London 2013 - Proposal

Gold sponsors

Back to proposals overview - program

Crossing the Uncanny Valley of Culture through Mutual Learning


Ever since John Willis explained what DevOps meant to him[1] and gave us the CAMS acronym, culture has been a leading element of any DevOps discussion. Too bad changing culture is the hardest thing you can do! Changing our personal habits is extremely difficult; changing culture means changing the daily habits of everyone in the group. And yet what makes cultural change difficult is also what makes it necessary. Our culture is the expression of collective habits and it our habits that make us who we are, both as individuals and as organizations. We can't be a highly performing organization without having highly effective habits.

Unfortunately changing culture isn't as simple as proposing new rules and getting everyone to follow them: people are complicated! [2] And the culture you have now, no matter how broken, isn't as accidental as you might think. We are slightly evolved primates and our evolutionary psychology makes us keenly vulnerable to status [3] and a host of cognitive fallacies [4]. The average organizational culture is both a reflection of and a response to these facts. Moving towards a more cooperative culture naively can make things worse before they are better, an uncanny valley of communication [5].

Luckily we evolved not only to make silly mistakes but also to cooperate! Once we can build trust and make public testing of ideas the norm we can move into the zone of true collaboration. The Model I / Model II ideas of Chris Argyris [6] give us a description of what we'd like our culture to look like. The Improvement Kata [7] gives us one roadmap for how we can get there.



[3] Influence: Science & Practice, Robert Cialdini

[4] You Are Not So Smart, David McRaney

[5] (especially


[7] Toyota Kata, Mike Rother


Jeffrey Fredrick

Jeffrey Fredrick is an internationally recognized expert on Continuous Integration. He is a 21-year veteran of the software industry with a mission to change the way software is created. From his varied career Jeffrey brings the perspective of having performed and managed virtual every role in the software development lifecycle. Jeffrey is currently indulging his passion for improving how software organizations operate as CTO & Head of Product at TIM Group, and as the Co-Organizer of the Continuous Integration and Testing Conference (CITCON).

blog comments powered by Disqus
HP Puppetlabs BMC

Gold sponsors

Xebialabs Atalanta Systems AppDynamics CFengine - Normation CA Technologies Cumulus Networks IBM Cisco

Special sponsors


Silver sponsors

Tim Group The Scale Factory Speerhead Sonatype