Track: Human Systems: Hacking the Org

Location: Empire Complex, 7th fl.

Day of week:

This track shares case studies of organizational structures and management techniques that build unique company cultures that put the people first. Whether it’s having flat reporting lines, experimenting with people-driven team formation or reinventing life-draining meetings with liberating structures, these speakers share practical techniques to inspire you to hack your org.

Track Host: Heidi Helfand

Director of Engineering Excellence @procoretech

Heidi Helfand is Director of Engineering Excellence at Procore Technologies, a leading provider of cloud-based applications for construction. She is author of the book Dynamic Reteaming: The Art and Wisdom of Changing Teams which challenges the notion that you need to keep your teams “the same” in order to be successful. Heidi was on the original team that invented GoToMyPC, GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar and AppFolio, Inc., a SAAS property management software company. She is a co-active coach credentialed by the International Coach Federation (ICF).

10:35am - 11:25am

Self-Selection for Resilience and Better Culture

The talent shortage is real. According to CareerBuilder research, 60% of US organizations today can’t fill their open positions in 12 weeks or more. Combined with a high turnover rate, this leads to a massive loss of profit opportunities. How can we create a culture that attracts people and keeps them engaged, motivated, and well-jelled with their teams?  And after they join, how do we build resilience into our teams and the organization?  Empowering people to choose their own teams - a “self selection” - is a great vehicle to build in happiness, resilience and a better culture.       

In this session I will share stories from running successful self-selection events in New York, Dublin and Chicago, and how I prepare technology teams and management for their first self-selection events. Building on the work of Sandi Mamoli and David Mole, I created my own simulation and a “Spooky Questions” game. The game enables open conversations, helps identify unspoken worries and brings in more fun and empathy into a self-selection process.

In this session, you will learn: 

  • a fundamentally different approach to creating high performing teams 
  • five steps to make your first experiment successful
  • how self-selection enables better career path, psychological safety and organizational resiliency. 

Dana Pylayeva, Agile/DevOps Trainer & Founder of Agile Play Consulting, LLC

11:50am - 12:40pm

Psychologically Safe Process Evolution in a Flat Structure

The worst place to be in business is in a state of complacency with no process iteration. While you are comfortably working the way you’ve always worked, other organizations will find ways to out maneuver you. Through a process of constant iteration, you can find the cutting edge advantages faster than your opponents. At Hunter Industries, our software development group practices Mob Programming and has a flat structure with management “Homeowners Associations (HOAs)”. These groups exist to empower the teams to evolve quickly and effectively with feedback loops and not micromanagement.  From solid bi-annual goal setting, to industry leading quality practices, we’ve found ways to evolve our practices beyond the bleeding edge and in this talk we share how we do it. You will walk away with practical ideas for how to add evolutionary management and process iteration into your company.

In this session you will learn how to:

  • Establish a safe environment for collaborating on the processes at your organization
  • Encourage new ideas to emerge, and treat them like experiments
  • Decentralize the process and avoid deferring to “the bosses ideas”
  • Identify good and bad patterns by relating to our successes and failures
  • Escape complacency in your organization by allowing the good ideas to flourish and removing the bad ones from your processes

Christopher Lucian, Director of Software Development @Hunter_Ind

1:40pm - 2:30pm

Human Systems Open Space

Details to follow.

2:55pm - 3:45pm

Using Bets, Boards and Missions to Inspire Org-Wide Agility

We have all encountered the “messy middle” in our work. The messy middle exists somewhere between the high-level company strategy and the immediate week-in-week-out team-level “work”. It spans multiple teams and groups...often encompassing months and quarters worth of work, with very little shared understanding.

Making work and our intentions at this level less messy--without sapping autonomy, mastery, and purpose--is critical for whole-org agility. This clarity and alignment is key to unlocking the potential of impact-driven individual teams (vs. prescriptive, feature factories), and our broader organizations.

In this talk, we will explore

  • building a shared language around value creation that can inspire creative solutions
  • the notion of nested/networked bets, and how speaking in bets can “hack” prescriptive, solution-based roadmaps
  • ways to nudge your organization towards more transparency (w/o it biting back)
  • ways that engineering management inadvertently perpetuate a lack of clarity (and what to do about it)

I hope to leave engineers and engineering managers with specific actions they can take to nudge their organizations towards a greater sense of impact and coherence.

John Cutler, Product Evangelist @Amplitude

4:10pm - 5:00pm

Liberating Structures @CapitalOne

Unleash everyone’s voice, viewpoint and expertise with Liberating Structures - a set of facilitation frameworks that enable shared ownership and inclusion.  At Capital One we have found Liberating Structures to be a great fit with Agile approaches - bringing energy and life into planning and retro sessions as well as workshops, offsites and in leadership coaching.  This session shares practical applications of Liberating Structures that you can use in your workplace based on what we have learned.

In this session you will learn how to:

  • Increase meeting engagement by using innovative, effective tools that include and unleash everyone
  • Transform meetings into dynamic, creative experiences
  • Unlock the knowledge, wisdom and perspectives of your teams to reliably address opportunities and problems

Greg Myers, Agile Coach, Engineering @CapitalOne

5:25pm - 6:15pm

Breaking Hierarchy - How Spotify Enables Engineer Decision Making

In more hierarchical organizations, innovation and decision-making is something that traditionally happens at the top of the hierarchy and the lower levels of the org is focused on execution. Management owns a large part of the decision-making process, and engineers are largely there to execute on the direction set. There are however other ways.

In this talk, I will share how we approach the problem of fully leveraging the capacity of everyone in the organization. Spotify has made some significant efforts around how we position our engineers equal to managers, how we drive technical strategy and make decisions at scale. You will learn about useful models for structures and decision making, and hear several specific examples of how we approach leveraging the fully capacity of every individual.

In this session, you will learn

  • Several useful models for how to approach decision making at scale.
  • How Spotify leverages a decision-making framework to enable people to effectively argue what to do and how
  • Why and how to engage individual contributors in strategy
  • How to reorganize a team in a highly inclusive manner

Kristian Lindwall, Senior Engineering Manager, Data and Machine Learning Infrastructure @Spotify


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