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Karen Ferris


Karen Ferris

DevOps Culturalist

Karen is a self-professed service management and organisational change management rebel with a cause.
Acclaimed internationally as an author and speaker, with industry acknowledgement of her reputation as a Thought Leader, she provides both strategic and practical advice and insights to her audiences.
Her ability to share her experience and knowledge ensures that everyone is empowered to make a difference within their organisation.
In 2011, Karen authored the acclaimed publication ‘Balanced Diversity – A Portfolio Approach to Organisational Change’ introducing a new and innovative framework for ensuring that service management changes become embedded into the fabric of the organisation. 
This year saw the publication of Karen’s second book “Game On! Tactics to Win When Leading Change is Everyone’s Business”. In this book, Karen introduces us to the tactics needed to be resilient and successful – tactics that enable you and your organization to triumph in the face today’s challenges of constant change.
In 2014 itSMF Australia bestowed her with the Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to the industry.
For the last three years she has been voted one of the top 25 thought leaders in service management by HDI. In 2017 the Business Relationship Management Institute presented her with a Global Excellence Award and in 2018 CMI awarded her the Rebel Award for “The person breaking all the rules to make things better for all”

Karen is a member of the DevOps Institute and CEO Jayne Groll has named her "The DevOps Culturalist".

Session: The House of DevOps Culture

DevOps is a mindset not a tool or technology. It's a new way of working (NWoW) and a new way of thinking (NWoT). For many organisations this means a fundamental evolution of values, beliefs and behaviours.

Creating a successful DevOps culture is like building a house. 

Firstly, the foundation matters. During times of change, it is imperative that the foundations are sound. When the storms and winds come, the ability to survive is predicated by the right foundations having been laid. 

Senior management lays the foundation for DevOps through effective communication, education and training. Their management style has to be one of engagement, facilitation, servant leadership and adaptability. They have to lead with commitment and motivation.

They have to break a culture of silos and build one of collaboration. A customer-centric and user-centric ethos has to be paramount. They need to recognise that this change is a long haul. There will be uncertainly and setbacks along the way, and they have to remove the obstacles and roadblocks and become leaders of enablement and transformation.

Their job doesn't end with the laying of the foundation. They maintain the foundation and reinforce it, as needed ensuring it is always sound and fit for purpose.

Middle management builds the DevOps house on the sound foundation. They need to undergo the same transformation as senior management. They have to learn to let go of control and delegate decision-making. They have to establish a culture of autonomy, self-management, transparency, psychological safety, and resilience. There has to be a no-blame environment. They have to embrace creativity, innovation, experimentation, and failure. 

Middle management builds the DevOps house one room at a time. They start small (but not too small) and then scale up. They demonstrate the benefits and business value. This is a process of learning and evolution for everyone. The first team(s) needs to adopt new MWoW and NWoT, which will take time. It is important to get the first room right before being ready to replicate across other areas of the house.

DevOps is all about the people. Yes technology is important and an integrated tool-chain enabling automation wherever possible will be needed. But the people come first. The residents of the house will have to buy-in to the NWoW and NWoT. Living in the house means having a collaborative approach, a growth mindset, resilience and empathy, effective listening and problem solving skills. It requires interpersonal skills, flexibility and adaptability, creativity and a customer focus. It is a house in which everyone can be (and should be) a leader. All the occupants need a holistic mindset, honesty, respect and trust.

In 2018, Gartner predicted that 90% of I&O organizations looking to leverage DevOps without specifically addressing the cultural foundations would fail. They were right. The DevOps house will fall down.