Respecting Culturally Diverse DevOps Teams


In her Personality Matters series, Leslie Sachs examines the personalities and people issues that are found in technology groups from cross-functional, high-performance teams to dysfunctional matrix organizations.

Some cultures are notoriously “in your face” and perfectly willing to grow through creative and effective discussions that may even turn a bit combative. But I have also worked with some colleagues who come from cultures where they are considerably much more conflict avoidant. These teams can be very challenging for newcomers and outsiders to adjust to because it is not always easy to tell where you stand. In cultures where aggressive and oppositional behavior is considered impolite, it can be challenging for some Westerners to understand where they stand and what they are expected to do. There are no right or wrongs in this situation and what matters is your ability to size up the team and understand how you fit into the group. If you get this right, then you can be more effective and also help act as a change agent for the entire organization. Keep in mind that understanding these different cultures needs to encompass both the behaviors, as well as the language and communications style and some of the differences may be quite subtle. For example, Indian, Japanese and Israeli firms all place a strong value on group behavior. However, the cultural norms in a Japanese firm can be very different than an Israeli firm.

The DevOps paradigm often encompasses both the technological group behaviors as well as some of the complex cultural norms we have mentioned in this article. You may find yourself working with a development team located in India with its own expectations and operating mode while the operations team is United States-based or perhaps working out of a data center in the former Soviet Union. Don't underestimate the impact of culture on your team and organizational effectiveness. It may take some effort to learn how other people operate, but remember to appreciate the many positive aspects of employee diversity. Teams that go beyond respect and also manage to enjoy one another and have some fun are often the most successful, as well. If you add top-notch people skills to your resume, you should be well-positioned for success in the coming year!

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