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DISTRIBUTED TEAMS
KEVIN GOLDSMITH
@KevinGoldsmith
WHO AM I?
▸ CTO @ Avvo, VPE @ Spotify, DoE @ Adobe, Dev Lead @ Microsoft, IBM
▸ Leading distributed organi...
@KevinGoldsmith
WHAT MAKES DISTRIBUTED
TEAMS CHALLENGING?
@KevinGoldsmith
DISTRIBUTED TEAMS
@KevinGoldsmith
DISTRIBUTED TEAMS
@KevinGoldsmith
@KevinGoldsmith
DISTRIBUTED TEAMS
@KevinGoldsmith
@KevinGoldsmith
DISTRIBUTED TEAMS
@KevinGoldsmith
DISTRIBUTED TEAMS
CONWAY’S LAW
CHALLENGES
AMDAHL’S LAW
CHALLENGES
EMPATHY
CHALLENGES
COMMUNICATION
CHALLENGES
@KevinGoldsmith
CONWAY’S LAW
@KevinGoldsmith
CONWAY’S LAW
DATAMATION
APRIL, 1968
@KevinGoldsmith
ORGANIZATIONS WHICH DESIGN SYSTEMS...
ARE CONSTRAINED TO PRODUCE DESIGNS
WHICH ARE COPIES OF THE COMMUNICA...
@KevinGoldsmith
ANY PIECE OF SOFTWARE
REFLECTS THE
ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE
THAT PRODUCED IT.
Conway’s Law restated
@KevinGoldsmith
CONWAY’S LAW
THE MIRRORING HYPOTHESIS
“…products tend to “mirror” the architectures of the
organizations i...
@KevinGoldsmith
WHY?
@KevinGoldsmith
CONWAY’S LAW
THE HOMOMORPHIC FORCE
▸ “Speaking as a mathematician might, we would say that there is a
homo...
@KevinGoldsmith
CONWAY’S LAW
HOMORPHISM
In abstract algebra, a homomorphism is a
structure-preserving map between two alge...
@KevinGoldsmith
CONWAY’S LAW
By Hagmann P, Cammoun L, Gigandet X, Meuli R, Honey CJ, et al. - File:Medial surface of cereb...
PROBLEMATIC
THIS IS
@KevinGoldsmith
ARE WE TRAPPED BY CONWAY’S
LAW?
@KevinGoldsmith
NO.
@KevinGoldsmith
BUT…
@KevinGoldsmith
IT EASIER TO WORK WITH THE
HOMOMORPHIC FORCE THAN TO
FIGHT IT
@KevinGoldsmith
BE DELIBERATE.
@KevinGoldsmith
FIND COMMUNICATION BOTTLENECKS
THAT CONFLICT WITH ARCHITECTURE
AND ELIMINATE THEM.
@KevinGoldsmith
DESIGN THE ORGANIZATION TO
DESIGN THE ARCHITECTURE.
@KevinGoldsmith
THE REVERSE CONWAY
MANEUVER
@KevinGoldsmith
IF THE PARTS OF AN ORGANIZATION (E.G. TEAMS, DEPARTMENTS, OR SUBDIVISIONS)
DO NOT CLOSELY REFLECT THE ESSE...
@KevinGoldsmith
NETFLIX LEARNED FROM THIS [AMAZON] EXAMPLE,
AND ENSURED THAT FROM THE BEGINNING IT
STRUCTURED ITSELF AROUN...
@KevinGoldsmith
AMDAHL’S LAW
THE PERFORMANCE OF THE WHOLE IS ONLY AS
FAST AS IT’S SLOWEST PART
AMDAHL’S LAW (PARAPHRASED)
@KevinGoldsmith
AMDAHL’S LAW
SERVER
CORE LIBRARY
IOS / MAC ANDROID WEB
INFRASTRUCTURE
@KevinGoldsmith
AMDAHL’S LAW
SERVER
CORE LIBRARY
CLIENT
INFRASTRUCTURE
@KevinGoldsmith
AMDAHL’S LAW
SERVER
CORE LIBRARY
CLIENT
INFRASTRUCTURE
DIFFICULT
THIS IS
@KevinGoldsmith
SPEED UP THE SLOWEST ELEMENT?
@KevinGoldsmith
NO
@KevinGoldsmith
RETHINK THE WHOLE SYSTEM!
@KevinGoldsmith
WHERE ARE THE BOTTLENECKS?
SERVICE-ORIENTED ARCHITECTURE
SOLUTIONS
@KevinGoldsmith
WE FIND STRONG EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THE MIRRORING
HYPOTHESIS. IN ALL OF THE PAIRS WE EXAMINE, THE PRODUCT
D...
FULL-STACK TEAMS
SOLUTIONS
@KevinGoldsmith
FULL-STACK TEAMS
@KevinGoldsmith
AMDAHL’S LAW
SERVER
CORE LIBRARY
CLIENT
INFRASTRUCTURE
@KevinGoldsmith
AMDAHL’S LAW
CROSS-FUNCTIONAL TEAM
LOCAL DECISION MAKING
SOLUTIONS
@KevinGoldsmith
LEADERSHIP DRIVES
ORGANIZATIONAL STRATEGY
@KevinGoldsmith
TEAMS DECIDE BEST HOW TO
DELIVER AGAINST THAT STRATEGY
@KevinGoldsmith
USE MUTUALLY AGREED UPON
BUSINESS METRICS TO TRACK
ACHIEVEMENT
@KevinGoldsmith
EMPATHY
@KevinGoldsmith
FAMILIARITY BREEDS TRUST
@KevinGoldsmith
EMPATHY
@KevinGoldsmith
IS NOT THE SAME AS
@KevinGoldsmith
EMPATHY
Image by Andreas Fischler
LEVEL THE FIELD
SOLUTIONS
@KevinGoldsmith
EMPATHY
RECOGNIZE WARNING SIGNS
SOLUTIONS
@KevinGoldsmith
WELL THAT IS FINE FOR YOU PEOPLE AT
CORPORATE…
Someone who has forgotten that the people they work with ar...
GET TOGETHER REGULARLY
SOLUTIONS
@KevinGoldsmith
EMPATHY
LEADERS TRAVEL
SOLUTIONS
@KevinGoldsmith
LEADERS TRAVEL
@KevinGoldsmith
LEADERS TRAVEL
@KevinGoldsmith
LEADERS TRAVEL
HUMANIZE
SOLUTIONS
@KevinGoldsmith
EMPATHY
INCLUDE REMOTE INDIVIDUALS
SOLUTIONS
@KevinGoldsmith
EMPATHY
@KevinGoldsmith
COMMUNICATION
@KevinGoldsmith
DISTRIBUTED TEAMS
@KevinGoldsmith
DISTRIBUTED TEAMS
@KevinGoldsmith
DISTRIBUTED TEAMS
FEWER CHANNELS
SOLUTIONS
@KevinGoldsmith
COMMUNICATION
DOCUMENT CLEARLY
SOLUTIONS
@KevinGoldsmith
COMMUNICATION
UTILIZE 1:1 & BROAD COMMUNICATION
SOLUTIONS
@KevinGoldsmith
SUMMARY
@KevinGoldsmith
REMOTE TEAMS CREATE
CHALLENGES
@KevinGoldsmith
THE CHALLENGES CAN BE
OVERCOME
@KevinGoldsmith
SUMMARY
PROBLEMS/SOLUTIONS
▸ Conway’s Law
▸ The reverse Conway Manuever
▸ Amdahl’s Law
▸ Modular architect...
@KevinGoldsmith
SUMMARY
PROBLEMS/SOLUTIONS
▸ Empathy
▸ Level the field
▸ Recognize warning signs
▸ Get together regularly
▸...
@KevinGoldsmith
SUMMARY
PROBLEMS/SOLUTIONS
▸ Communication
▸ Use fewer channels
▸ Document Clearly
DISTRIBUTED TEAMS
KEVIN GOLDSMITH
@KEVINGOLDSMITH
HTTPS://WWW.KEVINGOLDSMITH.COM
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Distributed Teams

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What makes distributed teams especially challenging? How can we address these challenges to make our distributed organizations more effective?

In this talk, I discuss four main challenges: Conway's Law, Amdahl's Law (as applied to organizations), Empathy, and Communication. I give examples of these problems and solutions from my experience leading distributed teams over the last 25 years.

This talk was originally presented to Compare The Market in April of 2018.

Published in: Leadership & Management
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Distributed Teams

  1. 1. DISTRIBUTED TEAMS KEVIN GOLDSMITH
  2. 2. @KevinGoldsmith WHO AM I? ▸ CTO @ Avvo, VPE @ Spotify, DoE @ Adobe, Dev Lead @ Microsoft, IBM ▸ Leading distributed organizations for 25 years ▸ Building agile since 2000
  3. 3. @KevinGoldsmith WHAT MAKES DISTRIBUTED TEAMS CHALLENGING?
  4. 4. @KevinGoldsmith DISTRIBUTED TEAMS
  5. 5. @KevinGoldsmith DISTRIBUTED TEAMS @KevinGoldsmith
  6. 6. @KevinGoldsmith DISTRIBUTED TEAMS @KevinGoldsmith
  7. 7. @KevinGoldsmith DISTRIBUTED TEAMS
  8. 8. @KevinGoldsmith DISTRIBUTED TEAMS
  9. 9. CONWAY’S LAW CHALLENGES
  10. 10. AMDAHL’S LAW CHALLENGES
  11. 11. EMPATHY CHALLENGES
  12. 12. COMMUNICATION CHALLENGES
  13. 13. @KevinGoldsmith CONWAY’S LAW
  14. 14. @KevinGoldsmith CONWAY’S LAW DATAMATION APRIL, 1968
  15. 15. @KevinGoldsmith ORGANIZATIONS WHICH DESIGN SYSTEMS... ARE CONSTRAINED TO PRODUCE DESIGNS WHICH ARE COPIES OF THE COMMUNICATION STRUCTURES OF THESE ORGANIZATIONS. Melvin Conway CONWAY’S LAW
  16. 16. @KevinGoldsmith ANY PIECE OF SOFTWARE REFLECTS THE ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE THAT PRODUCED IT. Conway’s Law restated
  17. 17. @KevinGoldsmith CONWAY’S LAW THE MIRRORING HYPOTHESIS “…products tend to “mirror” the architectures of the organizations in which they are developed. This dynamic occurs because the organization’s governance structures, problem solving routines and communication patterns constrain the space in which it searches for new solutions. “ Exploring the Duality between Product and Organizational Architectures: A Test of the “Mirroring” Hypothesis MacCormack, Baldwin, Rusnak - Harvard Business School, 2008
  18. 18. @KevinGoldsmith WHY?
  19. 19. @KevinGoldsmith CONWAY’S LAW THE HOMOMORPHIC FORCE ▸ “Speaking as a mathematician might, we would say that there is a homomorphism from the linear graph of a system to the linear graph of its design organization.”
  20. 20. @KevinGoldsmith CONWAY’S LAW HOMORPHISM In abstract algebra, a homomorphism is a structure-preserving map between two algebraic structures (such as groups, rings, or vector spaces).
  21. 21. @KevinGoldsmith CONWAY’S LAW By Hagmann P, Cammoun L, Gigandet X, Meuli R, Honey CJ, et al. - File:Medial surface of cerebral cortex - gyri.png, CC BY 2.5, https:// commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8636113
  22. 22. PROBLEMATIC THIS IS
  23. 23. @KevinGoldsmith ARE WE TRAPPED BY CONWAY’S LAW?
  24. 24. @KevinGoldsmith NO.
  25. 25. @KevinGoldsmith BUT…
  26. 26. @KevinGoldsmith IT EASIER TO WORK WITH THE HOMOMORPHIC FORCE THAN TO FIGHT IT
  27. 27. @KevinGoldsmith BE DELIBERATE.
  28. 28. @KevinGoldsmith FIND COMMUNICATION BOTTLENECKS THAT CONFLICT WITH ARCHITECTURE AND ELIMINATE THEM.
  29. 29. @KevinGoldsmith DESIGN THE ORGANIZATION TO DESIGN THE ARCHITECTURE.
  30. 30. @KevinGoldsmith THE REVERSE CONWAY MANEUVER
  31. 31. @KevinGoldsmith IF THE PARTS OF AN ORGANIZATION (E.G. TEAMS, DEPARTMENTS, OR SUBDIVISIONS) DO NOT CLOSELY REFLECT THE ESSENTIAL PARTS OF THE PRODUCT, OR IF THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ORGANIZATIONS DO NOT REFLECT THE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN PRODUCT PARTS, THEN THE PROJECT WILL BE IN TROUBLE. ... THEREFORE: MAKE SURE THE ORGANIZATION IS COMPATIBLE WITH THE PRODUCT ARCHITECTURE. James O. Coplien and Neil B. Harrison, Organizational Patterns of Agile Software Development, 2004 DEALING WITH THE HOMOMORPHIC FORCE
  32. 32. @KevinGoldsmith NETFLIX LEARNED FROM THIS [AMAZON] EXAMPLE, AND ENSURED THAT FROM THE BEGINNING IT STRUCTURED ITSELF AROUND SMALL, INDEPENDENT TEAMS, SO THAT THE SERVICES THEY CREATED WOULD ALSO BE INDEPENDENT FROM EACH OTHER. THIS ENSURED THAT THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE SYSTEM WAS OPTIMIZED FOR SPEED OF CHANGE. EFFECTIVELY, NETFLIX DESIGNED THE ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE FOR THE SYSTEM ARCHITECTURE IT WANTED. Sam Newman, Building Microservices BY MICHAEL J. BENNETT [CC BY-SA 3.0 (HTTPS:// CREATIVECOMMONS.ORG/LICENSES/BY-SA/3.0)], FROM WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  33. 33. @KevinGoldsmith AMDAHL’S LAW
  34. 34. THE PERFORMANCE OF THE WHOLE IS ONLY AS FAST AS IT’S SLOWEST PART AMDAHL’S LAW (PARAPHRASED)
  35. 35. @KevinGoldsmith AMDAHL’S LAW SERVER CORE LIBRARY IOS / MAC ANDROID WEB INFRASTRUCTURE
  36. 36. @KevinGoldsmith AMDAHL’S LAW SERVER CORE LIBRARY CLIENT INFRASTRUCTURE
  37. 37. @KevinGoldsmith AMDAHL’S LAW SERVER CORE LIBRARY CLIENT INFRASTRUCTURE
  38. 38. DIFFICULT THIS IS
  39. 39. @KevinGoldsmith SPEED UP THE SLOWEST ELEMENT?
  40. 40. @KevinGoldsmith NO
  41. 41. @KevinGoldsmith RETHINK THE WHOLE SYSTEM!
  42. 42. @KevinGoldsmith WHERE ARE THE BOTTLENECKS?
  43. 43. SERVICE-ORIENTED ARCHITECTURE SOLUTIONS
  44. 44. @KevinGoldsmith WE FIND STRONG EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THE MIRRORING HYPOTHESIS. IN ALL OF THE PAIRS WE EXAMINE, THE PRODUCT DEVELOPED BY THE LOOSELY-COUPLED ORGANIZATION IS SIGNIFICANTLY MORE MODULAR THAN THE PRODUCT FROM THE TIGHTLY-COUPLED ORGANIZATION. Exploring the Duality between Product and Organizational Architectures: A Test of the “Mirroring” Hypothesis MacCormack, Baldwin, Rusnak - Harvard Business School, 2008 SERVICE-ORIENTED ARCHITECTURES
  45. 45. FULL-STACK TEAMS SOLUTIONS
  46. 46. @KevinGoldsmith FULL-STACK TEAMS
  47. 47. @KevinGoldsmith AMDAHL’S LAW SERVER CORE LIBRARY CLIENT INFRASTRUCTURE
  48. 48. @KevinGoldsmith AMDAHL’S LAW CROSS-FUNCTIONAL TEAM
  49. 49. LOCAL DECISION MAKING SOLUTIONS
  50. 50. @KevinGoldsmith LEADERSHIP DRIVES ORGANIZATIONAL STRATEGY
  51. 51. @KevinGoldsmith TEAMS DECIDE BEST HOW TO DELIVER AGAINST THAT STRATEGY
  52. 52. @KevinGoldsmith USE MUTUALLY AGREED UPON BUSINESS METRICS TO TRACK ACHIEVEMENT
  53. 53. @KevinGoldsmith EMPATHY
  54. 54. @KevinGoldsmith FAMILIARITY BREEDS TRUST
  55. 55. @KevinGoldsmith EMPATHY
  56. 56. @KevinGoldsmith IS NOT THE SAME AS
  57. 57. @KevinGoldsmith EMPATHY Image by Andreas Fischler
  58. 58. LEVEL THE FIELD SOLUTIONS
  59. 59. @KevinGoldsmith EMPATHY
  60. 60. RECOGNIZE WARNING SIGNS SOLUTIONS
  61. 61. @KevinGoldsmith WELL THAT IS FINE FOR YOU PEOPLE AT CORPORATE… Someone who has forgotten that the people they work with are actual humans EMPATHY WARNING SIGNS
  62. 62. GET TOGETHER REGULARLY SOLUTIONS
  63. 63. @KevinGoldsmith EMPATHY
  64. 64. LEADERS TRAVEL SOLUTIONS
  65. 65. @KevinGoldsmith LEADERS TRAVEL
  66. 66. @KevinGoldsmith LEADERS TRAVEL
  67. 67. @KevinGoldsmith LEADERS TRAVEL
  68. 68. HUMANIZE SOLUTIONS
  69. 69. @KevinGoldsmith EMPATHY
  70. 70. INCLUDE REMOTE INDIVIDUALS SOLUTIONS
  71. 71. @KevinGoldsmith EMPATHY
  72. 72. @KevinGoldsmith COMMUNICATION
  73. 73. @KevinGoldsmith DISTRIBUTED TEAMS
  74. 74. @KevinGoldsmith DISTRIBUTED TEAMS
  75. 75. @KevinGoldsmith DISTRIBUTED TEAMS
  76. 76. FEWER CHANNELS SOLUTIONS
  77. 77. @KevinGoldsmith COMMUNICATION
  78. 78. DOCUMENT CLEARLY SOLUTIONS
  79. 79. @KevinGoldsmith COMMUNICATION
  80. 80. UTILIZE 1:1 & BROAD COMMUNICATION SOLUTIONS
  81. 81. @KevinGoldsmith SUMMARY
  82. 82. @KevinGoldsmith REMOTE TEAMS CREATE CHALLENGES
  83. 83. @KevinGoldsmith THE CHALLENGES CAN BE OVERCOME
  84. 84. @KevinGoldsmith SUMMARY PROBLEMS/SOLUTIONS ▸ Conway’s Law ▸ The reverse Conway Manuever ▸ Amdahl’s Law ▸ Modular architecture ▸ Full-stack teams ▸ Local decision making
  85. 85. @KevinGoldsmith SUMMARY PROBLEMS/SOLUTIONS ▸ Empathy ▸ Level the field ▸ Recognize warning signs ▸ Get together regularly ▸ Humanize ▸ Include remote individuals
  86. 86. @KevinGoldsmith SUMMARY PROBLEMS/SOLUTIONS ▸ Communication ▸ Use fewer channels ▸ Document Clearly
  87. 87. DISTRIBUTED TEAMS KEVIN GOLDSMITH @KEVINGOLDSMITH HTTPS://WWW.KEVINGOLDSMITH.COM

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