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Everett harper Keynote Velocity Conference 2019

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Everett harper Keynote Velocity Conference 2019

  1. 1. INFRASTRUCTURE-FIRST Because solving complex problems needs requires more than technology EVERETT HARPER Truss CEO, Founder @everettharper
  2. 2. Innovation
  3. 3. Innovation + Infrastructure
  4. 4. COMPLICATED COMPLEX
  5. 5. COMPLICATED COMPLEX
  6. 6. COMPLICATED COMPLEX
  7. 7. I feel small just before I say my big idea
  8. 8. One idea (bravery)
  9. 9. We went there
  10. 10. Salary Transparency
  11. 11. How we made salaries transparent BLIND SPOT Is this the right problem? INFRASTRUCTURE TOOL Inclusive research
  12. 12. How we made salaries transparent BLIND SPOT Is this the right problem? Will people leave? INFRASTRUCTURE TOOL Inclusive research Survey
  13. 13. How we made salaries transparent BLIND SPOT Is this the right problem? Will people leave? Will people trust us? INFRASTRUCTURE TOOL Inclusive research Survey Transparent process, timelines, comms
  14. 14. How we made salaries transparent BLIND SPOT Is this the right problem? Will people leave? Will people trust us? Are our levels and bands right? INFRASTRUCTURE TOOL Inclusive research Survey Transparent process, timelines, comms Inclusive research
  15. 15. How we made salaries transparent BLIND SPOT Is this the right problem? Will people leave? Will people trust us? Are our levels and bands right? Are we over/under paying now? INFRASTRUCTURE TOOL Inclusive research Survey Transparent process, timelines, comms Inclusive research Written, transparent policy
  16. 16. How we made salaries transparent BLIND SPOT Is this the right problem? Will people leave? Will people trust us? Are our levels and bands right? Are we over/under paying now? What are the unknown unknowns? INFRASTRUCTURE TOOL Inclusive research Survey Transparent process, timelines, comms Inclusive research Written, transparent policy Pre-Mortem, Post-Mortems
  17. 17. How we made salaries transparent BLIND SPOT Is this the right problem? Will people leave? Will people trust us? Are our levels and bands right? Are we over/under paying now? What are the unknown unknowns? Can this scale? INFRASTRUCTURE TOOL Inclusive research Survey Transparent process, timelines, comms Inclusive research Written, transparent policy Pre-Mortem, Post-Mortems Transparent Decision Records
  18. 18. How we made salaries transparent BLIND SPOT Is this the right problem? Will people leave? Will people trust us? Are our levels and bands right? Are we over/under paying now? What are the unknown unknowns? Can this scale? INFRASTRUCTURE TOOL Inclusive research Survey Transparent process, timelines, comms Inclusive research Written, transparent policy Pre-Mortem, Post-Mortems Transparent Decision Records
  19. 19. Ho hum
  20. 20. $220,000
  21. 21. I feel small just before I say my big idea
  22. 22. One idea (bravery)
  23. 23. Scale
  24. 24. I feel small just before I say my big idea One idea (bravery) Scale INFRASTRUCTURE
  25. 25. INFRASTRUCTURE-FIRST Because solving complex problems needs requires more than technology EVERETT HARPER Truss CEO, Founder https://truss.works @everettharper

Editor's Notes

  • Intro that slides are available.
    [WIIFM] Do you want to make a big impact, by solving complex problems?

    [personal] There’s a lot of these problems to choose from. In my career, I seem to seek complex problems

    How to enable low and mod income people to buy homes previously redlined by banks, and helped create lending products and an infrastructure of legislation around it that provided $7.1B in financing to date.
    How to merged segregated school districts in North Carolina, without the violence that had been threatened

    In my current company, how to save healthcare.gov and now how to build modern software products out of ossified legacy systems.

    I’ve become deeply interested in the patterns of success and failure in solving complex problems at scale, and I want to focus on redefining two things.





  • 1/ redefine the requirement for innovation, Innovation is overused and often just marketing copy, “a culture of innovation”, or the mythos of the great innovative solo genius.

    But what I mean is innovation in its simplest form -- doing something new to solve a problem or overcome an obstacle

    To solve today’s problems, being an “innovator” is not enough
  • We need to create an the infrastructure to support, sustain and scale these innovations.

    What I mean by infrastructure is a system that considers the interaction a between processes, software, operations, and crucially, people.

    Because technology problems are people problems, we need to reach into what enables people to be innovative.

    We build infrastructure for tech, but we need an infrastructure for ourselves, our teams, and our interconnected companies.

    Why now? Because the nature of problems have changed, and so must our definitions of what innovation and infrastructure.









  • I keep talking about complex vs. complicated problems, so let me take a moment to clarify what I mean.

    Both kinds of problems have many elements, sometimes millions of them.






  • But complicated problems -- linear, ordered, predictable,

    Complex problem: interdependent, non-linear, not predictable, especially at scale

    Complicated, is like sending a rocket ship to the moon. Hard, but once you send a rocket to the moon, you can predict how to send the next one.


  • But when you add one more element to a complex problem, the system of elements and their relationships change.
    Now think about going from one child to two. Completely different dynamic because all the elements interact with each other.

    Complicated is Bach, Complex is Thelonious Monk

    This matters when we have a mismatch. We’ve inherited legacy systems of leadership, software development, performance, and problem-solving centered in “complicated” while our most urgent challenges are complex.

    For example,
  • One of my favorite problem solvers was Jane Jacobs, who said in 1961 "Why have cities not … been identified, understood, and treated as problems of organized complexity?"

    In talking with researchers from the Santa Fe Institute, cities are complex organisms with millenia of resiliency because they contain both physical AND social infrastructure capable of solving new emergent problems.





  • But will this be true when 67% of the world’s population lives in cities in the next 20 years?
    How are we going to bring them clean water, housing, medicine, learning, opportunities?

    The scale of these problems are unprecedented.

    The same is true for a host of other problems like income inequality, climate change, and AI




  • This is a situation that is really familiar to anyone with dark skin.

    Whatever team developed this automated hand dispenser created a logic that is blind to the color of my skin, about 40% of the time.

    It is annoying to wave my hand and hope that my presence registers.

  • But no amount of hand waving is going to stop an autonomous truck when the code that powers it is blind to my brown skin

    And the fact is, when that product team that develops has a blind spot, I get killed

  • We all have blind spots. That’s part of the nature of complex problems -- it’s hard to see the entire system from one point of view.

    While the team probably used all the technology tools for problem solving -- research, design, experimentation, -- inclusion was probably not one of them.

    Including multiple stakeholders with different points of view is an essential skill for solving complex problems


  • This skill is even more urgent at scale. That library of blind code can be published, shared, copied to millions globally, spreading like a runaway truck, far beyond the control of the original design team. That blind spot, even with the best of intentions, can easily become a standard that kills.

    We in this room have far greater impact than we realize, and I’m sure no one here wants to be responsible for a tragedy.

    Now I go back to the question at the beginning. Do you want to make a big impact?

    What if you had a chance to make an big impact, by raising your hand. Asking a question, or voicing a contrary opinion?

    You probably have done it before… how did it feel?
  • For me, it feels vulnerable.

    And that’s vulnerability is the step just before taking the act of bravery, whether it’s to prevent a tragedy or create a new solution.

  • Doing something new requires bravery.
    Defying conventional practice requires bravery
    And bravery requires vulnerability.

    Brene Brown’s research demonstrates this in a variety of contexts, most vividly with a group of Special Forces, whose leader said “in the field, there is no courage without vulnerability”

    There is a direct line from vulnerability to innovation, but we don’t account for it. We need to add this to our model of innovation, and create an infrastructure to support it.

    How about an example we can all relate to...


  • Imagine on your first day at work, and you are handed a business card like this. Salary public and plain as day.

    How would you feel?
    Wondering if anyone is going to question whether you are worth that?
    Exposed? Imposter syndrome - like maybe I don’t deserve this?

    Why would a company do such a thing?
  • In order to solve an important complex problem

    The problem is that women and POC are paid less than white men for the same job, across a wide variety of industries, including tech. This problem is systemic and persistent even for companies that are well-intentioned. And this problem scales, because if you start lower, you tend to fall further and further behind in marginal gains.

    As an African American founder and CEO, with a white female technical co-founder, and white male technical cofounder, were not going to let our company fall into that trap.

    Our brave step -- we decided to take action without knowing whether it would work



  • Our solution was to make all salaries transparent, internally.

    We didn’t do this all at once -- we took an infrastructure first approach.

  • Like building an infra to ensure that truck can see it’s blind spots, we took

    an intentional approach to create a system that considers the interaction between processes, software, operations, and crucially, people. We infused our structure to encourage bravery necessary to highlight our blind spots, and move toward a solution that worked



  • Here’s the summary of the steps from start to finish

    Inclusive research = multiple people involved
  • Survey -- we got 19 out of 20 saying yes
  • Communications meant laying out timelines even if we couldn’t predict answers (agile?)

    But, as we learned and validated approaches, we set out expectations for the next stage, and then delivered
  • Along the way, we discovered a missing piece of infra.

    We didn’t really have coherent salary bands and levels. We made sure the research involved multiple people from different parts of the company.
  • And we discovered that we were underpaying some, overpaying others.

    We decided to make a policy, that we would not penalize anyone for being paid higher than their level -- that was on me and the other founders.

    And we decided to get everyone up to their level (option: talk about raising people on lowest salary first, because liveability and impact)
  • Finally, we could plan for some issues, but we couldn’t see everything. We used retros, pre-mortems, and post-mortems. Crucially, the structure of these are blameless - by design.

    [note: consider making these link to our definitions and processes, so that people can look them up]
  • Scale for us means that these steps had to envision a company at 25, 50, 100 people. We decided to document our steps in Decision Records so that others in the company could understand and improve on the process.
  • Each of these steps de-risks the project, effectively eliminating our blind spots by increasing participation, engaging multiple resources and perspectives,d

    In December 2016, after 10 months of work (note: confirm this), we held a quarterly stakeholders meeting to announce and reveal salaries.

    What happened?

  • People were curious of course, and there were questions. But no one left, no fights broke out.
  • We are now almost 70 people, and we’ve added bonus, revised bands, and it has reduced the overhead of recruiting, hiring, managerial and employee alignment.

    We continue to iterate, and most importantly we’ve solved the problem of salary disparity



  • There was one gotcha

    Remember how you felt when you first imagined your salary on your business card? That someone might think you weren’t worth that salary?

    What if you learned that one of you colleagues thought you were worth MORE than your salary? It actually happened, and we learned that we had to create infrastructure to enable people to advocate for one another.

    That’s what’s possible when we create infrastructure that supports our teams’ bravery to come up with solutions with big impact.

  • Right now, what’s the one idea you could take back to your team that could make a huge difference, at scale to your team organization, your country, your world?

    You know, the one that makes you feel vulnerable to share out loud and maybe a little small.


  • If you shared that idea with your team, you are taking the first step toward creating an infrastructure for bravery -- including others.
    Then, if you start building an infrastructure with the tools and practices of transparency, candor, blameless experiments


  • You could make a massive difference

    Imagine if you had staff with expertise to create this infrastructure? High performing teams like the Seattle Seahawks have Sports Psychologists who work with coaches and players to perform under high pressure. For our companies, what if there was a Chief Psychology Officer, taking insights from high performance and organizational behavior help orgs define the infrastructure for innovation?

  • From my work in different industries and our work with our clients, we’ve learned to take an infrastructure-first approach, to help reduce blind spots when delivering great products that work.

    But to come up with new solutions to complex problems, we need to define the Infrastructure of innovation as the infrastructure for bravery.

    The people here in this room understand infrastructure, systems, and scaling. The world needs to you reach for your bravery. Let’s build the infrastructure to support you.


  • End Slides: all slides after are notes

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