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5 Things I Wish I'd Known Sooner About Scaling Teams & Culture - at Turing Fest

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5 Things I Wish I'd Known Sooner About Scaling Teams & Culture - at Turing Fest

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In engineering we (rightly) talk a lot about how to scale our systems and our infrastructure. Yet some of our very hardest challenges come when scaling the people side of things. How do you survive your team doubling, tripling or perhaps even a 10x growth in a short period of time? What does it take to grow fast AND retain the bits of your culture as a team or organisation that made you great to begin with? How do you know when to change how you do things, without just cargo culting?

Having scaled a number of teams at different speeds, Meri talks through some of the inflection points you'll experience, how to navigate them, and reflect on all the things she wishes she'd known just a little bit earlier..

In engineering we (rightly) talk a lot about how to scale our systems and our infrastructure. Yet some of our very hardest challenges come when scaling the people side of things. How do you survive your team doubling, tripling or perhaps even a 10x growth in a short period of time? What does it take to grow fast AND retain the bits of your culture as a team or organisation that made you great to begin with? How do you know when to change how you do things, without just cargo culting?

Having scaled a number of teams at different speeds, Meri talks through some of the inflection points you'll experience, how to navigate them, and reflect on all the things she wishes she'd known just a little bit earlier..

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5 Things I Wish I'd Known Sooner About Scaling Teams & Culture - at Turing Fest

  1. 1. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager 5 Things I Wish I'd Known Sooner About Scaling Teams & Culture Turing Fest August 2018
  2. 2. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager
  3. 3. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager http://www.flickr.com/photos/kodomut/3667608102/
  4. 4. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager #1: DRY DOESN’T WORK FOR HUMAN COMMUNICATION
  5. 5. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager “DON’T REPEAT YOURSELF” IS A NICE PROGRAMMING PRINCIPLE IT IS A TERRIBLE HUMAN COMMUNICATION PRINCIPLE YOU NEED TO REPEAT IMPORTANT THINGS CONSISTENTLY (7 TIMES)
  6. 6. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager https://www.flickr.com/photos/psd/9613972159/
  7. 7. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:TinFoilHat002.jpg
  8. 8. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager BE CLEAR BE CONSISTENT REMEMBER OTHERS STILL NEED TO HEAR BEYOND THE POINT WHEN YOU ARE WORRIED YOU HAVE BEEN REPETITIVE
  9. 9. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager REMEMBER WE DON’T JUST COMMUNICATE IN THE PRESENT USE ARCHITECTURAL DECISION RECORDS TO COMMUNICATE (TO FUTURE FOLKS) WHAT YOU WERE THINKING WHEN YOU MADE A CHOICE
  10. 10. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager #2: SCALING TEAMS IS ABOUT CREATING CONDITIONS FOR SUCCESS
  11. 11. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager WE ALL HATE BAD BOSSES WE DESCRIBE THEM AS •Clueless •Empty suits •Pointless •Seagulls
  12. 12. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager
  13. 13. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager https://twitter.com/Caterina/status/6715084157
  14. 14. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager Across industries, across countries, the best performing teams answer certain questions positively
  15. 15. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager Predictors of High Performance 1. Do I know what is expected of me at work? 2. Do I have the materials & equipment I need to do my work right? 3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day? 4. In the last 7 days, have I received recognition or praise for good work? 5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person? 6. Is there someone at work who cares about my development? 7. At work, do my opinions seem to count? 8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel like my work is important? 9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work? 10. Do I have a best friend at work? 11. In the last 6 months, have I talked with someone about my development? 12. At work, have I had opportunities to learn and grow?
  16. 16. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager
  17. 17. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager UNDERSTAND MOTIVATION • Purpose • Autonomy • Mastery
  18. 18. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager MOTIVATION = + PURPOSE (Do I believe in WHY?) + AUTONOMY (Do I get a say in WHAT?) + MASTERY (Am I proud of HOW?) - ANY NEGATIVE FACTORS THAT DETRACT
  19. 19. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager Predictors of High Performance (remix) PURPOSE • Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel like my work is important? AUTONOMY • Do I know what is expected of me at work? • At work, do my opinions seem to count? MASTERY • Do I have the materials & equipment I need to do my work right? • At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day? • Is there someone at work who cares about my development? • Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work? • In the last 6 months, have I talked with someone about my development? • At work, have I had opportunities to learn and grow?
  20. 20. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager And What Else? OTHER FACTORS: • In the last 7 days, have I received recognition or praise for good work? • Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person? • Do I have a best friend at work? ESSENTIALLY, AM I RESPECTED & REWARDED HERE? CAN I BE MYSELF AND SUCCEED HERE? I CALL THIS INCLUSION.
  21. 21. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager Predictors of High Performance (remix) PURPOSE • Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel like my work is important? AUTONOMY • Do I know what is expected of me at work? • At work, do my opinions seem to count? INCLUSION: • In the last 7 days, have I received recognition or praise for good work? • Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person? • Do I have a best friend at work? MASTERY • Do I have the materials & equipment I need to do my work right? • At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day? • Is there someone at work who cares about my development? • Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work? • In the last 6 months, have I talked with someone about my development? • At work, have I had opportunities to learn and grow?
  22. 22. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager SPACE TO BE AWESOME = + PURPOSE (Do I believe in WHY?) + AUTONOMY (Do I get a say in WHAT?) + MASTERY (Am I proud of HOW?) + INCLUSION (Do I BELONG HERE?) - ANY NEGATIVE FACTORS THAT DETRACT
  23. 23. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager EVERY PERSON IS CAPABLE OF VIRTUOSITY
  24. 24. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager #3 INFLECTION POINTS Semper in excretum, sed altuit variunt
  25. 25. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager DIFFERENT THINGS COME “FOR FREE” AT DIFFERENT INFLECTION POINTS
  26. 26. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager
  27. 27. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager
  28. 28. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager FOCUS ON THE RIGHT PROBLEMS AT THE RIGHT TIME
  29. 29. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager #4: WITH PEOPLE, OBSERVABILITY > TESTING
  30. 30. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager SOMETIMES HOWEVER WELL WE PLAN, HOWEVER HARD WE TRY, OUR IMPACT MAY NOT EQUAL OUR INTENT
  31. 31. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager REGULARLY CHECK WHETHER WHAT YOU INTENDED MATCHES UP TO THE ACTUAL IMPACT
  32. 32. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager https://speakerdeck.com/madtypist/retrospectives-look-back-to-move-forward https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIU6P9HRYzo
  33. 33. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager https://labs.spotify.com/2014/09/16/squad-health-check-model/
  34. 34. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager https://speakerdeck.com/thesambarnes/people-are-weird-im-weird-the-lead-developer-london-2015 https://vimeo.com/139910836
  35. 35. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager #5: CULTURE ADD MATTERS A LOT MORE THAN CULTURE FIT
  36. 36. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager https://www.flickr.com/photos/psd/8451589322/in/set-72157633230231221
  37. 37. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager “DO I HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO WHAT I DO BEST EVERY DAY?”
  38. 38. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager WE NEED TO STOP LEVELLING PEOPLE OUT TO EQUAL CONSISTENT MEDIOCRITY AND INSTEAD FOCUS ON GETTING THE MOST OUT OF DIFFERENCE
  39. 39. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager WE JUST NEED A SHIFT IN PERSPECTIVE
  40. 40. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager
  41. 41. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager WE ARE NOT INTERCHANGEABLE RESOURCE UNITS
  42. 42. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager WE ARE COLOURS … OR FLAVOURS WE ARE BETTER IN COMPLEMENT, IN CONCERT WITH EACH OTHER
  43. 43. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager
  44. 44. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager WHAT IF WE THINK OF PEOPLE AND ROLES AS A MATTER OF CASTING?
  45. 45. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager HOW DO WE ASSEMBLE A GREAT TEAM WITH COMPLEMENTARY ABILITIES?
  46. 46. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager
  47. 47. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager CRAFT INCLUSIVE ENVIRONMENTS 1. Am I EXPECTED here? 2. Am I RESPECTED here? 3. Can I BE MYSELF and BE SUCCESSFUL here?
  48. 48. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager IN SUMMARY…
  49. 49. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager 5 Things I Wish I’d Known Sooner About Scaling Teams 1. DRY Doesn’t Work for Human Communication – repeat, consistently, 7+ times. ADRs rock. 2. Scaling Teams is About Creating the Conditions for Success – Purpose, Autonomy, Mastery, Inclusion. 3. Inflection Points Exist – focus on the right problems at the right times. Borrow solutions from folks facing YOUR problems. 4. With People, Observability > Testing – use tactics to check whether you impact is matching your intent (and adjust!). Retros rock. 5. Culture ADD Matters a Lot More Than Culture FIT – cultivate inclusion, outperform the homogenous teams Every. Damn. Day.
  50. 50. Meri Williams, ChromeRose @Geek_Manager

Editor's Notes

  • This isn’t scary at all … WHELP
  • They were consistently recognized as one of the best places to work, and produced more leaders of companies than almost any other company
  • Sometimes it’s just about helping people realise they don’t know what they don’t know
  • The only thing that under-informed engineers produce more of than code is conspiracy theories
  • They were consistently recognized as one of the best places to work, and produced more leaders of companies than almost any other company
  • If you record context, then it’s possible in future for people revisiting the decision, or puzzled by the design, to start by going “Are the same things true now as were true at the time this decision was made?”
  • Great, now I’m drowning in questions to ask myself all the time! Thanks Meri!!
  • Different ones are easier and harder at different inflection points – it’s not hard to keep 10 people aligned around a clear purpose

    It is incredibly hard to keep 150+ people aligned around a shared purpose AND to enable autonomy
  • Under 10 people, everyone knows everything, for free!

    Over 10 people, suddenly people get confused or lost or get the wrong end of the stick

    Over 50 people, you need to have career paths for people to understand their place in the group, how they can grow their careers. Specialisms emerge. Efficiencies happen in having people become more expert in certain areas

    Over 100, most people don’t know most other people – they struggle to trust each other’s intent

    Over 150, Dunbar number – most people literally cannot hold that many relationships up / know that many people

  • Sometimes we get too focused on the problems that are on the far horizon

    Often because those might be more comfortable for us to solve – they feel less real, urgent, sticky, challenging – or maybe we just know more about how to solve THOSE problems
  • As your organization grows you encounter different problems – each new fishbowl has a new set of watchouts
  • Under 10 people, everyone knows everything, for free!

    Over 10 people, suddenly people get confused or lost or get the wrong end of the stick

    Over 50 people, you need to have career paths for people to understand their place in the group, how they can grow their careers. Specialisms emerge. Efficiencies happen in having people become more expert in certain areas

    Over 100, most people don’t know most other people – they struggle to trust each other’s intent

    Over 150, Dunbar number – most people literally cannot hold that many relationships up / know that many people

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