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Building a strong
engineering culture
Kevin Goldsmith
Director of Engineering

November 14, 2013
Hej!
What is culture?
What is culture?

Edgar Schein (MIT)
A pattern of shared basic assumptions that a group has
learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and
internal integration, that has worked well enough to be
considered valid and therefore, to be taught to new members
as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to
those problems.

4
What is culture?

Edgar Schein (MIT)
A pattern of shared basic assumptions that a group has
learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and
internal integration, that has worked well enough to be
considered valid and therefore, to be taught to new members
as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to
those problems.

5
What is culture?

Elaine Wherry (Meebo)
Culture = Artifacts + systems and values + truth

6
What is culture?

Henrik Kniberg (Agile guru)
Culture is the stuff people do without noticing it

7
What is culture?

Me
Culture is the manifestation of the shared values of the
organization as represented by the actions of its members

8
9

What is culture?

Values	
  

Culture	
  

Processes	
  

Ar,facts	
  

Rituals	
  

Beliefs	
  
10

Spotify’s Values

photo	
  credit:	
  ©	
  Leigh	
  Ann	
  Shaffner,	
  used	
  with	
  permission
11

Spotify’s Values

Learn from failure
Innovation at every level

Continuous improvement
Shared Responsibility

Iterative development
Agile-first
Data-driven
Autonomous Teams

Transparency
Trust
Servant Leadership

photo	
  credit:	
  ©	
  Leigh	
  Ann	
  Shaffner,	
  used	
  with	
  permission
What is culture?

What culture is not
Free food
Slides in your office
Photos with Daleks
Concierge Services
Rock-climbing Walls

12
13

What is culture?

Values	
  

Culture	
  

Processes	
  

Ar,facts	
  

Rituals	
  

Beliefs	
  
What is culture?

What culture is not
Agile/Lean

14
You have a culture
What is it?
What is culture?

16
What is culture?

17
What is culture?

18
What is culture?

19
What is culture?

20
What is culture?

You are the average of the five people you spend the most
time with
Jim Rohn

21
Why is culture important?
23

Why is culture important?

If vision is where you
are going, culture is
what makes sure you
can get there.

photo	
  credit:	
  ©	
  Leigh	
  Ann	
  Shaffner,	
  
used	
  with	
  permission
Why is culture important?

24

Apply the same level
of deep thinking
about building a
culture as you would
about building a
product
Tim O'Reilly
Why is culture important

A good culture
isn’t the same
thing as a good
business though
Still need a vision, a product and
customers

25
26

What is Culture

Culture enables
success, but it does
not cause success.
Patty McCord
What makes a good
engineering culture?
28

What makes a good engineering culture?
Stuff gets done
Stuff gets done

29
30

Stuff gets done

Learn from failure
Innovation at every level

Continuous improvement
Shared Responsibility

Iterative development
Agile-first
Data-driven
Autonomous Teams

Transparency
Trust
Servant Leadership

photo	
  credit:	
  ©	
  Leigh	
  Ann	
  Shaffner,	
  used	
  with	
  permission
31

What makes a good engineering culture?
Stuff gets done
It gets done well
It gets done well

32
It gets done well

33
34

It Gets Done Well

Learn from failure
Innovation at every level

Continuous improvement
Shared Responsibility

Iterative development
Agile-first
Data-driven
Autonomous Teams

Transparency
Trust
Servant Leadership

photo	
  credit:	
  ©	
  Leigh	
  Ann	
  Shaffner,	
  used	
  with	
  permission
35

What makes a good engineering culture?
Stuff gets done
It gets done well
People are happy
People are happy

36
37

People are happy

Learn from failure
Innovation at every level

Continuous improvement
Shared Responsibility

Iterative development
Agile-first
Data-driven
Autonomous Teams

Transparency
Trust
Servant Leadership

photo	
  credit:	
  ©	
  Leigh	
  Ann	
  Shaffner,	
  used	
  with	
  permission
38

What makes a good engineering culture?
Stuff gets done
It gets done well
People are happy
Leaders provide direction and guidance
39

What makes a good engineering culture?
Stuff gets done
It gets done well
People are happy
Leaders provide direction and guidance and GET OUT OF THE WAY
What makes an engineering culture great?

40
41

Leaders provide direction and guidance and get out of the way

Learn from failure
Innovation at every level

Continuous improvement
Shared Responsibility

Iterative development
Agile-first
Data-driven
Autonomous Teams

Transparency
Trust
Servant Leadership

photo	
  credit:	
  ©	
  Leigh	
  Ann	
  Shaffner,	
  used	
  with	
  permission
42

What makes a good engineering culture?
Stuff gets done
It gets done well
People are happy
Leaders provide direction and guidance and GET OUT OF THE WAY
Success is celebrated
Success is Celebrated

43
44

What makes a good engineering culture?
Stuff gets done
It gets done well
People are happy
Leaders provide direction and guidance and GET OUT OF THE WAY
Success is celebrated
Failure is used as a way to learn
Failure is used as a way to learn

45
Failure is used as a way to learn

46
47

Spotify’s Values

Learn from failure
Innovation at every level

Continuous improvement
Shared Responsibility

Iterative development
Agile-first
Data-driven
Autonomous Teams

Transparency
Trust
Servant Leadership

photo	
  credit:	
  ©	
  Leigh	
  Ann	
  Shaffner,	
  used	
  with	
  permission
Protecting your culture
49

Protecting your culture

Protecting your culture
Walk the talk
Walk the talk

Culture is the manifestation of the shared values of the
organization as represented by the actions of its members

50
51

Protecting your culture

Protecting your culture
Walk the talk
Hiring is crucial
52

Hiring is crucial

?
53

Protecting your culture

Protecting your culture
Walk the talk
Hiring is crucial
Firing is also crucial
A lot of people say don’t fire great engineers – but
they’re wrong. Even if you have an engineer who is
exceptional, but an asshole, you should fire them
immediately. Your team will thank you for it
afterwards. It only takes one asshole to destroy an
entire team, so act quickly and remove any bad
seeds no matter how good they are at writing
software.
Joe Stump
55

Protecting your culture

Protecting your culture
Walk the talk
Hiring is crucial
Firing is also crucial
Communicate your values

photo	
  credit:	
  ©	
  Leigh	
  Ann	
  Shaffner,	
  used	
  with	
  permission
56

Protecting your culture

Protecting your culture
Walk the talk
Hiring is crucial
Firing is also crucial
Communicate your values
57

Protecting your culture

Protecting your culture
Walk the talk
Hiring is crucial
Firing is also crucial
Communicate your values
Protecting your culture

58

Protecting your culture
Walk the talk
Hiring is crucial
Firing is also crucial
Communicate your values
Measure against your values
Protecting your culture

59

Protecting your culture
Walk the talk
Hiring is crucial
Firing is also crucial
Communicate your values
Measure against your values
Your organization reflects
your values
Credit: Henrik Kniberg
Protecting your culture

60

Protecting your culture
Walk the talk
Hiring is crucial
Firing is also crucial
Communicate your culture
Measure against your values
Your organization reflects
your culture
Watch out for warning signs
Fixing broken culture
62

Fixing a broken culture

How do you know if the culture is broken?
People don’t care

“Broken Dreams” by Brandon Satterwhite is licensed under CC BY 2.0
63

Fixing a broken culture

How do you know if the culture is broken?
People don’t care

“Bored people quit.” – Michael Lopp

“Broken Dreams” by Brandon Satterwhite is licensed under CC BY 2.0
64

Fixing a broken culture

How do you know if the culture is broken?
People don’t care

Disenfranchised people quit.

“Broken Dreams” by Brandon Satterwhite is licensed under CC BY 2.0
65

Fixing a broken culture

How do you know if the culture is broken?
People don’t care

Disengaged people quit.

“Broken Dreams” by Brandon Satterwhite is licensed under CC BY 2.0
66

Fixing a broken culture

How do you know if the culture is broken?
People don’t care
(Good) People are leaving

“Broken Dreams” by Brandon Satterwhite is licensed under CC BY 2.0
67

Fixing a broken culture

How do you know if the culture is broken?
People don’t care
(Good) People are leaving
You spend time on the wrong things instead of building your product

“Broken Dreams” by Brandon Satterwhite is licensed under CC BY 2.0
68

Fixing a broken culture

How do you know if the culture is broken?
People don’t care
(Good) People are leaving
You spend time on the wrong things instead of building your product

dealing with “situations”

“Broken Dreams” by Brandon Satterwhite is licensed under CC BY 2.0
69

Fixing a broken culture

How do you know if the culture is broken?
People don’t care
(Good) People are leaving
You spend time on the wrong things instead of building your product

Focusing on your internal customers
instead of your actual customers

“Broken Dreams” by Brandon Satterwhite is licensed under CC BY 2.0
70

Fixing a broken culture

How do you know if the culture is broken?
People don’t care
(Good) People are leaving
You spend time on the wrong things instead of building your product

Managing up

“Broken Dreams” by Brandon Satterwhite is licensed under CC BY 2.0
71

Fixing a broken culture

How do you know if the culture is broken?
People don’t care
(Good) People are leaving
You spend time on the wrong things instead of building your product

Dealing with process

“Broken Dreams” by Brandon Satterwhite is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Fixing a broken culture

“It’s not you, it’s me”

72
Fixing a broken culture

“It’s not you, it’s me”
Sometimes, it is you.

73
Fixing a broken culture

Fixing it

74
Fixing a broken culture

Fixing it
Start with yourself

75
Fixing a broken culture

Fixing it
Start with yourself
Then your team

76
Fixing a broken culture

Fixing it
Start with yourself
Then your team
Build on successes

77
Fixing a broken culture

Fixing it
Start with yourself
Then your team
Build on successes
Recruit others

78
Fixing a broken culture

Fixing it
Start with yourself
Then your team
Build on successes
Recruit others
Grow bottom up

79
Conclusion
81

You have a culture
Whether you think you do or not
82

Work on your
culture
It will determine how things get (or don’t
get) done
83

If you have a good
culture, protect it
Make sure everyone understands what you
value as a team. Make sure everyone you
hire will be happy in your culture.
84

If you have a bad
culture, transform it
A long process, start small and grow. Don’t
try to rush it.
85

You are the culture
The culture is the intersection (average) of
the values of the people in it. Want to
improve your culture? LIVE THE VALUES
Tack!

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Building A Strong Engineering Culture - my talk from BBC Develop 2013

  • 1. Building a strong engineering culture Kevin Goldsmith Director of Engineering November 14, 2013
  • 4. What is culture? Edgar Schein (MIT) A pattern of shared basic assumptions that a group has learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems. 4
  • 5. What is culture? Edgar Schein (MIT) A pattern of shared basic assumptions that a group has learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems. 5
  • 6. What is culture? Elaine Wherry (Meebo) Culture = Artifacts + systems and values + truth 6
  • 7. What is culture? Henrik Kniberg (Agile guru) Culture is the stuff people do without noticing it 7
  • 8. What is culture? Me Culture is the manifestation of the shared values of the organization as represented by the actions of its members 8
  • 9. 9 What is culture? Values   Culture   Processes   Ar,facts   Rituals   Beliefs  
  • 10. 10 Spotify’s Values photo  credit:  ©  Leigh  Ann  Shaffner,  used  with  permission
  • 11. 11 Spotify’s Values Learn from failure Innovation at every level Continuous improvement Shared Responsibility Iterative development Agile-first Data-driven Autonomous Teams Transparency Trust Servant Leadership photo  credit:  ©  Leigh  Ann  Shaffner,  used  with  permission
  • 12. What is culture? What culture is not Free food Slides in your office Photos with Daleks Concierge Services Rock-climbing Walls 12
  • 13. 13 What is culture? Values   Culture   Processes   Ar,facts   Rituals   Beliefs  
  • 14. What is culture? What culture is not Agile/Lean 14
  • 15. You have a culture What is it?
  • 21. What is culture? You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with Jim Rohn 21
  • 22. Why is culture important?
  • 23. 23 Why is culture important? If vision is where you are going, culture is what makes sure you can get there. photo  credit:  ©  Leigh  Ann  Shaffner,   used  with  permission
  • 24. Why is culture important? 24 Apply the same level of deep thinking about building a culture as you would about building a product Tim O'Reilly
  • 25. Why is culture important A good culture isn’t the same thing as a good business though Still need a vision, a product and customers 25
  • 26. 26 What is Culture Culture enables success, but it does not cause success. Patty McCord
  • 27. What makes a good engineering culture?
  • 28. 28 What makes a good engineering culture? Stuff gets done
  • 30. 30 Stuff gets done Learn from failure Innovation at every level Continuous improvement Shared Responsibility Iterative development Agile-first Data-driven Autonomous Teams Transparency Trust Servant Leadership photo  credit:  ©  Leigh  Ann  Shaffner,  used  with  permission
  • 31. 31 What makes a good engineering culture? Stuff gets done It gets done well
  • 32. It gets done well 32
  • 33. It gets done well 33
  • 34. 34 It Gets Done Well Learn from failure Innovation at every level Continuous improvement Shared Responsibility Iterative development Agile-first Data-driven Autonomous Teams Transparency Trust Servant Leadership photo  credit:  ©  Leigh  Ann  Shaffner,  used  with  permission
  • 35. 35 What makes a good engineering culture? Stuff gets done It gets done well People are happy
  • 37. 37 People are happy Learn from failure Innovation at every level Continuous improvement Shared Responsibility Iterative development Agile-first Data-driven Autonomous Teams Transparency Trust Servant Leadership photo  credit:  ©  Leigh  Ann  Shaffner,  used  with  permission
  • 38. 38 What makes a good engineering culture? Stuff gets done It gets done well People are happy Leaders provide direction and guidance
  • 39. 39 What makes a good engineering culture? Stuff gets done It gets done well People are happy Leaders provide direction and guidance and GET OUT OF THE WAY
  • 40. What makes an engineering culture great? 40
  • 41. 41 Leaders provide direction and guidance and get out of the way Learn from failure Innovation at every level Continuous improvement Shared Responsibility Iterative development Agile-first Data-driven Autonomous Teams Transparency Trust Servant Leadership photo  credit:  ©  Leigh  Ann  Shaffner,  used  with  permission
  • 42. 42 What makes a good engineering culture? Stuff gets done It gets done well People are happy Leaders provide direction and guidance and GET OUT OF THE WAY Success is celebrated
  • 44. 44 What makes a good engineering culture? Stuff gets done It gets done well People are happy Leaders provide direction and guidance and GET OUT OF THE WAY Success is celebrated Failure is used as a way to learn
  • 45. Failure is used as a way to learn 45
  • 46. Failure is used as a way to learn 46
  • 47. 47 Spotify’s Values Learn from failure Innovation at every level Continuous improvement Shared Responsibility Iterative development Agile-first Data-driven Autonomous Teams Transparency Trust Servant Leadership photo  credit:  ©  Leigh  Ann  Shaffner,  used  with  permission
  • 49. 49 Protecting your culture Protecting your culture Walk the talk
  • 50. Walk the talk Culture is the manifestation of the shared values of the organization as represented by the actions of its members 50
  • 51. 51 Protecting your culture Protecting your culture Walk the talk Hiring is crucial
  • 53. 53 Protecting your culture Protecting your culture Walk the talk Hiring is crucial Firing is also crucial
  • 54. A lot of people say don’t fire great engineers – but they’re wrong. Even if you have an engineer who is exceptional, but an asshole, you should fire them immediately. Your team will thank you for it afterwards. It only takes one asshole to destroy an entire team, so act quickly and remove any bad seeds no matter how good they are at writing software. Joe Stump
  • 55. 55 Protecting your culture Protecting your culture Walk the talk Hiring is crucial Firing is also crucial Communicate your values photo  credit:  ©  Leigh  Ann  Shaffner,  used  with  permission
  • 56. 56 Protecting your culture Protecting your culture Walk the talk Hiring is crucial Firing is also crucial Communicate your values
  • 57. 57 Protecting your culture Protecting your culture Walk the talk Hiring is crucial Firing is also crucial Communicate your values
  • 58. Protecting your culture 58 Protecting your culture Walk the talk Hiring is crucial Firing is also crucial Communicate your values Measure against your values
  • 59. Protecting your culture 59 Protecting your culture Walk the talk Hiring is crucial Firing is also crucial Communicate your values Measure against your values Your organization reflects your values Credit: Henrik Kniberg
  • 60. Protecting your culture 60 Protecting your culture Walk the talk Hiring is crucial Firing is also crucial Communicate your culture Measure against your values Your organization reflects your culture Watch out for warning signs
  • 62. 62 Fixing a broken culture How do you know if the culture is broken? People don’t care “Broken Dreams” by Brandon Satterwhite is licensed under CC BY 2.0
  • 63. 63 Fixing a broken culture How do you know if the culture is broken? People don’t care “Bored people quit.” – Michael Lopp “Broken Dreams” by Brandon Satterwhite is licensed under CC BY 2.0
  • 64. 64 Fixing a broken culture How do you know if the culture is broken? People don’t care Disenfranchised people quit. “Broken Dreams” by Brandon Satterwhite is licensed under CC BY 2.0
  • 65. 65 Fixing a broken culture How do you know if the culture is broken? People don’t care Disengaged people quit. “Broken Dreams” by Brandon Satterwhite is licensed under CC BY 2.0
  • 66. 66 Fixing a broken culture How do you know if the culture is broken? People don’t care (Good) People are leaving “Broken Dreams” by Brandon Satterwhite is licensed under CC BY 2.0
  • 67. 67 Fixing a broken culture How do you know if the culture is broken? People don’t care (Good) People are leaving You spend time on the wrong things instead of building your product “Broken Dreams” by Brandon Satterwhite is licensed under CC BY 2.0
  • 68. 68 Fixing a broken culture How do you know if the culture is broken? People don’t care (Good) People are leaving You spend time on the wrong things instead of building your product dealing with “situations” “Broken Dreams” by Brandon Satterwhite is licensed under CC BY 2.0
  • 69. 69 Fixing a broken culture How do you know if the culture is broken? People don’t care (Good) People are leaving You spend time on the wrong things instead of building your product Focusing on your internal customers instead of your actual customers “Broken Dreams” by Brandon Satterwhite is licensed under CC BY 2.0
  • 70. 70 Fixing a broken culture How do you know if the culture is broken? People don’t care (Good) People are leaving You spend time on the wrong things instead of building your product Managing up “Broken Dreams” by Brandon Satterwhite is licensed under CC BY 2.0
  • 71. 71 Fixing a broken culture How do you know if the culture is broken? People don’t care (Good) People are leaving You spend time on the wrong things instead of building your product Dealing with process “Broken Dreams” by Brandon Satterwhite is licensed under CC BY 2.0
  • 72. Fixing a broken culture “It’s not you, it’s me” 72
  • 73. Fixing a broken culture “It’s not you, it’s me” Sometimes, it is you. 73
  • 74. Fixing a broken culture Fixing it 74
  • 75. Fixing a broken culture Fixing it Start with yourself 75
  • 76. Fixing a broken culture Fixing it Start with yourself Then your team 76
  • 77. Fixing a broken culture Fixing it Start with yourself Then your team Build on successes 77
  • 78. Fixing a broken culture Fixing it Start with yourself Then your team Build on successes Recruit others 78
  • 79. Fixing a broken culture Fixing it Start with yourself Then your team Build on successes Recruit others Grow bottom up 79
  • 81. 81 You have a culture Whether you think you do or not
  • 82. 82 Work on your culture It will determine how things get (or don’t get) done
  • 83. 83 If you have a good culture, protect it Make sure everyone understands what you value as a team. Make sure everyone you hire will be happy in your culture.
  • 84. 84 If you have a bad culture, transform it A long process, start small and grow. Don’t try to rush it.
  • 85. 85 You are the culture The culture is the intersection (average) of the values of the people in it. Want to improve your culture? LIVE THE VALUES
  • 86. Tack!