Double take: contrasting the best vs. worst Ops team behaviors

Tim Dorr
CTO and Founder

What makes you an amazing Operations team member? And on the flip side of that, what behaviors should you absolutely avoid?

Whether you’re searching for a new role, trying to do better in your existing one or anything in between, let’s take a look at both sides of the coin.

Behavior #1: Communicative

The Best

You’re a highly effective communicator. You’re easy to reach, approachable and adept at conveying thoughts and ideas to developers. An important part of this communication with developers is being able to “speak their language” in terms of understanding the systems they use and the processes they run, which may be unique.

The Worst

Getting in touch with you is like playing a game of Where’s Waldo? When things are going on, you’re not readily available, which makes it difficult for people to find you. In many cases, you may even delay responding to outreach because you have a desire to finish your own work completely before engaging with others. And when people do get in touch with you, your communications are terse and not effectively geared toward your developer audience.

The Takeaway

Being a good communicator in an operations role requires balancing responsiveness and productivity. Recognize that your work will get interrupted, especially at times when you’re on call. Additionally, make sure that you take the time to understand your developers’ systems and processes so you can understand their challenges and speak to potential solutions most effectively.

Behavior #2: Collaborative

The Best

You enable developers to do their work in a self-service way. You’ve worked hard to give them the tools they need so that they can control deliveries and easily interact with operational systems you own. You recognize that enabling this type of self-service will help arrive at solutions faster and potentially even avoid interruptions to your own flow (see “The Worst” above).

The Worst

You’re a gatekeeper to all things data, tooling and information. Rather than enabling developers to access information on their own so they can see what’s happening and take action accordingly, you’ve set things up in a way that requires developers to schedule a meeting with you and talk through the information. In other words, everything runs through you, which can create huge obstacles to delivering solutions quickly and negatively impact customers as a result.

The Takeaway

While you can’t share absolutely everything (some things may need to remain locked down for security or privacy reasons), the more you can share the better. Ideally, you want to make it as easy as possible for developers to access data like performance metrics because you recognize that will be the fastest way to get any issues resolved. This collaboration goes hand-in-hand with strong communication.

Behavior #3: Transparent

The Best

You’re transparent about what’s going on in the operational world, whether that’s useful metrics or the overall state of the system. For example, if non-operational team members visit your product website and it’s not loading, they can easily get a basic idea of what’s causing the problem.

The Worst

You act as the gatekeeper of information yet again. You protect your dashboards like the secret service protecting the president. This lack of transparency means people need to come to you to find out what’s happening and have any chance of helping arrive at a solution.

The Takeaway

There’s very little disadvantage to being transparent about things like dashboards, but there is a huge upside in doing so. This transparency enables developers to easily identify problems and potentially arrive at a solution in a self service way. Overall, this transparency forms the trifecta of operator behaviors along with communication and collaboration.

Behavior #4: Forward-Looking and flexible

The Best

You build systems that are flexible in nature and take an overall forward-looking approach that recognizes the need for regular change. You’ve implemented a delivery system built around growth and scaling the company and applied this mindset to operational systems and processes too. You have the ability to expect the unexpected.

The Worst

You build rigid systems that can do one thing and are not flexible or responsive to change. You think about needs in the current moment and not how they may evolve or grow over time, and you build systems and processes accordingly. As a result, any changes you need to make (no matter how minor they are) will result in a major rework of what’s currently in place. This can lead to stagnation and overall bad vibes on the team by discouraging developers from branching out and trying new things.

The Takeaway

As developers experiment, they may push the boundaries of what your team put in place. This can cover a variety of things, including security, data retention and more. You need to give them the space to explore and encouragement to grow by providing flexible systems that can easily adapt to changing requirements.

Behavior #5: Respect for the expertise of others

The Best

You treat developers with respect and recognize them as subject matter experts when it comes to all things code development. You understand that not only did those developers write the code, but they know all the particulars about it as they watched it go through tests and revisions and even know about product implications that extend well into the future product roadmap.

The Worst

You assume you know best. And while you do know the most about the operational health of the system and how everything is configured, it’s a mistake to assume that you know the entire picture as a result of that.

The Takeaway

You can’t live on an island. An important part of being a good operator is bringing together all the people who know best about different pieces of the system. This requires a strong willingness to collaborate and an attitude that is understanding of and respectful to those around you.

Ready to take your Operations team to the next level?

These five behaviors are among the most important that separate good operators from the pack. If you can follow “the best” as outlined here, you’ll be well on your way to success in any operations role.

What else does it take to succeed? And how can you help level up your entire Operations team? Contact Spaceship today to learn how we can help.

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