Las Vegas 2020

Leading for Better Value Sooner Safer Happier

Leadership will make it or break it.

Culture is the biggest lever to delivering Better Value Sooner Safer Happier.

This talk is aimed at leaders at all levels.

We take a look at the antipatterns to avoid and the success patterns which lead to the delivery of Better Value Sooner Safer Happier.


Jonathan Smart

Partner, Enterprise Agility, Deloitte





Thank you David and Jessica. The next speaker is John Smart. I met him in 2016 when he headed up the ways of working at Barclay's and organization, founded in the year 1634, which predates the invention of paper cash. In his role, John had an amazing reputation of doing things in a way very different than the traditional norms inside of an organization that has one of the most highly evolved bureaucracies on the planet, having had centuries to perfect itself, I mentioned in my opening remarks that his definition of DevOps of better value sooner, safer, and happier, is one of my favorite definitions. And I'm so delighted that this phrase has been uttered so many times on the DevOps Enterprise stage, showing just how impactful his work has been on this community. This is one of the many reasons why I'm so happy that he's on the programming committee of this conference. Sooner, safer, and Happier is also a title of his amazing new book coming out next month. It's a fantastic book, and I think it fills some now obvious gaps in the management literature. And holy cow, I had so much admire the quote from Dave Snowden on his book cover. He is now partner of Business Agility at Deloitte, and I'm so excited to have him share his perspectives on what we now require from both technology and business leaders. Please welcome John. Smart,


Frustrated, tearful,






Scared, frightened,




Alone. Hi, my name's John, and I'm gonna talk today about behavior and how it is the biggest lever for better outcomes. Specifically, how leadership behavior is the biggest lever for better value, sooner, safer, and happier. This talk is aimed at leaders at all levels. This is not about other people as leaders. This is about you as a leader. So this talk is for you and it's for leaders at all levels. And in this talk, I'm gonna share some antipas and patterns for leading, for better outcomes. First of all, let's have a look at what, what's going on here and what has changed. So unless you've been living under a rock, you'll know that the world of work has fundamentally changed. We've gone from the age of oil and mass production. This is the Ford factory in Detroit. This is around about, uh, 19, 19 10, 19 20. Um, we've come from the age of oil and mass production.


This is what organized human endeavor used to be. Predominantly, it was mass producing identical widgets, identical things. It could be making wheels for the car, making a gas tank or a petrol tank for the car. It was repetitive work, and it was knowable, it, something went wrong, you knew how to fix it. Now, we've gone from the age of oil and mass production to the age of digital. And in using these words, I'm quoting Al Paris, who wrote about the 50 to 60 year repeating cycles of technology led revolution in the age of digital. This is like going from the stone age to the bronze age. We have new tools. We have a new means of production. And this work is unique. It is not repetitive. It is knowledge work, and it is unknowable. When writing software, you don't write the same software a hundred thousand times on an assembly line.


You write it once, the computer runs it a hundred thousand times. Every time you write software. It's unique. Whenever we create a technology and information technology product, it's unique. Whenever you install that information, technology product, even if it's a big vendor system, that is still a unique environment, the work is fundamentally unknowable and it involves collaboration. In the Detroit factory, in Ford, in the early 19 hundreds, more than 50 languages were spoken. The reason that didn't matter was because people were not speaking to each other. They didn't need to have a common language when you're doing the same task day in and day out. Clearly, as you can see in these photos now, collaboration is super important. The pace of change is getting faster. So this was a survey. 3,300 people were asked the question, what's the difference between a digital environment and a traditional one?


The number one answer is the pace of business. Its speed, its rate of change. The number two answer was culture, mindset, learning, risk taking. The number three answer was flexible working, collaboration and transparency, people collaborating and working together. And the fourth answer was productivity and continuous improvement. So the world has got faster in terms of the 14th state of agile report, which came out in May, 2020. Yet again, it finds that culture is the biggest challenge to better ways of working. Four of the top five reasons are behavioral. Reason. Number one is the biggest challenge is general organizational resistance to change. Reason number two is not enough. Leadership participation. Number three, organization culture is at odds with agile values and inadequate management support and sponsorship at number four. So again, four of the top five impediments to better ways of working are behavioral.


So in this talk, we're gonna look at some common antipas and patterns. Um, I like this language around anti-patterns and patterns because there is no one size fits all for emergent work. There's no such thing as best practice. However, there are approaches which will give you a tailwind, and there are approaches which will give you a headwind. The anti-patterns will give you a headwind. They will make it harder for you to be more successful. So patterns will give you a tailwind and they'll make it easier on the whole, your mileage may vary. So if we look at these antipas, I'm gonna talk about first one, do as I say, not as I do. The second one is psychologically unsafe. The third one is a deterministic mindset. And then the corresponding patterns are leaders go first, psychological safety, and an emergent mindset. So I'm gonna look at each of these in turn.


Before we do that, let's just look at what and who is a leader. What does that word really mean? Now, I, I found this quite fascinating. I looked into the origins of the word lead, and it comes from old English and proto Germanic. And it means to guide and to travel. So it means to guide on a journey. And I really like the fact that that's the origins of the word lead. It's not sending someone off packing on a journey. Tell me when you get there, send me a postcard. It's guiding on a journey. It's going on the same journey as other people. So I really love that, that, uh, the origins of the word around guiding on a journey and accompanying, interestingly, there is nothing about the origins of the word lead to do with command or commit or order. When you look at the origins of the word command, um, the origins come from two words, commit and mandate.


It's a fundamentally different word. So I think it's really interesting to look at the difference between commanding and leading. So if we, to take a commander on the left, a commander is a position. It's for a few. It's if you're in that position, you can be a commander. You can be the commander in chief. You give orders the order, the obeying of the order is mandatory. There is extrinsic motivation. What that means is motivation to comply is outside of yourself. You feel that you have to do it because it's mandatory. And what that means is you don't have the inbuilt, um, desire to see that through. And you may do things which you feel are unethical because you've been ordered to do it. And power is positional. However, if you look at a leader, leader is about a behavior and a mindset. Anybody can be a leader and there are leaders at all levels. And a leader listens, listens to people, actively inspires people with the mission and the vision, collectively bringing together the vision and informs and keeps people informed As to the journey. Following is voluntary and motivation is intrinsic because I'm voluntarily following somebody because they are inspiring, keeping me up to date. And the listening to me, I'm choosing to follow that person. So therefore, I have internal motivation, and I'm far more likely to have a successful outcome when I'm doing it because I'm choosing to do it. And power is given by followers. Power is not innate.


Commander and leader are not mutually exclusive. A commander can be a leader and a leader sometimes, for example, when in danger or in chaos, may dip into being a commander. However, in modern ways of working in the pivot from the age of oil and mass production, where it was very much around managers and workers, and very much around being a commander, being a foreman or a worker taking the orders, now people need to be more of a leader and less of a commander. And in terms of the goal, the goal here around outcomes, it's not about agile, lean or DevOps. The goal is not agile, lean, or DevOps for their own sake, they are a means to an end. They're not the end. The goal is delivering better value sooner and safer. Happier. The goal is delivering improved outcomes where agile, lean, and DevOps are bodies of knowledge to improve the outcomes.


So if we take a quick look at better value sooner, the safer, happier, better is quality. And this is building quality in not knowingly passing a quality issue down the line. Value is the reason you are in business. It's the organized human endeavor. It's why you are doing what you're doing. It could be revenue, it could be market share, it could be diversity, it could be carbon emissions. Sooner is lead time throughput and flow efficiency. It's time to learning, time to de-risk, time to monetize it's throughput. The number of items of value, it's trying to get the most value in the shortest amount of time and flow. Efficiency is the amount of time that work is being worked on versus work is waiting. For me, flow efficiency is one of the most important measures, and it's probably one of the least measured measures in organizations. Safer is continuous compliance. It's agile, not fragile. It's InfoSec, it's data privacy, it's governance, risk and control. It's making sure that, uh, that everything is safe and that customers will trust you with their data and their information. And then happier is happier colleagues, customers, citizens, and climate, because it is not at any cost to society or to the planet in terms of improving outcomes.


So now we're gonna move on to the antipas and we're gonna take a look at each of the three. In turn.


Really early on in my career, I was a project manager and the boss I had at the time, um, was someone who did not take good, bad news, well, who was very much shoot the messenger. And as time went on, I found myself burying bad news of whether it was about timescale or cost, everyone's time and time again to the extent it got so bad that there was one piece of information I couldn't share with him. Prior to the project review board, I felt I had to shield myself from his anger by telling him the news in the public forum.


It's a culture that's, um, not just sort of disempowering, but also massively, um, negatively impactful to the work you do as well. So you end up in a position where you know, you as an individual aren't comfortable. The team are unhappy, and ultimately in a client environment, the client can sense that the customer cannot be satisfied if the colleagues aren't satisfied. Where do you end up with? You end up with a negative spiral and the team disbanded. The entire piece of work collapsed not through the individual lack of capability of any of the team members, but rather because the team itself imploded.


The first anti pattern is do, as I say, not as I do. This is where a leader sits around the table with their arms crossed, saying, go on, then transform. I dare you. And I've seen this multiple times at organizations where a leader, uh, or a commander maybe more accurately or a leadership team are expecting their own area, you know, their own followers. They're expecting them to change how they work, and they're expecting 'em to change how they behave. However, they're not exhibiting that behavior. They're not role modeling, they're not walking the talk. And that is very clear to people, um, and that, that that, uh, lack of authenticity. So this is an anti-pattern to expect other people to change. And then for you as a leader, to not change yourself. So as we'll see in the patterns, there's a need to lean in and exhibit courage and vulnerability.


To quote Frederick <inaudible>, who is the author of Reinventing Organizations, the level of consciousness of an organization cannot exceed the level of consciousness of its leader. So what tends to happen is if you have a leader at a certain level in an organization who is, who is a leader rather than the commander, a transformational leader, and they're supporting their team and adopting better ways of working as per this picture, you'll have a bubble of better ways of working surrounded by a sea of previous traditional ways of working. So it is really, really important that it's the most senior leadership team possible, is embracing better ways of working so that that bubble covers more of the organization rather than just a part of it.


Anti-patent number two is psychologically unsafe. This is a culture of fear. So we saw at the beginning, deep water horizon just one month before that tragic accident. Before that disaster, more than half of the workers surveyed said there was a fear of rep reprisal for reporting an unsafe situation. We also saw the space shuttle disasters. In both of those cases 17 years apart, engineers knew there were an knew there was an issue, tried to escalate that issue and failed and were quashed. And in the, in the second case, we're actually told to stop escalating this issue, having tried six times. So there was, there was no listening, um, and it was psychologically unsafe environment. And, uh, the findings said that the same culture had had continued, you know, between the two disasters.


Another case in point is Boeing. So looking at the US House Committee, 7 3 7 max preliminary report from March, 2020. What it says in there from a, an internal Boeing 2016 survey is that 39% of employees surveyed perceived undue pressure. 29% of the employees surveyed were concerned about the consequences of reporting that undue pressure. So there was fear, there was a culture of fear, there was a culture of concealment according to the report. And there is a disturbing picture of cultural issues according to the US House Committee. And those pressures came through cost and schedule, unfortunately, at the expense of safety. So it seems anti-patent number three is a deterministic mindset. So deterministic mindset is treating the world like it is fixed and knowable. This is back to the age of oil and mass production. This is a thinking error. This is trying to treat the age of digital and complex adaptive systems and emergent work like it is predictable. It is a think big start, big learn, slow approach. It doesn't work. It is misapplying a way of working to the current environment. Um, and it's, it's the continuation of milestones and rag statuses along with the culture of fear. Uh,


And nobody expects the agile imposition. Um, unfortunately, the agile imposition with a traditional mindset is, uh, is fairly common, uh, and it shouldn't be. So this is a deterministic mindset of indicting agile ways, of working agile, lean or DevOps upon an organization, um, in a command and control commander top-down traditional mindset. Um, clearly that is an anti-pattern, unfortunately, a far too common anti-pattern. So now onto the patterns,


Okay? So working on a piece of work that, um, we decided to work on it together, which meant that we had to find that time together. Um, and we sat down and brainstormed it, and there was a real feeling of, um, understanding that I knew the detail. Um, but being able to position it together meant that we delivered a higher quality piece of work in what turned out to be between us a shorter period of time, which was a much more valuable experience for me, for my leader, and for the organization I was working for.


I remember being on a team as a leader where I was, uh, pretty demoralized, uh, for a while, and a new leader stepped in, uh, during this time. And before that, every time I had mentioned that I was not happy, uh, there was a lot of talk that, you know, if you need to go, we hate to lose you, but we understand this new leader stepped in. And without having all the background in the context, all he noticed was that I was a good worker and I was an effective leader. And when he finally found out that I was somebody who was looking to possibly leave the group, he went out of his way to create a position where I could actually have an impact where I was. Because he really proved to me that he did not wanna lose me as a team member. And he really made me feel as if I was an impact on the organization, and I really appreciated that.


So in more recent work, I've benefited from having an empowering visionary leader, um, who seeks to allow colleagues and teams to thrive, who actively seeks to serve the needs of team members, um, is adaptive and is someone who actively shows an interest in both the individual, their happiness, their wellbeing, almost their employee net promoter score. Um, and in response gains a willings capable, connected, um,


Empowered colleague.


As I've progressed through my career, I've got a better idea of what good leadership looks like, I think. And, um, one of my more recent bosses was incredibly supportive. He made me feel I could discuss absolutely anything with him. And I think one of the ways he did this was he, every single one-to-one, he started with, what? How can I help you? He just said that, how can I help you? Once we got some lovely pleasantries out the way, he said, how can I help you? And that powerful statement made me realize that actually between he and I, we could solve whatever pressing points were there. Um, and that he was there to really bounce ideas off and support me and, and really help me move forward. Um, I respected him. So I did come to him with problems and he did give me different perspectives, but at the end of the day, he indicated by his behaviors and his, his words that the decision was mine. And really, I grew under his leadership so much more than I have under many of my other bosses. It really was, it made me feel great supported, and I've taken a lot of his practices into my leadership practice as well.


So pattern number one is leaders go first. So this is role modeling the desired behavior. This is exhibiting courage and vulnerability because for new ways of working, it is difficult, it is fearful, it's about needing to redevelop mastery. There's, there's a need to unlearn and relearn, and that is uncomfortable and that is difficult. So it does require courage and it does require exhibiting vulnerability. And it is so, so important for you as a leader to role model that for people who are following you. Um, you'll get things wrong. And that's part of this journey in an emergent domain. In the age of digital, there's a need for experimentation. There is a need to feel safe to fail. So it's super important to, to role model the desired behaviors.


Pattern number two is psychological safety. Google with Project Aristotle studied what makes teams amazing. And the number one factor for high performing teams was psychological safety. What that means is the ability for people to say, I don't know. I'm not sure, or, yeah, I'll jump in and I'll give it a go, but I might fail. That was a bigger determinant for high performing teams than who was on the team. Amy Edmondson has written a book called The Fearless Organization on this, and Amy's advice to, to, to increase psychological safety is a three step process. First of all, set the stage. People will be conditioned to not bringing up bad news. So make it clear that it's not about personal blame, that it is about the system of work. Second, invite participation. Actively seek feedback because again, people will not want to deliver bad news if they've been shot in the past, or if they've been, the messenger has been shot on, the bad news has been buried. So invite participation. And then number three is to respond well. So active feedback to the feedback and to people opening up, uh, thanking people for their feedback and being seen to take action on that feedback. So this, this is really important, again, where work is emergent, there is a need to experiment, and therefore there is a need to fail. There is a need for intelligent failure. Um, there's a need for experimentation and it isn't really failing. Uh, you, you don't really fail an experiment. You learn from it. And it's about maximizing learning.


So on intelligent failure, uh, this, these, these pictures, this is SpaceX, this is a Falcon Nine rocket deliberately being destroyed in order to test the launch escape process for the crew. Dragon capsule. And this I think is a great example of intelligent failure. This is deliberately destroying a, a craft to test its safety. Um, you know, and this is, this is what we should be having more of, more intelligent failure. And as a leader, celebrating intelligent failure with a, with a limited impact radius and safe to fail. Uh, one organization I know has a failure wall. Um, in the past we've run awards and we've celebrated intelligent failure through awards.


And pattern number three is an emergent mindset. So again, back to repetitive work versus unique work. There's a need for experimentation. There's a need for learning, there's a need for failing. And so an emergent mindset doesn't try to predict the future. Now, that doesn't mean there's no planning, it doesn't mean there's no roadmap. It doesn't mean there's no fixed dates because there are, there is a roadmap, there is a vision. However, it's not a fixed solution in 24 months time. It's an outcome hypothesis. It's a, an articulation of the future. It's a hypothesis that people can get behind. Um, so for example, it could be, you know, we want the, the most delighted customers, uh, compared to our competitors. Um, we wanna be the number one firm for whatever, what, what it is that we do. So you have your outcome hypothesis, and then you test that hypothesis and you break it down.


You, you have a nested breadcrumb trail of outcome hypothesis, and you experiment. You amplify the experiments that work, and you dampen the experiments that don't work, and you celebrate learning. And this is with empowerment, with multidisciplinary teams who are empowered to experiment, to try to maximize their outcomes. And this is where happiness goes up. Uh, 'cause people have got a very clear purpose. There's high alignment, there's high autonomy. And this is where the, you know, there's so much more purpose and satisfaction in work. And there's this tweet, which I really like from Emily Campbell, which is what if we call them supporting lines instead of reporting lines? Imagine replacing lines like, these are my direct reports with, these are the people I directly support. And I love that. I, I really, really like the sentiment behind that. And this is about being more of a servant leader.


Um, the leader part is, there is a need to coalesce around the vision, around the mission, around the outcome hypothesis. That's the leader part. And the leader part is also in terms of guiding on the journey. It's encouraging people to experiment. It's encouraging people to adopt new ways of work. It's encouraging improvement. Um, and you know, I highly recommend looking at the Toyota Improvement Carta and the Toyota Coaching Carta in terms of building improvement into daily work, where improvement is as important or more important than daily work. The servant part is being there to support the teams and being there to help clear the impediments and the blockers. And, you know, literally running up to the teams saying, dear team, how can I help? Um, being there for the teams, uh, with, with the supporting lines.


So to recap, if you want better value, sooner, safer, and happier, there is a need to focus on a few things. The first one is to go first, to guide on the journey, to lead, to role model, to to have courage and vulnerability. The second one is to foster psychological safety. People need to be able to experiment. Uh, I've seen one part of an organization where it was a mandate around ways of working. There was no psychological safety. There was a culture of fear, and people did the bare minimum they needed to do in order to comply to the commander's orders. And not surprisingly, the outcomes didn't shift. They didn't actually get any better. And third is around leveraging emergence. Don't try to force everything into a Gantt chart with milestones and a fixed plan and a fixed solution fixed at the point of knowing the least. Instead, emergence can help you to add more value more quickly, maintain optionality for as long as you possibly can run experiments, because we don't know what we don't know.








Trusted, confident,




Nurturing, excited. So you just heard there how people feel when they have good leaders leading them for better outcomes. And personally, I believe that leadership is how you leave people feeling. So here's the help that I'm looking for. I'd like to hear shared stories of antipas and patterns. So what have you seen in your organization or other organizations which generally haven't worked and generally have worked, um, what you've seen, but also your own experiences as well. And, uh, I'm also interested in case studies, uh, as I know Jean is as well. Um, so we'd love to hear case studies of where perhaps at an organization, part of an organization or the whole organization. Um, there's a case study here of where leaders have adopted, uh, better behaviors leading to better outcomes. And, um, you know, hopefully as well these will be talks for next year at the DevOps Enterprise Summit. Thank you.