. Things have been constantly improving since then; now, we have even more functionality available out-of-the-box and documentation provided in a way ...
Azul Systems Inc. (Azul), the award-winning leader in Java runtime solutions, today announced that its OpenJDK-based Zulu 8 offering is now freely available on Docker. Zulu 8 is a 100% open source, fully tested, compatibility verified, and trusted binary distribution of the OpenJDK 8 platform. Azul has also made Zulu versions compliant with earlier Java SE 7 and Java SE 6 standards available on Docker in the same format.
Founded in 1997, ActiveState is a global leader providing software application development and management solutions. The Company's products include: Stackato, a commercially supported Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) that harnesses open source technologies such as Cloud Foundry and Docker; dynamic language distributions ActivePerl, ActivePython and ActiveTcl; and developer tools such as the popular Komodo Edit and Komodo IDE. Headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, ActiveState is trusted by customers an...
DevOps Summit at Cloud Expo Silicon Valley announced today a limited time free "Expo Plus" registration option. On site registration price of $1,95 will be set to 'free' for delegates who register during this offer perios. To take advantage of this opportunity, attendees can use the coupon code, and secure their registration to attend all keynotes, DevOps Summit sessions at Cloud Expo, expo floor, and SYS-CON.tv power panels. Registration page is located at the DevOps Summit site.
Leading provider of Continuous Delivery and DevOps software XebiaLabs today announced enhanced integration between Puppet and XebiaLabs' XL Deploy, the deployment automation solution that supports DevOps and Continuous Delivery teams. XL Deploy in combination with Puppet means one seamless automation process to deploy your apps.
PagerDuty, the leader in operations performance management, announced the public release of its Advanced Analytics tools, which provide insights IT teams can use to improve team and system performance. Leveraging PagerDuty’s robust data on key operational metrics like incident frequency and time to respond and resolve, companies can now drive even faster incident resolution. The new capabilities further expand PagerDuty’s operations performance platform by giving managers the ability to analy...
In today's application economy, enterprise organizations realize that it's their applications that are the heart and soul of their business. If their application users have a bad experience, their revenue and reputation are at stake. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Anand Akela, Senior Director of Product Marketing for Application Performance Management at CA Technologies, will discuss how a user-centric Application Performance Management solution can help inspire your users with every appli...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Serena Software will exhibit at DevOps Summit Silicon Valley, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Serena Software supports DevOps and Continuous Delivery by providing application deployment automation and software release management solutions to replace slow and error-prone manual processes. 2,500 enterprises around the world trust Serena to help them develop and deploy better software.
Qubell, an innovator in application deployment and configuration management, empowers online companies to do what they have never been able to do before: put into consumers' hands innovative new features and services, almost as fast as they can conceive them, without sacrificing control, reliability or uptime. Qubell emerged from stealth in the summer of 2013 (see related press release) and announced that Kohl's completed its initial implementation (see press release). Founded by pioneers in ent...