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DevOps and Groupthink An Oxymoron?


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Sometimes the most well-trodden paths are ruts, where the decision to not make waves or see an alternative can be destructive. Today, we look at the specific dangers from this groupthink phenomena.
-by Gerie Owen

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DevOps and Groupthink An Oxymoron?

  1. 1. DevOps and Groupthink October 23, An Oxymoron? by Gerie Owen
  2. 2. Gerie Owen • Test Manager, Test Lead, Tester • Subject expert on testing for TechTarget’s • International and Domestic Conference Presenter • Marathon Runner & Running Coach • Cat Mom 2
  3. 3. Once Upon A Time...
  4. 4. What is Groupthink? |Groupthink - A mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in- group, when the members' strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action. - Irving Janis. Victims of Groupthink. 1972, p. 9
  5. 5. What is Groupthink?
  6. 6. Characteristics of Groupthink
  7. 7. Illusion of Invulnerability | Excessive Optimism that encourages taking excessive risk
  8. 8. Collective Rationalization | Groups fail to reconsider assumptions and minimize warnings
  9. 9. Belief in Inherent Morality | Groups believe in the rightness of their cause to the exclusion of ethical consequences
  10. 10. Stereotyped Outgroups | Groups fail to consider the views of those members who are different from the norm.
  11. 11. Direct Pressure on Dissenters | Dissenting team members are expected to conform or face consequences including status degradation, expulsion from group or isolation
  12. 12. Self-Censorship | Group members fail to express their own doubts and dissenting opinions, sabotaging critical analysis
  13. 13. Illusion of Unanimity | Teams assume the majority view is unanimous
  14. 14. An Oxymoron? | DevOps is based on a culture of collaboration | DevOps team members come from different and opposite disciplines | However: | Team members may have biases and fixed mindsets based on their respective areas of expertise | Team members from opposite disciplines may become polarized | Informal leaders emerge
  15. 15. Groupthink in DevOps Teams |The illusion of invulnerability |The team is consistently in agreement with little discussion. |Collective rationalization and self-censorship during meetings and team discussions
  16. 16. How does Groupthink Happen? | Informational Signals | Group members withhold differing information out of respect for information that has already been provided | Social Pressures | Group members withhold contradictory information because they fear disapproval or sanctions | Influence of Strong Leaders
  17. 17. Why does Groupthink Happen? | Group members’ mindsets impede critical thinking | Group interaction amplifies individual biases | Group Discussions dissolve into Deliberation Failures
  18. 18. What is a mindset? |Developed by psychologist Carol Dweck |How we mentally approach life and its challenges |Why brains and talent don’t bring success |How they can stand in the way of it |Why praising brains and talent doesn’t foster self-esteem and accomplishment, but jeopardizes them
  19. 19. What is a mindset |Broadly categorized in one of two ways |Fixed |Growth
  20. 20. Characteristics of a fixed mindset | We are either smart or dumb | We have to continually prove ourselves | Failure is a personal reflection on our intelligence
  21. 21. Implications of a fixed mindset |“I did my job right; someone else screwed up” |“These builds negatively impact network resources” |“The network needs to be able to handle these builds”
  22. 22. Characteristics of a growth mindset | We can work to improve our intelligence and abilities | What we have now is only a starting point | We accept failure as a learning process
  23. 23. Implications of a growth mindset |“I always have more to learn” |“We can work together to make code changes without impacting stability and reliability”
  24. 24. Fixed mindsets can lead to groupthink
  25. 25. Group Interactions Amplify Biases | Representativeness | People make judgements about situations based upon on similar the situation under consideration is to others that they have experienced. | Confirmation Bias | People weigh more heavily information which supports what they already believe to be true.
  26. 26. Failures in Deliberation |Cascade Effect |Polarization
  27. 27. Cascade Effect | Because of the human desire to conform, group members will agree with the views of the initial speakers without critically assessing their own and later speakers ideas.
  28. 28. Polarization | Group members may start out with moderate views on an issue but as opposite points of view emerge, moderate views tend to move to extremes as members focus on only the information supporting their initial view.
  29. 29. Managing Groupthink | Individually | Manage our own biases and mindsets | Internally | From within the team | Externally | From outside the team
  30. 30. Managing Groupthink Individually | Listen to team members | Listen 80% of the time, talk 20% | Listen to yourself | Be the Anxious Leader | What bothers you about this decision? | Voice it! | Manage Your Own Mindset
  31. 31. Manage Groupthink Internally | Build a Diverse Team | Establish a Group “Growth” Mindset | Withhold discussion until each team member has given their opinion | Appoint a “devil’s advocate” to help the group critically examine all decisions.
  32. 32. Managing Groupthink Externally |Container |Difference |Exchange
  33. 33. Container Difference Exchange Theory |Managers can influence the team’s self organization |Glenda Eoyang based CDE theory on organizational behavior |Container Difference and Exchange are factors that influence teams | How a team self-organizes | Thinks, and | Acts as a group
  34. 34. The Container |The container creates the bounds within which the system forms |DevOps Team Containers: | Physical space | Scope of Responsibility of the team | Size of the team
  35. 35. The Difference |Difference refers to the individual characteristics of the team members and this affects the team’s interactions. |DevOps Team Differences: | Technical backgrounds and specializations of the developers and operations staff | Domain knowledge, length of service • gender, education | Individuals mindsets and biases
  36. 36. The Exchange |The exchange is how the group members interact among themselves and with their stakeholders |DevOps Team Exchanges: • Who provides and receives information • How information is provided and received
  37. 37. Using CDE…Evaluate the Factors | What containers, differences and exchanges affect the team? | Are these containers, differences and exchanges appropriate in terms of size, scope, level of influence? | What impact does each container, difference and exchanges have on the team? | Is the impact positive, negative, neutral? | What container, difference or exchange is causing the biggest negative impact? | What change or changes can be made to that container/difference/exchange?
  38. 38. Examples of CDE | Changing the Container | Professional Community: Groupthink may be occurring because the team is not exposed to cutting edge ideas on testing | Send team members to conferences, user groups etc. to instill the importance of quality | Changing the Difference | Groupthink may be happening because one team members has a strong personality and is not committed to quality and others won’t express opposing opinions. | Add an equally strong-willed team member or remove the team member from the team. | Changing the Exchange: | Groupthink may be happening because the team is not getting enough feedback on quality in the sprint reviews. | Make sure the stakeholders to whom quality is most important are invited to the sprint review meetings
  39. 39. Why Mitigate Groupthink in DevOps? | Inhibits the DevOps Principles of Communication and Transparency | Impedes DevOps Transformations | Limits innovative solutions that can come from the cross-functional nature of DevOps Teams 41
  40. 40. Summary | Groupthink is a danger for any specialized and close-knit group | When DevOps teams engage in groupthink, continuous integration may be compromised. | Managers and leaders can counteract groupthink by using CDE to influence the team’s self-organization | Collaborate as a group, but think as an individual
  41. 41. References: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck, 2006. Facilitating Organizational Change, Olson and Eoyang, 2001. Thinking Fast and Slow, Kahneman, 2011 Victims of Groupthink, Janis, 1972 Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to Make Groups Smarter, Sunstein and Hastie, 2015