Selling DevOps, Part 2: Match Communication Styles with DevOps Language

Selling DevOps to an IT organization requires determination and perseverance. In his presentation Five Love Languages of DevOps, Matt Stratton, Solutions Architect at Chef, posits that in order to effectively sell DevOps, you must communicate the element of DevOps that will appeal to each individual. In other words, you must speak “the proper DevOps love language.”

To speak this language let’s revisit the first step to selling DevOps, understand what it is you’re selling, which I wrote about in my previous blog post. Here Matt describes DevOps in terms of the acronym CALMS – culture, automation, lean, measurement, and sharing. Once you have an understanding of the acronym let’s move on to the next step – determining which of the five love languages you should speak and when.

Understand Communication Styles

To start, Matt says to identify your colleague’s communication style based on DiSC:

Dominance – A ‘D-style’ colleague emphasizes results and the bottom line. These folks tend to see the big picture, can be blunt and get straight to the point.

Influence – Your ‘I-style’ colleagues emphasize taking action and collaboration. They tend to be social communicators and are motivated by social recognition.

Steadiness – ‘S-style’ folks don’t like to be rushed. They want to be sure and comfortable about change before they take action. However, they also tend to be calm and supportive in their efforts.

Conscientious – The ‘C-style’ colleague likes details, and values quality and accuracy. They can be motivated by opportunities to increase knowledge, but may be limited by a tendency to over analyze. According to Matt, “Most operations people are Cs.”

Pick the Right DevOps Language

Once you’ve identified your colleague’s communication style, you can then focus your DevOps evangelization efforts accordingly:

When selling DevOps to D-style colleagues, speak in terms of Lean and Measurement. Because they tend to be results-driven, D-style colleagues just want to get started, and they’ll figure out how to do it along the way. Furthermore, Matt says, they’re likely to be influenced by experimentation. However, if you start talking Culture and Automation to a D-style colleague, you’ll likely be tuned out because they don’t care how it’s made; they just want results.

I-style colleagues are likely to respond to the Culture and Sharing elements that comprise DevOps. They interact more, and like consensus and collaboration. But any discussion about Lean, Automation or Results simply won’t register for these folks.

Your efforts to sell DevOps to S-style colleagues will be most successful if you emphasize Automation and Measurement. S-style people want to be sure and comfortable about change. Automation resonates well because it provides an understanding of what’s going to happen, and Measurement brings transparency, Matt explains. Avoid speaking in terms of Lean because it focuses on experimental change, which S-style colleagues tend to shun.

Finally, your C-style colleagues are most likely to respond to the Measurement and Sharing aspects of DevOps. These folks love data and want information. “Automation is helpful, but only as it drives measurement,” Matt says. When communicating why the change to DevOps is beneficial, emphasize “the ability to see the needle move and get results,” he says.

The following chart summarizes the DiSC communication styles, their characteristics and the most effective DevOps language for each.

Communication Style
DevOps Language
D (dominance) Results oriented, see big picture Lean, Measurement
I (influence) Action oriented, collaborators, social communicators Culture, Sharing
S (steadiness) Want to be sure about change, calm Automation, Measurement
C (conscientious) Detail oriented, Values accuracy and quality Measurement, Sharing