Managing a Team in Moments of Crisis by Using the DevOps Culture

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Managing a Team in Moments of Crisis by Using the DevOps Culture
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Table of Contents
  • Introducing Junior Godoi and Scurri
  • When should you train your team for a quick recovery?
  • How to manage the work during a crisis
    • 1. Engage everyone
    • 2. Define roles
    • 3. Communicate
  • What is DevOps as a culture, and why is it important?
  • How to recruit people with the DevOps culture
    • 1. Don’t prioritize technical qualifications
    • 2. Hire teachable candidates
    • 3. Hire problem solvers
  • How to set and maintain the right culture in your team
    • 1. Create a mental safe space for your team
    • 2. Keep things fun
    • 3. Get everyone talking
    • 4. Don’t be afraid to try new things
    • 5. Rely on feedback from your team
  • How to manage Python developers when you’re not one of them
  • Final thoughts on using the DevOps culture to manage a team in moments of crisis

If you’ve ever experienced dreaded downtime, you certainly don’t want to find yourself in that situation again. If you haven’t, we’re pretty sure you’re not looking forward to experiencing it.

However, such crises may be inevitable, and when they do occur, you may need your team to work around their schedule to fix things while pacifying clients whose businesses may be affected by the downtime.

As a tech leader, getting your team to resolve the issue quickly will require lots of communication and collaboration in a tense atmosphere. This may prove to be a struggle if you don’t have established systems and patterns for collaborating and communicating within your team and handling crises.

If you’re wondering what to do to help your team manage crises more effectively, you’re in luck. We recently hung out with Junior Godoi, Software Engineering Manager at Scurri, on our Tech Leaders Hub series.

Junior shared feasible and practical steps for effectively communicating and collaborating with your team to ensure quick recovery during a crisis by implementing the DevOps culture.

If you’d like to be better prepared to handle the next crisis you encounter in your team or organization, keep reading to learn how you can do this.

Introducing Junior Godoi and Scurri

Junior has over 15 years of experience across graphic design, project management, and frontend development. His background is in user interface and user experience, and he has worked for several companies across Brazil and Ireland. Junior is passionate about fostering communication and ownership culture in teams, and empowering people to innovate and use mistakes as a learning opportunity. He is also enthusiastic about remote working and has been managing a distributed team at Scurri since 2018 as their Software Engineering Manager.

Scurri powers shipping and delivery for online sellers by enabling its users to connect to multiple carriers through its platform. With Scurri, users can review the rates of multiple carriers in different countries and select the carrier best suited to their needs. This way, they’ll be saving a lot on costs needed to integrate and maintain multiple carriers. Also, Scurri enables its users to improve their customer experience from checkout till the moment they receive their orders by allowing users to track deliveries live.

We wrote this article based on key insights Junior shared with us during a Tech Leaders Hub session. However, if you’d rather hear him talk about the subject firsthand, here’s the link:

 

When should you train your team for a quick recovery?

The best time to train your team for a quick recovery is now. A great product, good review processes, and experienced testers do not guarantee 100% uptime. Moreover, you cannot accurately predict what may go wrong in advance and prevent it from happening. A third-party infrastructure that your product relies on may malfunction, you may lose a key staff all of a sudden, or the world may suddenly find itself in the middle of a pandemic. Hence, it’s best if your team is always ready to recover quickly.

In Junior’s words, “While you cannot guarantee 100% uptime, you can plan to recover fast.” Junior compares training your team for a quick recovery plan to a fire drill. Fire drills are detailed, showing the exits and assembly points, and are practiced frequently to ensure that everyone knows what they’re supposed to do if there’s a fire outbreak. In a similar manner, training your team for quick recovery will make decision-making in a crisis a lot easier, as your team members will be able to take action immediately and with minimal supervision.

How to manage the work during a crisis

Things can quickly spiral out of control if not properly managed during a crisis. Even if you train your team frequently to react swiftly, the work still needs to be managed for optimal results. Here are some ways you can do that:

1. Engage everyone

Junior recommends getting all hands on deck in times of crisis. This way, you can quickly tap into different expertise and solve the problem. Moreover, prioritizing the challenge will ensure that everyone gets back to their tasks quickly.

2. Define roles

Once you’ve gotten everyone involved, you can assign roles to speed up the process. Everyone else can watch and learn or go back to their tasks.

3. Communicate

Constant communication will help your team achieve quick recovery. Therefore, you should ensure that there’s a channel for passing information to team members working on the solution and other teams. You should also communicate with clients if the problem affects them.

What is DevOps as a culture, and why is it important?

Junior summarizes DevOps as a culture in the following way: “Everyone on the team should be responsible for the code from the moment they start writing the code until when the code is in production.”

It is common to find cross-functional tech teams working across coding, building infrastructure, and scaling the business in a startup. But as a business expands, teams become more specialized and new teams are set up to handle specific functions.

However, a multi-skilled team may come in handy in moments of crisis, since your team will be better prepared to recover quickly if your team members are skilled in setting up infrastructure, co-development, scaling, and deploying code—not just coding. This is often referred to as “DevOps as a culture,” and it entails encouraging each team member to be responsible for the software they build, from development to production.

The DevOps culture is beneficial to both tech leaders and their team members. As a tech leader, you’ll be confident that everyone will be resourceful should anything go wrong if you implement the DevOps culture in your team. Also, your team members will gain more skills, which will help them code with deployment and performance in mind.

Apart from helping your team become more functional, the DevOps culture helps your team become aligned. According to Junior, it’s like watching someone eat a fruit and craving to eat that fruit only because you saw someone do it. Similarly, you will be instilling a desire in your team members to learn and become as competent as their teammates by implementing DevOps as a culture in your team.

How to recruit people with the DevOps culture

Having a team with the DevOps culture is essential to ensuring your organization handles crises effectively and hiring the right team members plays a big role in building a team with the DevOps culture. With every new team member you hire, there’s a risk of diluting the team’s culture.

If you don’t hire the right people, you may struggle to get them aligned with other team members, which will affect your team’s crisis management approach, as other team members will not be able to rely on the team.

If you’re recruiting and hoping to find and hire team members that will be open to adopting the DevOps culture, here are some great tips to consider:

1. Don’t prioritize technical qualifications

Hiring people with DevOps experience may seem like the right way to go, but it’s not necessarily effective when building a team with the right culture. If you hire for technical qualifications only, you may end up with people focused exclusively on their technical and operational skills instead of their overall productivity. Hence, it’s advisable to focus on other soft skills. They will have lots of time to learn the DevOps culture within the organization.

2. Hire teachable candidates

A good quality to look out for when recruiting candidates is teachability and their willingness to learn your company’s culture. This may not be easy to spot from a candidate’s résumé, but you can identify candidates that fit this requirement by reviewing the skills they have acquired throughout their career and their passion for learning new skills.

3. Hire problem solvers

Problem solvers are more likely to align with the culture and will be resourceful in moments of crisis. Again, it may not be easy to spot who is a problem solver solely from a well-written résumé. But you can gain insights into a person’s problem-solving skills by asking them questions about the challenges they’ve encountered throughout their career journey and how they overcame them.

How to set and maintain the right culture in your team

A team of talented developers can build great products, but a team with the right culture can build, scale, and sustain a great product. Setting and maintaining the right culture in your team has well-rounded benefits for your organization. If you’re setting up a team or already managing a team and wondering how to set the culture for your team, Junior shared some tips that can help:

1. Create a mental safe space for your team

Getting people to align to your team’s culture requires lots of communication on both ends. People often feel less eager to open up if they don’t feel safe. Thus, it’s important to create an environment where people feel comfortable expressing their ideas and opinions.

2. Keep things fun

According to Junior, “Fun is not free, but it should not be taken for granted.” Working with a team that’s constantly building or fixing things can get boring. You can make their work feel less routine by remembering to have fun. It breaks the ice and makes everything easier.

Creating fun in your team doesn’t have to be backbreaking. It could be a short game or a nice gesture. We recommend watching the full recording of the live session to see how Junior creates fun for his team with a duck!

3. Get everyone talking

It’s easier to improve communication and collaboration within your team when you get everyone talking. It could be random talks at the start of a meeting, asking people to share a bit about their week or weekends. This ensures that your team members are willing to participate and become more engaged.

4. Don’t be afraid to try new things

If you feel like you need to do unconventional things to help your team become more engaged, feel free to do so. It may be scary to step out of the box, but be assured that your team members will buy into it if they are confident that it is in their best interests.

Junior recommends viewing new processes as experiments, not processes. In his words, “If you change a process, you expect a positive result, but with an experiment, you’re exploring, and if it doesn’t work, it’s still a success, because a failed experiment is still a positive outcome.”

5. Rely on feedback from your team

Your team members are part of the experience, and you should rely on their feedback when building your company’s culture. Encourage them to express their discomfort or dissatisfaction with any changes you make and apply their suggestions. This way, you’ll be able to build a suitable culture for your team.

How to manage Python developers when you’re not one of them

If you find yourself leading a team consisting of people with a technical background different to yours, you may feel like a fish out of water. You may struggle to understand their needs and challenges, making team management difficult.

If you’re in this position or you’re about to be, it’s important to remember that your role as a leader is not to do the technical work, but to guide and support your team. Having the same technical background may be helpful, though what matters most is the support and direction you provide to your team. Trust your team to handle the technical work and focus on guiding them through their work.

Final thoughts on using the DevOps culture to manage a team in moments of crisis

Crises may be unavoidable, but they are not insurmountable. If properly managed, they’ll become new experiences and experiments for your team.

But beyond having a positive outlook, it’s important to have an action plan and set the right culture and environment to help your team overcome any crisis within the shortest time possible.

With proper and prior planning and training of your team, you can ensure quick recovery, since your team will be well-equipped to solve problems you may encounter. With the tips Junior shared here, you should be able to develop your unique strategy for effectively managing a crisis as a team.

Thank you for reading our article. We also recommend checking out our blog’s following guides and resources to improve your team’s productivity and collaboration:

Also, if you need an external team to support your operations and crisis management, our expert engineers are well-equipped to act quickly and can cover all your DevOps needs. Feel free to check out the DevOps services we offer and drop us a line if you need help with your next project!

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