DevOps, Deindividuation and the DeLorean.

Trent Hornibrook theorises that the "us"/"them" culture in some organisations is a symptom of the social psychology concept 'Deindividuation'.

Encourage direct communication between people at all levels. Avoid, at all cost, the feedback by organisational hierarchy. Communication loses its authenticity when performed this way.

Trent Hornibrook

I’m fascinated by human interaction. If I was able to find a DeLorean I’d tell myself to fly back in time and study Psychology and not Computer Science.

Deindividuation

Deindividuation is a concept in social psychology that is generally thought of as the loss of self-awareness in groups. The term has been used to explain the behaviour of people that do and say things you would not normally expect them to do. Its the behaviour that attempts to explain ‘Mob mentality’ and the actions people perform under the guise of anonymity. We see this behaviour in society today with the rise of anonymous trolls on social media and the rise of anonymous far right and far left political groups protesting behind masks.

My theory is that we see this everywhere at various degrees and this is the anti-pattern of DevOps.

  • They screwed up!

  • That team do not known what they’re doing!

  • Worked on my machine, its your problem now!

The “us”/“them” behaviour that appears in some organisations, in my opinion, are examples of micro-deindividuation. In my experience, we see this behaviour more so in functionally aligned organisations where flow of work transitions between those functional units. My thoughts are that the larger the functional unit (the larger the mob) the more likely this behaviour would occur and to higher degree.

(Note I don’t have any data or supporting social science as my DeLorean hasn’t been built yet!)

This is bad! The success of a business is dependant on how it’s able to execute - this is dependant on how all parts of the business are able to communicate and collaborate with one another.

So what can we do?

Encourage direct communication between people, particularly if they’re in the flow of work. For example, if we are in a functionally structured organisation and are three teams: one that is writing code, one that is deploying it and another supporting it, invest in ensuring that all team members know each other directly.

Encourage direct communication between people at all levels. Avoid, at all cost, the feedback by organisational hierarchy. For instance, your manager is speaking to me via my manager. Communication loses its authenticity when performed this way.

Links:
- Deindividuation - wikipedia - DeLorean image

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