Burnout & how DevOps can help

So, the first talk of the conference was from Ken Mugrage from ThoughtWorks, talking about burnout. (Later in the conference I would find out that Ken was the Product Owner for GoCD a CI/CD server that we used before with success).


  • Teaching devs puppet and firing Ops – doesn’t work, not DevOps
  • Psychological safety – #1 finding of Google research into what makes “good” teams
    • Basically, team members have to be able to be vulnerable in front of each other
  • Book – The truth about burnout considered the best reference text on the subject
  • Dimensions of Burnout:
    • Exhaustion
    • Cynicism
    • Professional Efficacy (from the persons point of view, not necessarily reality)
  • Burnout basically a mismatch of person and job
    • Example of job that requires lots of travel suited to some, not to others
  • Where DevOps can help? (-ve = like anti-pattern)
    • Work Overload
      • work is more visible (+ve)
      • more load sharing (+ve)
      • Less deploy marathons with CD (+ve)
      • Some orgs see it as cost savings (-ve)
      • There is no such thing as a “full stack engineer” (-ve)
    • Lack of Control
      • Teams are ultimately responsible for decisions (+ve)
      • Use the right tech + tool for the team (+ve)
      • No “DevOps” team deciding what to use (-ve)
    • Insufficient Reward
      • Not really a big issue past a certain point
      • Need to be able to focus on the work
    • Breakdown of Communication
      • Everyone involved with the product is in the same team
      • Pairs with different skillsets
      • “Swarming” can be done when required
      • Blameless retrospectives are held
      • No such thing as a DevOps team (-ve)
    • Absence of Fairness
      • You build it, you run it
      • Everyone is responsible for quality
      • Everyone is rewarded the same way (no bonuses just for devs or sales)
      • Everyone goes to the release party
      • Metrics drive behaviours
    • Conflicting Values
      • This means values in the broadest possible sense (pacifist example)
    • Maslach Burnout Inventory (e.g. https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTCS_08.htm)
      • 15 statements to determine whether you’re burnt out
      • quick/easy to do
    • If you feel like you’re in trouble, don’t be afraid to ask for help from colleagues
    • If someone comes to you for help, try to help them, but don’t be afraid to refer them to a professional. They’re generally *much* better at identifying root causes of issues (“we need you to take a vacation” example)

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