Virtual US 2022

Helping Life Leap Forward – Creating our Agile Operating Model at John Deere

At John Deere, our higher purpose is to help life leap forward. We do this by helping our customers become more productive, more profitable and do the jobs they need to do in an environmentally sustainable way.

In this talk, we will share our approach, challenges, and learnings from transforming 500 global teams over three years - with a hyper focus on adopting Agility & DevOps, shifting from Projects to Products, and evolving our organizational culture. This encompassed adopting new ways of working for teams and leadership across four continents, in the midst of a pandemic and the shift toward remote and hybrid work. We will share how this focused operating model shift has enabled our company to run faster and help revolutionize the agricultural and construction industries as a Smart Industrial.


Amy Willard

Group Engineering Manager, IT Strategy & Transformation, John Deere


Matt Ring

Sr. Product & Engineering Coach, John Deere



<silence> One of my favorite presentations from the DevOps Enterprise Summit six weeks ago was a presentation from John Deere, an engineering and smart industrial organization that is nearly 200 years old. The two presenters were Amy Willard, group engineering manager for IT strategy and transformation, and Matt Ring, senior product and engineering coach. This is a fabulous experience report of how they elevated the ways of working across an engineering organization that has over 4,000 technologists. They undertook an organizational change manage approach that is very different from ones we typically see within this community. They do such a fantastic job in describing the thought processes and methods as well as what the resulting outcomes were. And watching the presentation, again, I was so riveted by their use of language and how they model leadership in their organization. Here is Amy and Matt.


Thanks, Jean. Hello everybody. Amy and I are really excited to be here and share our company's transformation story with you all. So at John Deere, our higher purpose is to help life leap forward. We do this by helping our customers become more productive, more profitable, and do the jobs they need to do in an environmentally sustainable way. We are focused on building innovative products and solutions that help address the global challenges facing our world, like food scarcity, deteriorating infrastructure, and climate change. So for the next 25 minutes, Amy and I would like to share the approach that we took as a company, as well as the challenges and learnings from transforming 500 global technology teams over three years with a hyper focus on adopting agility and DevOps, shifting from projects to products and evolving our organizational culture and how all of this has enabled our company to run faster and help revolutionize the agricultural and construction industries as a smart industrial. So as Jean said, my name is Matt Ring. I am a senior product and engineering coach in our, uh, Foundry Coaching and Advocacy group.


And I am Amy Willard. I have the privilege of leading our strategy and transformation group here at Deere. If you click to the next slide. There you go, Matt. Um, I wanted to just provide a brief glimpse at what that means from an organizational perspective. So I report to our VP of Information Technology who reports to our CIO inside of Deere, and my group specifically is made up of the elements you see on the screen. So developer experience, the Foundry Coaching and Advocacy group, which is global in nature and multi-disciplined. Uh, Matt, Matt is a part of this group, as he mentioned. Um, that group has a heightened focus on partnership with coaches within our various business capability areas, as well as an awesome architecture organization that we have here at Deere as well. I also have responsibility for our quality organization, technology, business management, agile tools, and our UX design system as well.


Um, like I said, I have the privilege of leading this group and this transformation today. Just a couple things that I think have helped prepare me for this group, uh, this opportunity here at Deere. Um, I've been at Deere a little over 20 years, all of that in various IT functions. So the experiences across technologies and customer segments have really helped me to embrace the fact that there isn't a one size fits all transformation for a digital product team or even for a business capability area. So, leaning into meeting teams where they are and helping them move forward from that position to whatever the next part, um, of their transformation is, is a passion of mine. And then I also have a, a pretty deep seated curiosity and bias for transformation action. So before I was in this role, I was a part of our dealer systems organization and pretty far down the list of groups who come into the foundry and transform, um, across the, the immersion waves that we'll talk about a bit later. And so I was very motivated to try to solve all of the easy problems that we had within my organization, um, so that when we got to the foundry, we could really focus on the largest, most challenging opportunities and problems with the experts within the Foundry organization today. And so, um, so with that, I have the great privilege of helping other groups accomplish their transformation outcomes as well. Now, with that, I will turn it back over to you, Matt, to talk a little bit more about dear in general.


Thanks Amy. So that tells a little bit about Amy and I and our respective roles in the organization. Um, just a little bit about John Deere, uh, itself. So our company was founded by a blacksmith named John Deere, uh, in 1837. So we are a 180 5-year-old company. And at this DevOps conference, we talk about wanting to hear not just from the unicorn companies, but the horses as well, those companies that did not start out as digital naves. So fun fact at John Deere, our first product that we made was used by actual horses. But just to give you a little bit better idea of what it is that we do at John Deere and why we get up each day to do our best work, we wanted to share this video.


We started breaking ground by breaking ground. We've always looked to the land for what we need and always made the tools to work with it. We won't stop making what we make better for today and for tomorrow because at John Deere, what we bring to the table touches lives around the world. We know we can't rest. We run for the humble, the hungry, the growing world. It's why you'll see our logo proudly stamped on machines and hats on arms and in homes, and the loyalty to it passed down through generations. We run with the dignity that makes us dear. We strengthen relationships, we solve problems, innovating on behalf of humanity and planet, in service of the people who trust us and the earth that sustains us. You'll find us where hard iron meets hard data. We don't make gimmicks, fads, or empty promises. We make machines that do more and use less machines that make life better because we don't run just to move faster than the rest we run. So life can leap forward.


So hopefully that gives you a little bit better idea of what it is, uh, that drives us here at John Deere. And although John Deere has its roots in the Midwest United States, we have become a global company whose markets and operations span the globe. We have over 100 locations globally with facilities on every continent except Antarctica. We currently have over 75,000 employees, and our 2021 net sales and revenue was around $44 billion. Now, some people may be surprised to think of John Deere as an innovative technology company. I mean, what is so crazy exciting about digging in the dirt? Well, it turns out digging in the dirt at scale requires a lot of innovation in technology. Uh, but seriously, just like our consumer vehicles, our machinery today has more technology than ever to give our customers the best data and insights to create the best outcome for each pass across the field or the job site. Things like cameras and sensors to ensure that drivers are not going to run into something or somebody GPS to understand positioning for location mapping, especially for a fleet of equipment across large farming or job site operations. And drive assist technologies to ensure that machines are driving straight in between rows of plants at consistent speeds, just like lane assist and adaptive cruise control technologies in our personal vehicles today.


And as of 2021, we had over 440,000 smart connected machines in operation. And that number continues to grow. And that's just the technology in our equipment itself. Our technology stack spans the entire digital experience that we provide to our customers, our dealers and employees from the web to mobile to the embedded technology in our machines. This includes things like our e-commerce platform, our global parts distribution network, and the various internal systems that keep our company running and help our employees do the jobs that they need to do. So with this increasing demand for technical innovation to address today's and tomorrow's problems, we also needed to revisit our ways of working in the technology space. And with that, I'm gonna turn it back over to Amy to share a bit more about what we did as a technology organization to meet these challenges. Amy?


All right, thank you Matt for that. Um, great introduction to Deer. Like any transformation story, we had a catalyst that drove us to make this change. Um, our process maturity is really high at Deere, um, but we were struggling to evolve quickly and meet what we knew were continuing to evolve rapid customer needs and market needs across the, um, organization and the segments that we serve. And so what did that look like to us? How did we know that we needed to change? We had lots of grassroots, localized agile variants, but limited effectiveness. When we tried to work across those organizations, we had a lot of project teams that were incentivized to deliver on time, in scope, on budget, but may not have been focused on the outcomes at hand that they really needed to accomplish or to create the value that was necessary. Teams had very limited customer interactions, if any customer interactions.


We had a lot of handoffs between teams making it very difficult to get to market quickly. We had a lot of business ana analysis and a lot of portfolio management upfront before we actually delivered working software and working solutions to our customers. And our management group was largely focused on directing and prioritizing the work for their teams, not necessarily accomplishing the outcomes or being, um, delivering what our customers needed. And so I'm assuming if you are in the audience today that you are experiencing or have experienced, some of these things seem same situations. And so we'd love to continue to learn from you and share with you a bit of our approach to solving these problems. Matt, if you go to the next slide, um, what I really wanna highlight here is that we were truly inspired and aspired to not only implement just Agile or Scrum, we really wanted to holistically change the way we worked as an organization.


And this is just a few highlights from our two B State that drove us forward. Um, the top three items here are really focused on shifting to products over projects at the core. And so a product, not a project model, um, needed to drive our funding choices and our prioritization. We wanted a strong product management function established within our business units, and that was a key, um, driver for our success in that those product management resources, for the most part don't report into global it. They report into their lines of business and really our focused on the broader business value that the digital arm can accomplish for with them. We wanted persistent cross-functional teams organized around those products that persisted for the lifetime of that product. The bottom row here is really focused on our how so people and trans and technology transformation. So we wanted to shift to a growth mindset from know-it-alls to learn it alls as we go through the lifecycle of delivering value, um, ensuring that all of our product employees had access to coaching and training that they needed to make this shift.


And you'll hear us talk about that. Um, in the rest of our talk today, we insourced a lot of talent from an engineering perspective, and we really wanted to significantly increase the use of our cloud technologies and our automation. Um, and so for us, this was a really holistic change across all the ways we work. And so we introduced our agile operating model change and transformation to the organization in May of 2019. And this was with support of the c-suite that we really needed to change how we deliver our digital products holistically on our journey to becoming that smart industrial and delivering the value that the market and our customers demanded very quickly. And we focused on changing three things, what we work on, how we work and our foundation, what really what we work on, really tied to product mindsets, value, innovation, customer centricity, how we work really tied to frameworks, mindsets, investment plans, total cost of ownership, team topology, having the right agile roles in our organization.


And our foundation revolved around transforming our people and our technologies. So investing in both to equip them to succeed. It looks simple on a slide, but the reality is that we really changed almost everything about how we worked over the last three years in order to accomplish these three things. And so given we only have 25 minutes together today, we can't share everything in this brief amount of time. So we're going to share with you two core beliefs, two specific approaches that we took, and then five key lessons as takeaways that may help others as well. Matt, if you click to the next slide, this is really our first belief and we strongly believe that mindsets, and in this case complimentary mindsets across personas, drive the outcomes that we're looking for and really are the accelerating factor for a product team to propel themselves into the future of delivering more value more quickly that delights our customers.


And so this, this visual that you're seeing on the screen here in the foreground arrived after many iterations and many learnings that you can see a couple of in the background. Um, Matt actually draw one of the drew one of those in the background that you see there. And so we want, our transformation focuses to be around these four areas with the teams. And so from a product perspective, knowing your customers and the problems they're trying to solve so that we can create the right solutions for them. So are we building the right thing from an engineering mindset perspective, balancing speeds, stability, reliability with our technology, with a strong focus on automation, lean principles, measuring, um, and getting fast feedback from the systems and a sustainable engineering culture. So are we building the thing right? From an agile mindset's perspective? Are we delivering the highest valued work in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of effort required?


Are we building that thing nimbly? And from a user experience perspective, are we looking across a user's entire interaction across products to ensure that the products are useful, usable, and delightful? So are we using something that the customers will love to use and will accomplish the outcome they have in mind? And so each of these mindsets could be focused on individually, but we really believe that focusing on the combination of them and caring and feeding for all of those mindsets and the skills behind doing each one of those activities really well is what helped us accelerate the product team outcomes that we were really looking for. The second mindset, Matt, if you go to the next slide, was really focusing on coaching. And so we believe very strongly at John Deere that coaching helps us accomplish the outcomes that we have in mind, and it helps create a safe place for folks to learn.


And so our foundry, which is similar to a Dojo concept and other companies provided an immersive learning experience with that agile engineering product and UX coaching and training where our coaches worked with teams on their real problems, um, in an immersive experience. So not training, not artificial scenarios, but real business problems that those product teams were facing. And that will go into a lot more detail about how that operated in the next slide. But because we believe very heavily in coaching as a transformation engine, we also had to acknowledge that sometimes measuring the impact of coaching can be a bit hard to measure, um, especially once folks leave a foundry immersive experience and continue on their journey after that. And so our coaches mobbed and created these 10 immersion principles that you see on the screen here, which really are observable behaviors. And we believe that when teams demonstrate these behaviors, they are indicators that they are on the right path to other outcomes that we want to see in their sustainable journey.


So are they going to deliver more value more quickly with a higher amount of feedback in the system? That's really what we're looking for. And so our coaches, when they worked with teams, would be looking very much at much does the value flow very quickly through the system? Are there feedback loops? Is the organization learning? Are they delivering in small increments? Are they thinking about their customer? Are they always improving? Is their work big and visible? Is it predictable? Is it data driven? And are they experimenting? If the answer to those questions are yes, then we really believe that a product team is set up for success moving forward, and that they, they can continue the momentum after they've worked with us in a bit of an immersive experience. And with that, I'm going to hand it over to Matt, who's going to share with you more about how our immersive coaching experience works. Works.


Thanks, Amy. So one of the things that we did was we used something we called Wave Immersion as the vehicle for accelerating and amplifying these new ways of working across our product and IT organizations. So you can think of this as something like a Dojo where we brought teams in for dedicated coaching. The difference here is that our scope was taking a full vertical slice of an organization from the senior leadership down to the teams and then doing active coaching at all of those levels. So organizationally, we were looking at a scope of transforming approximately 500 teams, 4,000 technology professionals. If you're thinking we just created a giant Gantt chart and used the word sprint wave 10 times, you're not a hundred percent wrong. But while the wave immersion itself was in a sense a big T transformation, we approached it iteratively and incrementally. So we were focused on those thin vertical slices of the organization, and we built in feedback loops, both within and between the immersions.


This allowed us to sense and respond along the way. So in a particular wave, if we needed to adjust our coaching or what we were focused on for outcomes, we were able to do that. And then between immersions, wave three looked very different from wave one, wave five from wave three, et cetera. So on the right we talk a little bit about what our Wave program looked like. So for each vertical slice of the organization, we had about a 20 week window for what this immersion program was. So the first 10 weeks was what we called Wave Prep. This was where we came in with the organization. Um, we looked at their organizational, their product taxonomy, their team structure and their, and did kind of an organizational overview to make sure that they were ready for the immersion itself. In addition, we did quite a bit of training, so role-based training, ways of working type, uh, type of training, things like that.


And in addition, we also did a lot of focus on product coaching, product prep coaching. So we created these new products, these new services, but what's their purpose? What, who are they building things for and what, what are they trying? What's their direction? What's their mission? What's their vision? So we did a lot of coaching to make sure that they understood what direction that they were going. Once we got into wave immersion following that was the 10 week immersion. This was very similar to what a Dojo experience was like. We did active Team one-on-one and leadership level coaching. Uh, this is where the teams were bringing in their real work and coaches were working side by side with them. After those 10 weeks, we went into what we call our sustain and evolve period. And so this is where the Coaching Foundry disengaged, but we had org aligned coaches, scrum masters leadership that were aligned to those organizations that reported into those organizations. And they continued, uh, the transformation going forward as well as discovering even better ways of working than what we had.


The last thing we wanted to focus on was measuring for outcomes and avoiding this thing we called Agility Theater. So prior to 2019 and our Agile operating model, we had separate initiatives that were already focused on measuring and improving our IT quality and security postures. So in a sense, we were measuring things around quality like availability or our systems up and running meantime to resolution. Uh, and other measures, uh, introduced with like itil, ITSM, uh, and the, and lean community as well as security measures, uh, phishing awareness, attack closure rates for known vulnerabilities, things like that. So prior to 2019, we already had some indicators that were telling us whether we were delivering and running better and safer with the agile operating model. In 2019, we started to include delivery and people measures. So related to delivery, we wanted to measure time to market. So we consider this like customer lead time or idea lead time.


So from idea to release or concept to cache, we wanted to measure functions released. If you're familiar with the flow framework, this is akin to flow velocity. And we also wanted to measure not just that we were de getting more stuff out the door, but that we were increasing our deployment frequency. So how frequently we were getting changes out the door, but not just making sure that we were delivering faster or sooner, um, but also measuring our culture. So we leveraged employee net promoter scores from a team ENPS and org MPS standpoint, as well as our engineering ratio. So earlier on, Amy talked about wanting to insource a lot of our engineering talent. So we wanted to pay a particular attention to how well we were insourcing against that particular outcome. Around 2021, we realized that we were doing a great job of measuring the performance of our IT organization, but we didn't really have a good idea of measuring whether we were actually producing something of value.


Were we creating something? How did we ensure that we weren't just building the wrong thing sooner, safer, and happier? So in 2021, we started our journey that we're continuing today, and we started leveraging things like OKRs and product KPIs, key performance indicators as these indicators of value creation. And we also leveraged, uh, user satisfaction as a common lagging indicator of value. So if we were hitting our OKRs, if we were hitting our product KPIs the way that we wanted to, then the i, the idea was that our user satisfaction would increase. Three years in, we've seen some really promising results. So across the 450 teams, uh, that have gone through immersion so far, uh, we have seen our time to market decrease by 60%. Our output, our throughput has increased nearly three x but more importantly, our deployment frequency has increased by nearly four x.


So we're not just deploying more changes, but we're doing so in smaller batches, which in turn is decreasing our risk and increasing our feedback loops. Our team ENPS is up to plus 68, which is we're really excited about. If you're not familiar with the NPS, it's on a negative 100 to positive 100 rate, uh, uh, scale. And while I can't share actual numbers, we have achieved over a hundred percent return on our investment within these three years. But it's not just quantitative results. I also wanted to share what others at John Deere have said about how this has positively affected our organization. So Karen Powers our senior group product manager in our supply management division. She shares how a OM has created the conditions so that those who are doing the work are free to figure out the most effective way to get it done. She talks about this collective brain power to figure out the best solution.


This reflects the guidance from US Navy Captain David Marque around intent-based leadership and moving more authority to where the information is. Josh Eden, director of our IT manufacturing operations division, he speaks to the positive impact that A OM has had regarding speed and quality results in his division compared to all years prior. And in his particular case, working with fewer employees. And Raj Kaliher, president of John Deere Financial and our Chief information Officer predicts that our agile operating model is going to be a catalyst not only for making John Deere a competitor in the smart industrial space, but as a smart industrial leader in the next five years.


Okay, final takeaways. We learned a ton over the past three years, but we don't have time to go through all of that. So we are gonna leave you with our top five key learnings. So number one, get comfortable being uncomfortable. This applies for everyone, but especially for leaders. You don't need to have all the answers. Make sure that you lead with intent and authenticity and empower those around you. Promote an organization that fav, that rewards LearniT alls over know-it-alls. Grow a learning ecosystem, be it communities of practice, guilds, lean coffees, hackathons, dojos, et cetera. Create the space for role and information silos to break down and for smart, passionate people to connect and innovate, to experiment and learn whenever the opportunity strikes. Continuous attention to all the things excellence. So not just technical excellence or agility excellence. We truly believe that it takes a holistic focus across product, ux, agility and DevOps to ensure that we're building the right thing and we're building it right for our consumers and business.


Build trust through action. Don't just say what people need to do, show them. This is broadly applicable, but was especially true with our tech coaches and the advances that we made with our technical upskilling. So partnering tech coaches with teams allowed them to work together and experience these new ways of working, whether it was containerizing an app, automating a build or deployment, migrating at something to the cloud, et cetera. And lastly, use data to drive action as much as possible. Avoid those gut feel or hippo highest paid person in the office. Uh, decision making. Use data and insights to help argue your points and inform your actions so that people can make the best decisions with the information available. Okay, so that's where we've been for three years. I'm gonna turn it over one last time to Amy to share what our focus is for the next leg of our journey. Amy.


Yeah, thanks very much, Matt. And so we are moving forward with our transformation. So we believe that we have laid a great foundation with our 500 teams. And so now we have the opportunity to focus on even more challenging problems and even bigger opportunities. This is the visual that we use to frame up the three areas of focus we have as a company moving forward from a, uh, from a transformation perspective. So from a value maximization perspective, we really wanna focus on even more shift from output to outcomes and then focus on the highest value outcomes that we have, um, available to us. And so say no to the good to do the great. That's really what this is about for us. At the end of the day, um, we want a transformative tech stack. So we want that tech stack to accelerate the outcomes across the lifecycle for that technology.


And so to us, that means things like dev x platform engineering, making it easy for our engineering staff to do the right thing, um, with elite Dora engineering practices at the forefront of that. So a tech stack that enables our purpose. And from a digital mastery perspective, we wanna continue to focus on ts shaping all of our roles, and that's across the breadth and down the depth of that t. And so continue to focus on helping individuals master their craft regardless of what that craft is moving forward. And with a specific focus on the technologies and the skill sets that help propel us into the future from a customer needs perspective, um, in all roles, innovation and improving that overall digital delivery, um, as well as the employee experience that they have and their relentless focus on removing constraints to value across the lifecycle of our products.


And so we have a lot more to do and we're really excited and, and potentially we'll come back and talk to you about what we've learned over the next year as well. Matt, if you could go to the last slide. As I mentioned, we are not done with our journey and so we are really looking for continued ways to partner with, with you all and partner with the industry. So please look, Matt and I up, we would love to connect with you, learn from you, and share our learnings with you as well. We'd love your feedback along the way here. So feedback on this presentation and any insights you can share would be wonderful. We also know that this community is wonderful at really sharing learnings with each other. And so we could only cover a little bit of our story here. And so we wanted to include a link to a broader case study that gives you insights into some of the other elements of our transformation that we could discuss with you or that you might have some feedback, um, or suggestions for us as well.


So we wanted to provide that link. And lastly, um, we're super excited every day to wake up with the John Deere purpose in mind and help drive that forward from a digital product perspective. And so if that appeals to you, please consider a future here at Deere. So that closes out our presentation today. So Matt, if you could to the last slide, um, we just wanna close with a thank you. So thank you for listening to us. It was wonderful to share our story and we very much look forward to collect, connecting with you all across the rest of the conference and even beyond the conference as well. So thank you for listening and we look forward to talking to you soon.