6 Behavioural Skills to Excel in DevOps in 2023

Arvind Mehrotra
4 min readMay 15, 2023

DevOps has always been a culture-driven field, which places behavioural skills at the centre of DevOps success. Unfortunately, companies have traditionally been slow to recognize this fact, focusing only on the technical aspects of DevOps instead.

The funny thing is DevOps technical skills significantly overlap with older approaches to the software development lifecycle; the culture, mindset, and behavioural skills genuinely set the field apart. Together, they enable DevOps habits that ultimately lead to excellence.

So, what behavioural skills do you need as a DevOps engineer, a team leader, or an organization promoting the DevOps way of life? Here are my research-backed recommendations.

1. Transparency in daily operations

DevOps is a highly collaborative practice, and transparency is appreciated even in challenging conditions. Transparency allows DevOps team members to know their progress in real-time and stay on the same page. It ensures issues are caught earlier to fix them, leading to continuous improvement. In addition, several critical DevOps artefacts like daily standups and retrospectives rely on your transparency to work.

2. The ability to prioritize instead of pursuing perfection

Perfectionism has no place in DevOps, where multiple balls are up in the air. From different stakeholders to various requirements and new ideas, the best results come from your ability to prioritize the most high-risk or high-reward item, often at the cost of others. As a result, being a perfectionist is not a behavioural trait aligned with DevOps; instead, you need to evaluate your options objectively, choose a path, and stick to it without looking over your shoulder.

3. Thriving in a multidisciplinary environment

While DevOps teams are generally tightly knit units, the best teams are composed of diverse experts from various specializations. Working with and learning from people different from you is a helpful quality. It helps in problem-solving and builds resource redundancy so that there is always someone to step in and pick up the baton if needed. This behavioural skill also helps grow DevOps environments through more cognitively diverse hiring.

4. The ability to take risks but “fail-safe.”

DevOps environments encourage innovation and risk-taking. DevOps success often stems from thinking outside the box and finding unexpected solutions to common problems, which requires the confidence to take risks. However, uncalculated risk-taking can result in negative consequences for you and your team, where the concept of falling fast and safely failing comes in. It also requires a workplace characterized by psychological safety so everyone has the support to demonstrate this particular behavioural skill.

5. An eagerness to take ownership

The best DevOps teams ensure that every team member is empowered to think and act autonomously. As a result, everyone should be ready to own errors and successes without pointing fingers or fostering a sense of blame. This behavioural skill ensures that ownership goes hand in hand with direct accountability so that the team can conduct root cause analysis with inputs from the right members and quickly arrive at a resolution — regardless of who is to blame.

6. Generosity in knowledge sharing

In DevOps, there is a fluid interchange of ideas, skills, and knowledge while maintaining transparency and ownership. It requires interpersonal skills and a certain generosity of spirit that inspires team members to invite others to partake in their successes and growth. The team leader can set an excellent example in fostering this behavioural skill by acting as a friend and mentor who is free and open about sharing their expertise.

Begin with a Journey of Self-Discovery

It is a frequently made statement that the essence of DevOps is a set of behaviours and habits stemming from a DevOps mindset. By mindset, we refer to a desire to collaborate, improve, serve, and excel without trying to achieve perfection or derive personal fulfilment alone. To incorporate this behaviour, DevOps practitioners and aspirants must first undertake a journey of self-discovery.

What are the problems that the team is facing? What causes delays, and which personality gaps are holding you back? Most importantly, how did you successfully remove the bottlenecks in DevOps processes, and how can you find similar resolutions faster in the future? Conducting a thorough assessment with these and other questions can help you understand the pathway you need towards growing the right behavioural skills for DevOps excellence!

Do you want to discuss DevOps skill requirements with me in more detail? Please email me at Arvind@am-pmassociates.com

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Arvind Mehrotra

Board Advisor, Strategy, Culture Alignment and Technology Advisor