DevOps - The Revival of Empowerment


Posted on: Sep 23, 2015 by Kees Kranenburg

A Dutch survey among software engineers and their managers showed that software engineer motivation levels have a big impact on productivity, on software quality, and on how software is being developed. The survey also showed that software engineers and managers hold different views as to what actually motivates software engineers.

The survey immediately reminded me of the Human Relations Movement, which was a response to Frederick W. Taylor’s ideas on ‘Scientific Management’.

Taylor’s Scientific Management ideas propagated economic efficiency and labor productivity especially. It was one of the earliest attempts to apply scientific ideas to the engineering of processes, and to management, by measuring the time needed to execute a process step.

Scientific Management negatively affected workers’ morale as jobs were rationalized and remaining jobs were of lower quality. A strong response seemed inevitable…

The response to Scientific Management started out at the Hawthorne Works company. Here a study was carried out to see if workers would become more productive depending on available levels of light. Over decades, the results of this study have been studied and interpreted by several scientists, e.g. Landsberger and Mayo. One scientist concluded that the productivity of workers increased by improving the work environment as a whole; light intensity, clean and safe machines, and so on. In general, work productivity increased when managers paid due care and attention to workers thus keeping them motivated. Work productivity also increased when individual workers became part of a team.

Back to the software engineers …

Today, we see Agile approaches like Scrum and DevOps addressing the need of hyper-productive teams. State-of-the-art development, testing and deployment tools along with tackling hurdles to put features rapidly into production are utilized to shorten time-to-market. Moreover, various human-related instruments are used to motivate the software engineers to increase their productivity. These instruments empower teams to be effective, predictable and productive:

  • All-round software engineers who can contribute to almost all phases of software development and maintenance.
  • Fixed teams and keeping teams together for a longer period of time than just one project.
  • Team responsibility and team maturity improvement, incentivized team KPIs.
  • Committed software engineers who own the production processes and tools themselves, and who have the drive, responsibility and means to improve them.

Empowerment is back, as is also the attention for the craftsmanship of software engineering.

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About Kees Kranenburg

Portfolio manager Application Transformation
Kees Kranenburg is Portfolio manager Application Transformation. His field of play is software development and application management and the organization, processes, methods and tools necessary to professionalize and industrialize them. He advises organizations regarding their application development and management strategy and their sourcing strategy.

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