Kevin Goldsmith: Building A Culture of Continuous Improvement

agile leader day

A culture of continuous improvement is a culture where you are always open to improving how you build and deliver. It is a culture where you don’t accept the status quo.

In a culture of continuous improvement, you choose how to work and feel empowered to change it if it no longer makes sense. It is a people-first culture.

When I joined Avvo, I wanted to see if I could create a continuous improvement culture, having experienced it first-hand at Spotify. It took some effort, and we learned some painful lessons along the way, but we did make significant improvements on how our teams operated and how the engineering organization functioned. As a result of these changes, the teams were able to execute at a much higher level, and the morale of the organization improved significantly. We got a lot more stuff done.

What’s In It For You at Agile Leader Day

I wrote this talk because I wanted to share some of the frameworks, structures, and processes we created at Avvo, and some of the lessons we learned in building and deploying them. You will get some new tools that you can use or adapt to your company. You will also learn from our mistakes in rolling out significant changes in our organization.

Some of the frameworks we created that I discuss are:

– WIGs and sWIGs: a way to align the company around a common mid-term strategy and shorter-term tactical deliveries in a way that preserves team autonomy and agile delivery. WIGs and sWIGs help people make suggestions well aligned with the business goals.

– DUHBs: A data-driven decision-making framework that allows individuals in the company craft a clear data-based argument for a making a change.
Journey Teams: an autonomous team model that gives teams more direct control over how they work.
– RFCs: a mechanism that allows anyone in the organization to drive large-scale change inclusively.
– Retrospectives Everywhere: a cultural shift on how we think about examining our organizational strengths and weaknesses when it comes to executing projects.

These frameworks not only created an environment that was adaptable and nimble but one where the members of the organization were empowered to make changes and given tools to make advocating for change easier.

My talk gives more details into each of these frameworks and shows how they build upon each other to support the culture. My goal is to inspire you. If there are more companies with continuous improvement cultures, then it means a healthier and happier industry for all of us.


Kevin Goldsmith- ex Avvo, Spotify and Adobe Systems VP

Kevin has been a developer, software architect, technology manager, and senior technology executive for over 26 years. He was the Chief Technology Officer at Avvo in Seattle until April 2018, overseeing all Product Development, Data, Dev Ops and IT teams. Previously he spent three years as the Vice President of Engineering, Consumer at Spotify in Stockholm, Sweden, leading the development of the product and streaming services.

Kevin spent nine years at Adobe Systems. He was a Director of Engineering there, where he led the Adobe Revel product group and the Adobe Image Foundation group. He spent eight years as a developer and development lead at Microsoft in the Windows and Research teams.

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