DevOps revolves a lot around what an organization and culture should look like. We talk about it on just about every episode of this podcast. Something we tend to skate around though is the how. How do you change the culture of an organization?
Matt got to sit down and have an incredible conversation with Bill Joy of the Joy Group about the how of influencing change. We didn’t talk about what changes companies needed to make, we talked about how to get companies to make the changes. Bill shared the often overlooked fact that change influence isn’t restricted to top levels of power in a company.
If I were to ask you right now, “What would make your company better?” I’m pretty sure your mind goes into overload with all of the things that you would change if you could. The thing that most people fail to realize is that they can make the changes, or at least influence them.
But it can’t stop there.
In mandating a change, you have to be very aware of how it will affect the company itself; the infrastructure, the culture, anticipate any resistance, who are the key stakeholders are, etc. If you don’t allow for these, your change could be very well unsuccessful and you lose a great deal of credibility as a leader.
Non Executives Can Influence Change Too
You might remember back when we had John Allspaw on our Etsy episode. (Give it a listen, if you missed it.) When asked “How do you implement developments in an organization when I’m not on the top; I’m coming from the bottom of the chain.” Allspaw answered: “I don’t know. I’ve always been in charge.”
What a great position to be in. However, not everyone is a high executive with the capability to mandate change. This doesn’t mean that you can’t influence change.
The question arises then: How do you influence change in your organization from the bottom?
Patrick Debois once said “We should stop calling it DevOps and call it common sense.”
Here’s the problem with that, not everyone is going to see it your way. Common sense is a relative term. If during any of your influencing meetings you find yourself thinking “This is crystal clear to me, why aren’t they seeing it?” that’s more about you than it is about them.
When you make the decision to mandate, or in this case, influence change, it is your responsibility to present your ideas so that people can see them clearly. If they aren’t seeing them clearly, there is a good chance that you aren’t communicating them effectively and didn’t take into consideration who your audience is.
Before you attempt to influence another person, you need to have a firm grasp on who you are. For example, if you’re heavily dominant, your natural approach isn’t going to be effective on someone who is compliant. You have to adjust your approach and presentation to your audience.
Once you understand yourself, know your triggers. As a dominant go-getter, someone who takes a while to process things or lacks energy may really test your nerves in a social situation. Realize this upfront, prepare for it.
From here, you learn to adapt. Adapting is essentially wrapping the package up. Maybe you thought at first that you would have to have a presentation based on making things less structured to allow for more success. But, you realized you’re in a room with the key influencer who is very compliant; he/she likes configuration and organization. You then have to be ready tweak your strategy to make the presentation more effective and geared towards them..
If your client (who happens to be your boss) shoots down your ideas and offers a counter plan, you have to be ready to channel some boldness and stand firm in your beliefs. Instead of arguing back and forth or worse, completely backing down because of his/her position above you in the company, you could say something like “I see what you’re saying, but if we do it your way, this is what is going to happen”, and then lay out how their plan is flawed.
The Compliant One: The compliant person will sign the documents, put their time in, “do their TPS Reports”, as Matt said in the podcast, punch the clock day in and day out. They’ll do it because they need a job, or are too lazy to leave. Whatever the reason, they’ll make the changes, but won’t really care much about it.
The Commitment One: The commitment person will simply, “Believe in the TPS Reports”. They’re dedicated to the idea of change and are committed to the success of the company.
As you have more commitment, the success of your company will be exponential.
As Bill said; “Find satisfaction in the pursuit of commitment.”
The best change influencers are those who don’t see people as something they ‘have to deal with’. They’re authentically interested in them, and enjoy the pursuit of the how of change more than the change itself.
Energetic, Strategic, Approachable. These words are often used to describe Bill Joy. For more than two decades, Bill has been a much sought-after consultant to organizations in a wide variety of industries - both big and small. Prior to establishing his consulting career, Bill held internal training positions at some of the nation’s biggest companies including Dow Chemical USA and United Insurance Company.
Matt Stratton is a Staff Developer Advocate at Pulumi and the global chair of the DevOpsDays set of conferences.
Matt has over 20 years of experience in IT operations and is a sought-after speaker internationally, presenting at Agile, DevOps, and cloud engineering focused events worldwide. Demonstrating his keen insight into the changing landscape of technology, he recently changed his license plate from
He lives in Chicago and has three awesome kids, whom he loves just a little bit more than he loves Diet Coke. Matt is the keeper of the Thought Leaderboard for the DevOps Party Games online game show and you can find him on Twitter at @mattstratton.