For a long time I worked in an environment that I thought was great. People were knowledgable when it came to networking and it was my first real step up from a junior role. I learnt a lot about a variety of systems such as storage, firewalls, servers, networking and management. This young naivety held together this thin veneer that was Hero Culture.
In one of my first changes I was a part of I knew something was wrong. It felt wrong. This is not how I did it in the lab. There was configuration missing and some people hadn’t followed the steps. There had been a distinct lack of peer review (maybe for a reason looking back with a dose of hindsight) and those who wrote it were not committing it. With a network propagating a disaster and user experience getting worse the escalation chain was being rattled. This wasn’t going to go unnoticed now.
When all hope had started to fade as a point of no return or rollback had passed at the stage in the upgrade it was the architect, the person who wrote the initial change, came in the pieces that were missing. Emasculation and demeaning the engineers with a curse and a mutter, the architect moved the fingers over the keyboard in a blur and CLI was slapped into four or five touch points. The disaster was averted.
But what is wrong with this? EVERYTHING. Let alone seeming to have been postured into getting the blame, the change engineers were only following what was laid out by our hero. After having save the day there was little that made this stick however. This shouldn’t have in 2014. We are all of diverse skill sets and backgrounds, we have a variety of skills. We shouldn’t hit these EPIC peaks and dastardly troughs. What we should strive for is operational consistency. Something where every team member knows what is happening, knows how to do the work and there are no land mines for team members to step on.
Now, we have all had a moment where we knew the answer to a tricky problem and the team has come through with the goods. It makes you feel good as it does the team knowing they work with switched on engineers. The problem is when Duplicity is involved. It is very different when information is being intentionally kept from staff to stage the aforementioned hero moments. Once people peel the veneer off and realise what is occurring then watch out.
I think this is something that Derick Winkworth touches on rather well. This is a great article about how Hero culture should be something of the past, especially if trying to develop consistency and a DevOps culture.
It is no longer appropriate for hero culture in our IT environments or anywhere. As Derick put it is time for all of us to have a soul-searching moment.