Future of Teamwork

The lone genius is dead. EY reports that 90% of organisations are solving problems so complex, that they need teams. DomPrice, Head of R&D and Work Futurist from Atlassian joins us to share his personal experiences in helping Atlassian scale over the last 5 years, and be more nimble, adaptive and relevant, than ever before.He’ll share why they decided to take on team work, how they did it, and even let us in on some of the pitfalls along the way. This isn’t a session on theory. Dom will share practical insights, from Atlassian, and from over 100 other organisations where they’ve shared their way of working.

(upbeat electronic music) – Thank you, welcome this morning.

It’s always hard opening because I think everyone’s had a coffee but it’s not yet kicked in, is that right? I heard some applause next door and I’ve got like fear of missing out.

What’s happening next door? (woman replies indistinctly) And they’re clapping? (audience chuckles) Shit, can you just, just for my own ego, and for no other reason, can you just make the loudest clapping like woo-hoo, wolf whistle noise humanly possible for like 20 seconds? (audience claps and cheers) Thank you.

I know it’s not for me, but everyone next door’s like what the fuck’s going on? So I’ve got something to talk to you about today, some things to share with you. I’m gonna give you some activities that I want to try and get you as involved and engaged as possible.

The first thing I wanna, two things I wanna explain up front.

One, Emma is an amazing kind of HR all around talent kind of learning development type person.

I am not in HR, and most HR people hate me. And so everything I share with you is nothing, it’s not coming from a book.

It’s not coming from field leadership or an HR conference. It’s coming from my own personal experience. The second thing is, I really hate the word culture. Now not enough to not come today, but enough were a little bit of me dies every time I hear about a large corporate in Australia going for a culture transformation. I’m like, poor things, ’cause we all know what’s happening. Someone’s seen he has completely screwed it up, and that same person’s fixing it.

And so culture for me tends to be, and I know this is taught later about the monoculture, it tends to be singular, and it tends to assume that you can turn these dials that make culture a thing, and I want to call bullshit on that.

So the very first thing I actually want you to do, though, is the person next to you, if you’re comfortable standing, do it standing. If not, you can do this sitting.

If you can, now the test here, you have to do this silently.

This is how I know I’ve got the right people in the room. So no words.

You can use your eyes, but no words.

So just find someone next to you and position yourself so you’re facing them. So no words.

And I just want you to hold hands and stare longingly into their eyes, longingly. (audience laughs) Come on, Tad, you can do one to one and one to either way.

It doesn’t matter, it’s kumbaya.

Go for it.

Longingly.

You’ve gotta get the eyes involved.

It’s gotta feel really uncomfortable.

(audience laughs) Borderline awkward.

(audience laughs) Borderline; okay, over borderline.

– [Woman] That is not borderline.

– That’s proposing; that’s different.

You’re kneeling.

That’s not part of the game.

(audience laughs) You can’t make up your own rules.

All right; thank you very much.

(audience laughs and chatters) The reason for doing that is I really like the power of the microphone.

(audience laughs) Now I am, what I’m gonna show you today, and I think every time you talk about culture or I’m gonna talk a little bit more about values instead, I think when you think about that and my topic here, the future of work, you have to accept that it’s really uncomfortable.

Like if it feels easy and natural, you’re probably doing what you did yesterday. And it’s not that what you did yesterday was bad. It’s just not gonna pay a different dividend today. The number of people, organisations, and leaders I work with and say, yo, I know what got us here won’t get us there, and then they do the exact same fucking thing as they did yesterday. And you’re like, cool, so you’re saying that; you’re not actioning it.

And so hold the feeling of uncomfortable and awkward. That should stick with you for the next 45 minutes. If it doesn’t, I’ve not done my job.

I start every single talk I do around the world, any audience, with the same slide, the Atlassian Values. And their is no patriot Atlassian products in this talk. I’m not gonna tell you things that are publicly available that you can just go and research and know about. But the values are something that are really important to me in the topic of culture, because for me they’re more powerful than culture.

Just some context, I will share all these slides with you. You’re welcome to take snapshots of whatever you want. If you want to Tweet, I get paid by the Tweet. It’s @DomPrice.

And so the values, why are they important? Well first of all for me, before I joined Atlassian, I had a career of at least eight years with Deloitte travelling around the world, and I loved my time at Deloitte and other companies I worked before I joined Atlassian, but what I didn’t realise was there was two versions of me before that.

There was work Dom, and work values Dom, and social Dom. Social Dom was a shit-load more fun, but eventually over time, and certainly when I moved to Australia, those things started to merge together, ’cause I didn’t have any friends when I moved here, so my friends were my colleagues, and I’d be work me during the day, and then the mask would come off, and I’d be real me at night, and I never realised until I joined Atlassian how exhausting that was, being two versions of me.

Because I was having to chop and change, I was having to do this context switching all the time. The second reason this is important is, if we’re gonna talk about culture, we’re gonna talk about values, then we need to talk about change. I had a really weird experience toward the end of my time with Deloitte.

I am white man; you may have noticed.

And I was doing a bit of work with a company that had a senior leader, 55 year old white guy, grey suit, you’ve probably all met the persona before. And he sat me down one day.

He said Dom, I’m taking my top 35 executives to an offsite because we’ve decided our culture’s shit. And I was like, well, the good news is, you’re right, it is. The bad news is, not sure taking 35 other white guys to an offsite and a homogenous whatever you want to call it group of people having a chat about values and culture is necessarily gonna fix it, but you’re paying me by the hour, leap of faith, I’ll come along. So I go along, and after a four hour, they called it a sparring session; it really wasn’t, it was painful to be part of.

But after a four hour session, they landed on the new values for this company: pride, respect, integrity, collaboration, and knowledge. Do any of you have any of those? (audience laughs) I’m sorry; this is, this will turn into a therapy session eventually.

So I’m, I am a 40 year old man by age, but I have not yet grown up.

I’m from the north of England, two older sisters, two younger sisters.

The idea of growing up just kind of passed me by. So I do that thing at the back of the room where you try not to laugh and it comes out of your nose and ears instead, and you do that really weird snicker noise.

And the CEO turns around, he’s like all right, smart ass, like what’s so funny? I was like, it spells prick.

(audience laughs) And all I had was this vision of the end of year prick awards and prick mass mats. And so I announced this, and the head of HR walks up and wipes out knowledge.

And I said I think you’ve missed my point entirely. (audience laughs) So the challenge when we talk about culture is not only that we think it’s a dial that we can control, which I think is bullshit, why we’re killing ourselves. But also we don’t have a conversation about these things. The values that I’ll call out for this session, one, you know, don’t fuck the customer is probably one of my favourites, because it’s not customer first, customer centric, it’s not think about the customer.

It’s front and centre of every decision you make, full stop. Like if they are not part of your everyday being, then you’re screwing them over, and that’s not what you’re in work for.

You’re not in work to make a little bit of margin. You’re not in work to make a little bit of profit. You’re in work to delight a customer every single day, and the number of organisations I deal with that start with good intent and loose focus on that. They start chasing the dollar or the size.

We want to grow; we want to be so many thousand people. That’s nothing to celebrate.

The other thing with values is how to think about what you’re willing to walk past.

So a lot of values are really aspirational; these are the things you should do.

I like to think of these as what are the things I’m willing to walk past.

When I see a behaviour I don’t like, am I gonna call it out or not? So the second one for me is open company, no bullshit. We’ve got a few Atlassians in here today that I’m sure will share with you throughout the day, our ability to call bullshit on each other is brilliant and petrifying.

I hated, and I mean hated, my first 90 days in Atlassian. I’d just left a toxic culture and joined somewhere that had just won best place to work, I’d bragged about it to all my mates that I’d got in there, and I was like, I fucking hate it. The people are really mean, so mean, even Tokes at the back, he was a mean person. There was these mean people everywhere, and I didn’t understand how they’d won best place to work with so many mean people giving me instant feedback.

(audience laughs) ‘Cause I’d never had instant feedback before. I’d only ever been given the feedback sandwich, where they go Dom, really good effort.

Really good effort.

Shit piece of work, but try again.

Right? I’d only ever got given this sandwich after the event, and suddenly I was getting this instantaneous feedback, and I hated it.

I had to find a new way of working to actually embrace that way, that way of getting that kind of openness.

So I challenge you throughout today, just at a meta level, every time you think about cultural change or transformation, whatever the thing is, think about what your values are. Are you living them in a consistent and congruent fashion, and what will you walk past? What are the thing that you’re willing to walk past and let happen, ’cause that really is the culture, the things that you’re willing to let happen. Now web directions.

It would be remiss of me to not talk about technology in some aspect.

Technology has a huge impact on culture, right? A lot of people try and separate the two, and I think it’s very hard in the modern era when we are connected 24 by seven with these wonderful things to not conflate the two together.

The challenge, and this is a struggle, this is why I’m really glad that there’s people here talking about culture and values today, is a lot of people are so obsessed with technology that they think it’s the answer to everything. Like I spend a lot of time in San Francisco, and a little bit of me dies every time I go to Silicon Valley and someone tries to sell me something that I have never needed, ever needed, and I don’t think society will ever need.

But their like, we’re gonna make you an app. It’s gonna be brilliant.

And I’m like cool, that sounds really boring. The latest one I saw out, this was a few months ago, I was at an event in the U.S., and they were showing me this facial recognition software.

Now this has got huge, powerful usage.

It can actually, potentially, when it works, be used in the operating theatre, which is great; that can save lives.

Right now, let’s just say MVP.

It’s a little bit version one.

And so he was showing me all the wonderful things this technology can do.

Now it was actually used at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, not for saving lives but for the paparazzi. So they would get instant alerts of where the key famous people were so they could take the best pictures.

It is famed as the wedding, but it was the best of the paparazzi, which again, no one cares about. Yes, it’s technology, yes, it’s awesome.

The same technology can’t tell the difference between a labradoodle and fried chicken.

(audience laughs) And that is not only funny, but it’s also true, and it’s scary; it’s scary because when you think about it, we’re relying on technology to do things that we do as humans, but it’s not necessarily got the same refinement, but also we’ve lost a bit of our pessimism and curiosity in saying, what if it doesn’t work? What is my involvement? How do I trust and verify what I’m getting from technology? I regularly have conversations with my mum who has read things on Facebook, therefore it must be true. And I’m like Mum, that’s not where the truth comes from. So how do we get this natural pessimism? But at the same time, how do we accept, I genuinely believe from a cultural aspect and a technological aspect, we are living in a magical era. We’ve gotta seize it; we’ve gotta do the most of it with it. But we’re living in this magical era.

So one of the challenges is, a recent Ernst and Young report, so you talk about the future of work, and you look at what impact we can have as people, and this Ernst and Young report that has surveyed large organisations across the world, thousands of organisations, 90% of them came back and said the problems they are solving are so complex, not complicated, so complex they have to be solved by teams.

And they say the right thing.

Cognitively diverse teams, teams with respectful dissent, the willingness to challenge, the, you look at Project Aristotle and the work of Google and psychological safety.

They all say the same consistent thing: you’ve gotta have teams.

And I spend a fair bit of time on LinkedIn, and on LinkedIn and in most organisations I go to in the world, we put the hero on the pedestal, and we celebrate the lone genius.

Like Apple’s success for the last however long, and yes, some of it will be because of Steve Jobs, but there is a massive team of people in Apple doing genius work every single day, and every single day, there’s a new quote attributed to Steve Jobs, half of which he never made, celebrating this lone genius.

We have this habit, this desire, even if you look at things like the Nobel Peace prize, in the last 50 years, more have been won by teams than individuals, but you’d never think that ’cause we always put the singular person on the pedestal. Ironically, Steve Jobs is one of the first to admit it was the Apple family that came together, right? He actually played down.

He was very humble in his leadership.

It was the Apple family that came together to ship genius, that diversity of mindsets, skillset, responsibilities, accountabilities, views of the world, experience.

You can measure diversity in many different ways but use to talk about the family.

So that’s great, right? Teamwork’s the future success.

We need it to solve complex problems.

Job done, end of talk.

Problem is, as any of you that have been in education will know, two kids, for like 20 years in school, if one kid talks to another kid, we call that cheating. And then you join our workforce, and we call it collaboration.

(audience laughs) And we go, would you like to collaborate? And they’re like oh no, oh no, talking to another child is bad.

(audience laughs) Talking to adults is even worse.

That gets me into trouble.

And so that’s never gonna happen, and by the way, I’m also geared up to be measured on marks.

I want to get a score, and I want to win, ’cause if I win I get to progress to the next level. And collaboration is not about scoring and winning; it’s about sharing and friction and challenge. And so we’ve created a little bit of a monster that teamwork isn’t natural for us.

Now we actualLy had this hypothesis a couple of years ago. We ran a survey in the U.S., pre-Trump; I’m not a political person, but just for context, we ran this survey before Trump got into power. And we said to thousands of people across organisations in the U.S., talk to us about teamwork.

And they talked a lot about dysfunction.

They talked a lot about the challenge they were getting. Now I’ve, I do a lot of travelling.

I’ve done a lot of reading on dysfunction.

There’s like a trillion different definitions. I hate them all; I love this one for how simple it is. I am from the north of England, and simplicity is my thing. So dysfunction is the gap between what you know and what you do.

The reason I like this is I think, in terms of culture, in terms of society, in terms of technology, we fall into a trap of knowledge obesity, because we’ve got it at our fingertips.

Everyone knows everything, except none of us know anything, because we’ve got really lazy with it, as well. The number of people I meet on a daily basis who acquire knowledge and do diddly-squat with it, they do absolutely nothing with it, and it’s not just in work.

It’s in life, as well.

Last year I had the unfortunate incident of turning 40; I know I don’t look it, it’s the lights. When in turning 40, a friend gave me a book voucher. Now they’re not a real friend, ’cause a real friend would have given me wine, but this friend gave me a book voucher, and I was like, well, I might as well buy a book, then.

So I bought two books.

I bought one on healthy eating, quick mid-life crisis, and one on exercise.

So don’t buy either of them, ’cause they’re shit. So the exercise one says elevate your heart rate by 20 minutes every day, and the eating one says eat purple things, green things, and orange things, not yellow things.

That’s essentially what it said.

And so I read these books.

Now I live in Stanmore, and so elevated heart rate is walking across Martin Place to get to the bus, and try to work out when to get the iPad to order my pizza.

‘Cause if I order it before Central, it’s gonna be soggy by the time I get home, and after Central, it might not be ready, right? And colourful food for me is a supreme.

It’s a colourful pizza.

I know I should be eating broccoli, and I should be eating beet root, and I know I should be eating carrots.

I’ve read about that, but I’m not applying it. And we do the same with culture and values every day. We read about Spotify, we reading about ING, we read about Google.

We read about all the same organisations.

Oh, I want to be like Netflix.

But then we don’t actually go and follow through with the things that they actually do to achieve that. So how can we get rid of our dysfunction? How can we challenge our way of working? So with this same person that you had awkward staring match with, I want you to now spend 20 seconds each, and here’s the test. I want you to answer this question, the hardest thing about working in teams.

I don’t want platitudes.

I don’t want generic statements.

You gotta be honest.

If you can’t be honest in this room with a person that you’ve held hands with and stared longingly into their eyes, you can’t be honest with anyone. But here’s the real test.

While they speak, just listen.

Just actively listen.

Don’t respond, don’t challenge, don’t prepare your answer. Just listen.

Let them talk for 20 seconds, you listen, and then swap roles.

Hardest thing about working in teams; go.

(indistinct talking and chattering) Okay, back in the room.

So just by observation alone, about a third of you failed that test, because what you did is what we do as humans.

You engaged in really good conversation back to back, and you didn’t just give the other person a chance. Like listening is really hard.

It’s like kind of our dysfunction as humans. It’s very rare I meet someone who says, I don’t like listening, it’s a waste of time. While people know that listening is good< and then you get to that conversation, and you can’t wait to share your thing, and then you leave the conversation knowing no more than you knew at the start. It’s like most of the meetings I used to go to. I’d leave there going, I feel really smart, and then like, that’s a waste of time.

I’ve set myself a challenge recently that I should never leave a meeting knowing as many things as I went in there knowing. I should always leave knowing more, which mean shutting this and opening these. Really hard, way harder than it used to be. I believe sharing is caring, so just pop your hand up, and we’ll just get some people sharing what you just discussed.

Please, not all at once.

Yes.

(woman speaks indistinctly) People don’t share salaries they earn.

And why does that make it hard? What’s hard about that? (woman speaks indistinctly) Okay; yes.

SO the idea of reward.

Yeah, who else? Yes.

(woman speaks indistinctly) Yeah; yeah, I had the fortune of seeing the wonderful Patty McCord, the old chief account officer from Netflix speak a few months ago, and she has this saying, which is, humans, or certainly adults, can take spin, sorry, can take the truth even if it’s harsh way better than they can take spin.

And I nodded, and I’m like, how many times do I sugarcoat bad news? Or actually just leave it for the very last minute, and then kind of do it as an ambush at the end of the meeting? So you’re like, you say really nice things for 55 minutes, and then go, by the way, the last president was shit.

(audience laughs) And it’s not actionable, right? All you do is paralysing the person, but I completely agree really hard.

When you talk about communication, what aspect of communication do you find challenging? (person speaks indistinctly) Yeah; making choice balanced.

Yep, fair enough; who else? Yes, sir.

(man speaks indistinctly) Your way’s better than my way; really? (laughs) Well, that is like the number one thing for me, which is, and it becomes more apparent when like the proverbial’s hitting the fan. When there’s a lot of stuff going on, my default style is very strong, and my blinkers come in. And people will be smacked across to the wayside because it’s this way, and how do you find that type of an investment to find the time of those different working styles.

When I was first working at Deloitte in London, at the end of my first year, my boss came up to me, he said good news, Dom, you get to hire three people. I was like, oh my God.

It was the biggest thing ever.

So I went and hired three of me.

We were amazing drinkers.

Like we would go and drink Stella like every night. We would talk about football.

That’s really about it.

(audience laughs) We shipped nothing.

But we got on so well, so as a team, it felt really cohesive; it felt really good, ’cause there was never any clashes, no clashes of styles. We communicated really well, almost subliminally. We didn’t have to talk; we just knew what each other cared about.

But we achieved nothing.

And so that working style thing is one where we know that when we do it right it’s valuable, but it’s bloody painful along the way.

Couple more; anyone from the back? Yes, sir.

(man speaks indistinctly) Why do you think trust is hard? I think we’re innately born with it.

What makes it hard in a team environment? (man speaks indistinctly) Yeah, yeah; I am, well I was doing some work a few years ago with Wyatt, and we kind of explored the fact that trust is like oxygen, like you just take it for granted when it’s there, and when it’s gone, it’s paralysing. You suddenly like, I never realised how much I used oxygen until it’s not there, and it’s the same with trust. If it’s gone, and that’s your trigger to go and find it, might be too late.

What about anyone from the back? Yes.

(person speaks indistinctly) Very true; who here would classify themselves as an introvert? Okay, majority of the room; okay.

Yes, right, I’ve got quite personal about that way too many times, because silence is deafening. Like you don’t hear it; it’s just, it’s not there. But it’s only after the event that you realise that the thing you didn’t hear was probably the most valuable thing.

And so finding a way to garner that we, a lot, I do a lot of facilitation.

We talk about how do you manage the celebrity in the room, which is normally the extrovert, normally an alpha of some form, male or female, but they’ve normally got the stride, the confidence, and they make very assertive statements. And it’s really hard to navigate that, because it makes that communication infinitely harder. ‘Cause they’re not open; they’re not being vulnerable. They’re saying here’s a fact.

Are you gonna challenge me on that? You’re like no, not today, I’d rather get paid. Thanks all the same.

(audience laughs) So well done, you’ve passed the test.

Teamwork is very little to do with technology. A lot of people go, yeah, to be an effective team, it’s all about technology.

I work for a technology company.

We talk about that all the time.

But actually, when we quizzed the American audience, 78% of people came back, say you got a prize, 78% of people came back and said they didn’t trust their teammates, which is a struggle, right? We’ve talked about it being the opposition that keeps a team together.

If you don’t trust, you’re probably not going to communicate well.

If you don’t trust, you’re probably not going to talk about those different styles. You’re not gonna balance the introverts and extroverts. So it becomes that lifeblood of a team, and it’s a challenge because where did it go and when did it go? Like if we’re innately born with it, like I, when I meet someone, I normally, I’m probably on the fence.

I don’t distrust them, but nor do I trust them yet. You go through some experiences together.

You build that trust.

How is it absent with the people you’re working with, probably with common goals, and probably for the same organisation.

So we dug into it, and we actually thought technology would be part of the problem, and this is what they came back with.

So you, again, prizes are rare, right? You hit the nail on the head.

In trusting with communication, there was two facets that came out that I found really interesting. One was, it’s not that there’s not enough communication; it’s that there’s too much.

There’s a page, there’s a share, there’s a link, there’s a ping, there’s an email.

I’ve joined a guild, and a forum, I’m now a chapter lead, and I have a cohort that I get together with to discuss the steering committee.

And you’re like, I don’t know what I’m doing any more and where I’m talking or where I’m listening and the like. That’s because you’re meant to be in the town hall. There’s a big announcement going on.

You’re like, I, I’ve lost it, right? We’ve got the noise, and we’ve forgotten about the signal. The other thing with communication, and I think tooling and some of our human art form has got something to do with this.

A lot of the feedback people gave was that they feel like they’re being broadcast to. And if you think about it, communication doesn’t occur at the mouth; it occurs in here, right? It goes through the ears and it occurs in here. It’s how you make someone feel, right? It’s how you change them.

That’s the communication.

Not the thing that you say.

And through mass communication and tooling, we’ve got the ease and convenience of broadcast, but we’re not message checking to go, did you hear that? Are you gonna change? Are you gonna do anything different? There’s a great session this afternoon by Carmel from Atlassian; he’s gonna share some stories from in the trenches about how we find some of the challenges of communications in our teams. And then accountability, the magic word here was the F word. I had a mentor challenge me three years ago, and she said listen for the next week how many times you use the F word, um, favour. And I listened to myself the next week, and I was horrified the number of times I, just do me a favour and run that report for me. That’s not a favour; it’s your job.

(audience laughs) But you don’t say that.

You don’t go, there, that’s your job.

Can you do that? You go, oh, do my a favour, best endeavour, see what you can do, right? And I realised that en masse I was asking for favours, not actions, not responsibility, not follow-through. And you can’t hold anyone accountable for a favour, ’cause a favour by definition is best endeavours. And you know it’s a favour, ’cause tactically, it comes back on a Sunday night, ’cause the person wants to look really busy. And they’re like sorry, didn’t get to run the full report. Here’s a draught for you, and it’s Sunday night. I worked the whole weekend.

No you didn’t; it’s your job (laughs).

But we don’t hold people accountable.

We’ve lost that art form, human to human art form of saying I believe this is your responsibility. This is mine.

Are we clear on that? Can we agree when it will get done? It’s just words, but it’s so hard to get out, and so we assume it instead.

I mean, I’ve worked with someone like you before, and they did.

I’ve worked with someone like Ted before, and that’s how they worked, so I’ll just assume that’s how Ted’s gonna work.

And it doesn’t work that way.

So how do we hold each other accountable? So I did a little bit of research.

I didn’t do a lot of research, because I think I have ADHD. I have no attention span whatsoever.

So my research lasted about 20 minutes, and I went as far back, ’cause I was doing a lot of reading on the fourth industrial revolution, and like, I wanna go back to the last industrial revolution. I want to understand what we’ve come from.

And that’s because I genuinely love history. I love the things that we can learn from history, not ’cause I want to copy them, but I want to learn from them so they don’t become a noose around our neck. I look at many traditional organisations.

Certainly in Australia, the big banks, insurance, mining, they are so stuck in yesteryear of how things used to work, they’re incapable of being part of today’s society.

And for them, I think the 1920s mentality of running a factory, and efficiency being the thing that you did, was the thing that’s important to them.

And it kind of made sense.

I graduated in the year 2000 from Sheffield Uni. I studied a business degree.

We studied Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and we studied Tylorism, the optimal size of a shovel in a coal mine in 1920s Pennsylvania. Little bit of a secret; in the 18 years I’ve been working, never optimised the size of a shovel, ever. (audience laughs) Now it’s good to know about that, but most business books, most literature, most thought leadership, is still baked to this idea of efficiency.

Eventually everyone of the big four consulting firms will sell you an efficiency programme at great cost, right? Six Sigma, all about efficiency.

You’re doing the same thing; how do you do it a little bit cheaper, a little bit quicker. Now just remember, some context.

The workforce that ran this efficient environment, largely white male, largely illiterate, using their hands to work, not their brains, all right? We’ve manual labour; clock in, do your work, clock out. There were no disruption events.

There were no culture events.

There was no innovation rooms, all right? There was no talk about empathy, all right? It was just arrive, do, and leave.

And I don’t think that’s the world we live in today, but that’s what a lot of our skills, that’s what the foreman and the manager was invented for, right? Nature didn’t invent the manager; humans did. So how do we think about this transition, because I believe the cultures that we’re evolving into, if not today, very, very soon, are more about effectiveness. I’m still challenged by the number of people who say they spend six or nine months trying to hire their best people, interviews, screening, exec searches.

And then they get them in, and indoctrinate them into their way of thinking.

They give them a 90 day onboarding, and Ted’s gonna talk about onboarding and the fluidity they use, but they do an onboarding programme that basically trains them to be like everyone else they’ve already got. And you know the magic word will occur some point in that 90 days when that new person comes all up with an idea, and you go oh, great idea; sadly that’s not the way we do things around here, so just pop that idea in your little filing cabinet, never to be seen again. Right? We kill their mojo within the first 90 days. And we want them to be effective.

We want to give them freedom to explore and experiment. We want them to achieve awesome outcomes.

We want them to be empowered.

We know all these things, and then we build hierarchies and command and control structures.

Instead of giving them outcomes and big, lofty goals that they buy into that gets their heart going and gets them passionate, you know, and shared purpose, we give them KPIs.

Who’s got KPIs? Sorry.

So KPIs are cool instant gratification, but they’re what’s happening this week or this month. Now effectiveness isn’t easy.

If you ease out, outputs, this is outcomes. As an example, outputs are really easy to measure. They’re right in front of you, instant gratification, you feel good, you’ve achieved something.

But outputs tend to be a lot like busywork. Like how many meetings did you have? We had a problem probably about 18 months ago, and Ted and anyone else in tech can probably talk to this. We had a problem where we were celebrating shipping. We get to Friday, we chip some code, high fives all around, pizza biz, everyone celebrates it.

I don’t care about shipping.

Shipping’s an output.

I care about what that code does, the outcome. The problem with measuring the outcome, first of all, it occurs three or six months after the event, so you have to take a leap of faith that you believe it will work, and then you have to go and look and listen and challenge to see if it did.

And the second part is, you have to be ready to be wrong. ‘Cause outputs you control, so you always get them right. But outcomes, they’re a leap of faith.

You get three or six months down the line, and you’re like, did we get the customer usage we expected? No.

Did we get the availability we expected? Maybe.

Did we get the uptime, did we get the service, the speed, the performance? You are guessing at what might happen, and you have to be willing to be wrong, and then able to share the lessons learned from doing that. Outcomes, infinitely more valuable, but really hard to do. If you don’t like the word effectiveness, you can swap this for relevance.

How do you stay relevant as a person? How do you stay relevant as an organisation or as a team? Now a quick pop quiz for you.

Who can name the year? (man speaks indistinctly) Who said that? Well done.

Are you a movie buff, or you just? – [Man] No, I had a date with my girlfriend. (audience laughs) – Tremendous, tremendous, why powerful, you are. You are winning at life if you can remember that. (audience laughs) Do we have any millennials in the room? Right; so in the year 2000, if you want to watch a movie, you got in a car, and you drove to this bricks and mortar store called Blockbusters. (audience laughs) Now um, so the story behind this is nothing to do with Gladiator in theory, and many of you will have seen this story before, but there’s a footnote that I want you to take note of here. In the year 2000, the wonderful year this gentleman was dating his girlfriend and watching Gladiator, Blockbusters made $800 million in late fees; $800 million.

So whatever business you’re in, how would you’re leadership team react to having $800 million on the bottom line? They’d probably be quite happy.

So $800 million in one year, me and you, watching Gladiator, thinking it can’t be that shit, watching it a second time, and returning it late. The same year they had the chance to buy Netflix for $50 million, that’s a substantially smaller number than $800 million, and they laughed them out the room. They didn’t buy them; they didn’t acquire them. And actually, they made the right decision at the time. Blockbusters was one of the first data-driven organisations, and the data was a great prove-point.

A DVD player was $1600.

Only the elite had them.

So like why would buy a DVD business? The Netflix business model was you connected to the interweb, at dial-up still in 2000.

You went onto a website, you selected a DVD, and then waited for it to arrive in the post. Like we think instant gratification and FOMO’s been crated recently; it existed in the year 2000. I could drive down the road and pick up the video. Why would I wait three days for it to arrive in the mail? So they laughed them out the room.

Seemed like the right decision at the time. So years later, an actually for a number of years later, it still looked like the right decision, great decision, up until in 2010 when Blockbusters went bankrupt.

13,000 empty bricks and mortar store, and by that time, Netflix had reached $2.2 billion in revenue.

No longer $2.2 billion, now $13 billion, so they’re still going through that exponential growth, and 130 million active customers globally.

I don’t care about any of that.

That’s a classic disruption story you’ll get in Harvard Business Review.

But for every single day, the footnote that’s very rarely told to the story, in the year 2002, the then CEO of Blockbusters had a prototype project, innovation project, called Total Access, which was a streaming service. Blockbusters invented streaming before Netflix, but their senior leadership team killed the idea because they couldn’t bear to be without late fees. ‘Cause if their user had a streaming service, there’d be no late fees, so they canned the project. Great idea.

They also there inadvertently killed themselves. So when you think about values and culture, and you think about that as a business, is it a culture that you have now that you’re trying to maintain? And how do you foster those things that are very uncomfortable, which is disrupting from within, when the precedent is that most companies don’t do that? It’s way easy to disrupt from outside that it is from within.

So how do you engage your people to make sure that innovative ideas don’t get squashed? Look at what Jeff Bezos does at Amazon.

They have a default to yes for new ideas.

So you’d have to do a business case for new ideas. You have to do a business case to keep old ideas. ‘Cause you think about it, it’s unfair right now. Business as usual, that gets free permission to stay. New ideas, you have to prove them.

Well, that’s not a level playing field.

He was like, let’s level it up.

You have to do a business case to keep doing the things you’re already doing. And the reason they did that is AWS actually got killed. The guy that invented it, his manager said no ’cause it wasn’t a core part of Amazon’s business, and he saw it as a distraction.

And luckily the guy had the fortitude to email Jeff. He said what the bleep bleep, and it then became a thing. Right, think about Amazon without Amazon web services. It just wouldn’t feel natural.

But if you think about at the time, it was so tangential to their business, but they had the ability to disrupt from within.

And I think it’s something we all need to be able to do. When you think about this in a statistical form, and some people like the data, this is the average 10 year of Fortune 500 companies over the last, like 60 odd years. Now it’s a bit misleading ’cause it shows that their shrinking in an epic way, and it’s kind of not true, ’cause a lot of companies drop out of the Fortune 500 ’cause they get acquired. You look at what Microsoft, Apple, Google, etc., IBM, are doing right now, there’s a lot of acquisitions which will take companies off the Fortune 500. The real lesson here is, ’cause the numbers aren’t quite right, the average lifespan of companies is shrinking, but I don’t care about that. What I care about is, I think that means the average lifespan of our skills is shrinking. It’s easy to put this at the organisational layer and go, organisational changes occurring, or Blockbusters, Netflix, or Borders and Kindle. There’s a whole lot of examples of that.

But what we tend not to do is to look in the mirror and look at ourselves and go, shit, what am I doing to keep my skills relevant, ’cause the pace is changes increasing? The number of roles I should expect to have is increasing, therefore the deployment of my skills should evolve over time.

For my parents, when I talk to them about this, it’s like I’m talking gibberish, ’cause to them, they grew up in an environment where you went to university, you got a qualification, and you did that job until you retired.

The idea of doing multiple roles and changing is foreign to them.

The kids coming through school now, it’s the norm, and we’re this weird middle ground where we’re like we hear about it, but we’re not naturally doing it yet.

So how do we understand the shortness of our lifespan and our skillset? So we did some, we made a decision at Atlassian. We stand firmly to the potential in every team, and we want to talk at what great teamwork is like. As I said, we’ve got a few Atlassians here. When you say to Atlassian as an organisation what makes a great team, you genuinely get a Tourette’s-like answer back, and they shout tools. Some of them will name tools.

The introverts won’t shout it, they’ll just email you quietly, but essentially you get a common answer of tools. And that makes sense.

The default for our highly technical people is tooling is often the answer.

And it can be.

It’s a massive amplifier.

At the same time, a fool with a tool is still a fool, so if you’ve got idiots, be very careful what you give them. (audience laughs) If you’ve not got tools, that works in reverse, as well. That’s ’cause no one trusts you with them.

But understand the power of tools.

When we talk about unleashing potential, it goes in two directions.

If you’ve got a great way of doing something, a tool will amplify you up.

If you’ve got a terrible way of doing something, don’t amplify with a tool, ’cause you’ve actually made it worse, right? So this is what else makes great teams and great people. The right people are very important.

There’s like a trillion ways to categorise people. I hate most of them because they try and put you in these really weird boxes, like Myers Briggs disc whatever.

Occasionally you’ll meet somebody who goes, what Myers Briggs profile are you? And I’m like, I don’t know how that’s a thing. It’s like when someone says what’s your uber rating? Why? Are you gonna judge me? I’m 4.72; I don’t know.

So how do we think about people? I’ve got a very simplistic approach again.

I love Carol Dweck’s work, growth mindset, fixed mindset, and there’s a personal reason why I love it. ‘Cause I think for a large amount of my career, I had the fixed mindset.

But you don’t stay in the fixed mindset.

If you choose to get off of your ass and do something, it’s very easy to navigate to the growth mindset, to explore and experiment and challenge the status quo. It’s actually free to traverse into the growth mindset. It’s free to experiment.

It’s free to learn.

It’s free to share those lessons learned.

It comes with recourse if you’re in the wrong environment. You can get challenged and it can be tough, but it’s free. It costs nothing.

The growth mindset further, if I think about the, we do a values infused power interview process, I think we’re essentially testing for the growth mindset, the willingness and ability to challenge and grow and evolve.

The think that kind of was the slowest for us and this was a bit of a challenge.

And what are worries like in your workplace, it’s practises.

So if you go about like 15, 20 years when CIOs first got a big budget for technologies, they tended to go and buy things like Yammer and SharePoint and say, we have this collaboration software, therefore we’re collaborating.

What they never did was evolve their practises, how they’re working human to human.

They just assumed if they plugged in Yammer, everyone would automatically collaborate without realising that their culture and their practises didn’t really permit that. So we decided to create a mirror.

We decided that we wanted to build self-awareness in our teams and do so in a way that enabled them to drive their own success. So we got a small team together.

We looked at three historic Atlassian projects that were really successful.

You get the t-shirts made, they’re part of folklore, they’re part of the induction, there’s blogs about them. When you said a project name, you get the smiles, and the I was there, and here’s what happened on that project.

And you know what we learned from those projects? Nothing.

You know why? Because when something goes well, and you say to them, why did it go well, they go, it just did, just did.

We just got on, which was really nice.

It was nice, Dom, it was nice.

I’m like, I can’t reproduce nice.

(audience laughs) Which is go on, I can’t reproduce just getting on. So it’s really hard often from your successes to learn. It’s good to celebrate them, don’t get me wrong, but they’re not often the great source of learning. So we went and had a quick look in the closet, and we found the Atlassian projects where saying the project name gave people the cold sweats and you wanted the ground to swallow you up. You know these projects in your organisation. They’re the ones that get renamed every nine months ’cause they are never going to ship. Have you all thought of them? They’re the projects you need to go and look at. They’re the things that you’ll learn from.

Because when we looked at those projects, we found the things that were missing that were hampering them.

So we collated those two things, and we found eight attributes that we believed made a project team healthy. And at the time, I was convinced every team was a project team.

In practise, about 80% of our organisation acts like a project team.

Cross-functional by design, they come together, they have shared milestones, a shared goal, they ship together, and then they often disband once they’ve shipped.

We don’t get rid of them, they just go and join another team.

Our Agile teams are very project-based.

Shared goals, shared okay, our shared outcome, and they work together.

Two of the team types that we found, leadership teams. Interesting thing is many of our people that are part of our project team are also part of a leadership team. It’s not that you’re one of these, these are per sellers per teams.

Our leadership teams, their job was different, so project teams, instant delivery.

Leadership teams should be thinking time horizon two, time horizon three, setting the north star, the vision, the purpose.

They should be inspiring, coaching, and mentoring. That’s what they should be doing.

We actually found a third feature of our leadership teams when we got started doing this work which we coined the pigeon boss.

The pigeon boss has read about empowerment and autonomy, they have wonderful intent, they wanna do the right thing and most days of the week they do the right thing, and then the third week of the month or the second week of the month of the quarter, they wake up nervous one day and they fly into your project area, shit everywhere, and fly out.

And it’s not malicious, they’re not bad people, but because there wasn’t that communication, there wasn’t that spirit of ritual and connectivity between the leadership team and the project team, they came and they said something and it didn’t disrupt you, it completely distracted you. I actually saw this a few months ago, our head of design walked past the team, they’re on the white board, they’ve got screenshots up, they’ve done huge amounts of research and he just walked past and he went “Oh, a blue screen, I would probably have gone green” and he just carried on walking.

And we’ve basically got nine people just stood there going oh shit, it’s green, it’s meant to be blue. They ignored all the brilliant research that they had because of one statement, completely distracted them for days, so don’t be the pigeon boss. If your inner leadership team, you have to context switch thinking longer term, in a project team, what are we doing this week? And then the fascinating one for us with service teams, we’re seeing more and more of these across our business. Service teams look a little bit like project teams but they’re different, project teams have a backlog. Service teams have a queue.

Things happen to them, their first job is often to triage and then their messa level job is how do we prevent as well as cure? And traditional businesses tend to be HR operations, IT help desk, but we’re seeing in our tech teams a lot more, they are providing a service to the organisation. It’s a very different mindset of how you work and how you manage your work.

It’s also a different healthiness for the team. And so we ran these for ages and I’ll actually share some more details with you but in doing these, we started discussing with our teams, it was all about conversation, all about communication.

How do we understand what a healthy team is? How do we assess ourselves and then how do we drive our improvement? So I’ll give you a quick intro into how it works. First thing we do is in setting this scene, everyone is equal so madame, to your point before about introverts and extroverts, we set the scene and to your point about different styles.

We say everyone in this room is equal and everyone sees the world through a different lens, embrace that. Right, it’s an attempt to manage the celebrity in the room but also to say there is no right or wrong answer. When you’re rating values or team health, it’s not that I have the answer and it’s a matter of time ’til you get it, it’s how do we have a discussion so we can see the differences of opinion, ’cause those differences, that friction is where the value’s created. So we set the scene.

The second thing we do to manage the introvert extrovert balance, ’cause we use to just go into discussion is we now changed it.

We rate first, we discuss second.

Sometimes we use Post It notes, sometimes we use the old school way of thumbs, we read it and after it we go three, two, one, and you go thumb up, sideways, or thumb down, we all do it at the same time. It’s hilarious ’cause we’ll all go thumbs down, see the boss has gone thumbs up and do that and like no, no, first answer’s the best answer.

Like own it, how do we own what we see and what we believe? And then we have the discussion.

Tokes, you went red on that area, what did you see that made you red? Ted, you went green on this, what do you see that made you green? Not ’cause I want them to balance out, I want them to share their unique perspectives, like bring your best self to work means being honest about this stuff. So the discussions we actually think is the hard part but it’s not the hard part ’cause you get the tension out then, but I’ve a hold of high performance at Atlassian and then we give them the really tough part is we say I know you wanna fix everything yesterday, but you have no time, you are constrained, your cognitive load is already full.

So how do you prioritise one thing to improve? In our first 100 sessions we ran, the number one area we struggled with was shared understanding. Shared understanding says you know why you are doing what you’re doing as well as what and you trust each other to do it, and that seems like yeah, we know what we’re doing, we’ve forgotten why.

We actually found a correlation, newer teams, really good at knowing why they’re doing it.

There tends to be a discussion you have at the start of projects.

The longer a team’s been together, the more assumptions are made, the less you remember about why you’re doing it. If you believe you’re an agile team or you’re working with autonomy, you have to know why you’re doing what you’re doing.

If you don’t, you don’t listen, then you don’t course correct.

It is a prerequisite for even an agile team to know why you’re doing what you’re doing.

So it can be a bit depressing just to put a mirror in front of yourselves, rate yourselves and find out you’re struggling with stuff, and so what we want to do is to help our teams improve.

It’s about culture and values, how we get better. And so what we did is instead of hiring a thought leader or a HR person or a consultant, instead of buying a book and regurgitating it, we just watched as our teams navigated, like high performing teams naturally navigate out when they know they’re struggling with something, they will naturally try and fix it.

And we watched what they did.

We saw things like the elevator pitch.

You’re caught in the lift of the CEO and you go cool, high, Joshua, what are you working on right now and who for? And you’re like ugh! What is your line, what is your seven second, 10 second story to the CEO, what am I working on, who for, and what’s the value? And is it congruent amongst the team? I actually did a project poster exercise for the team a few weeks ago.

Project poster is problem, impact, solution, and assumptions.

Seven people in the room, gave ’em a blank piece of paper, PISA, problem, impact, solution, assumptions, and I’m like write down, go, gave ’em five minutes. And then we did the compare and contrast.

It was hilarious.

Every one of the seven people had the exact same solution. So they were celebrating.

They were all solving fundamentally different problems. So what was gonna happen when they went off to their own little systems and their own little teams to go and do that? They were gonna go in completely different directions. Eventually try and glue it together in model three but it wouldn’t have been the same.

The extremes is one person thought the problem they were solving is they were gonna save money, and the other person thought the idea was to grow the business. When those netted off, mediocrity at best.

And we don’t celebrate mediocrity.

So how do we get the same shared understanding? So as we did this, we documented, it helps us scale. We were probably six or 700 people when I first started and as we’ve scaled, we wanted to stay a great place to work, wanted to stay effective, wanna stay small, stay nimble.

And we’d use this mainly across our RN meetings, bill and products, and we’d had some good success with it. Over time, the contribution evolved and we had the three health monitors and 31 different plays.

The plays are essentially the exercises you do to get fit. Health monitor tells you where you’re struggling, you pick a play, that tells you how to get fit. And these aren’t prescribed, these aren’t the answer. At best, these are probably 80% baked.

They’re designed to give you guidance and guard rails, but you need to own how you evolve them and how you apply them to your environment.

And so I was in a conversation one day with one of our co founders, Mike Cohen Brooks, I used to have this talk called the secret sauce and Mike, this is why he gets paid the big bucks said instead of secret sauce, why not just call it sauce? Makes complete sense.

And so instead of making this a secret that we kept to ourselves, we decided to share it, and so that website there atlassianteamplaybook.com, whether you’re an Atlassian customer or not, it doesn’t matter. Everyone in the world gets access to this.

We’ve documented the three health monitors. They all like recipe cards and tutorials you can run. We’ve got 31 plays in there for instance response, design thinking, agile, human centred design. Agile teams, there is a complete mixture, it’s a homage to many different things, we don’t sign up for any one of those religions.

And they’re all in there for free for you to use in your team.

In addition to that, we’ve also added templates, so wherever we use a template to actually run that if you are an Atlassian customer, you get those free of charge in Confluence, in Jira Cloud or server. If you’re not, we also do them in PDF, ’cause this isn’t about you being a customer, it’s about how can I help you unleash your potentia? Now remember that quote before I said about dysfunction? I’ve shared this URL with lots of people, lots of people who are in teams that struggle.

But they have the knowledge of this, but they don’t apply it.

Right, it doesn’t take a huge amount of effort for you to sit down with your team and give this a try. Other than getting over your own fear of what you might learn.

The hardest thing I’ve found in being part of health monitor exercise is not running them, running them’s a huge amount of fun, but being part of them is I always learn something that is a blind spot and however vulnerable I want to be, however much trust there is, however much I know that that will help me improve, it fucking hurts every time someone tells me I’m shit at something. ‘Cause I take it personally.

I’d much rather know that and every time I did it after the event I’m like I’m glad I know that ’cause now I can take action, now I have the chance to make a difference, but it’s not easy to do and I’m not gonna sugarcoat that, but if you sit there and listen and you present your team with an option to give you that feedback, it’s infinitely valuable.

And it gets less painful as you go along.

So I’ve had the fortune of doing thousands of these, both within the last year and then a while ago we decided that it’d be really fun, when I say we, I decided it would be really to travel the world and do this with customers, so I get to go all over the world, I’ve done many trips to the US and Europe this year, run these with large enterprise customer startups at government, lots of fun doing this in government, education system, all over the world to try and work out how do we unleash the potential of teams and also how do we get feedback from teams about what are they struggling with? And there are some common themes out there. I often get asked like how do you know? How do you know you’re better, where’s the thermometer that you shove in to test whether this is improving or not? Now, I could have been cruel last year, we could have had some control teams that we didn’t give this to and some that we did give this to and compare and contrast them, that would have been really quite cruel, and we haven’t done that.

This is just available to everyone, we’ve never had a rollout plan, there’s no project that says here’s the milestones, we made it available, if you want to use it, use it, if you don’t, do, there’s no forcing functions. It’s not a compliance thing.

Instead of measures, I like to talk about fills. And for me, I think there was a stage at Atlassia, this is something I constantly worry about where it starts to feel a little bit factory like, where the process people were getting the control.

There must be a standard way of doing it ’cause it’s doing it different ways is too hard, and here’s this old idea that we did three years ago, let’s just do that again. It’ll work, we just need to make it bigger ’cause now there’s more people.

There’s fear of challenging, the fear of being different, the fear of recourse, and therefore you just close your ears, you become insular. You don’t seek feedback, you don’t evolve.

You just do the same thing, rinse and repeat, and that’s something I constantly worry about is fear that I have on a daily basis.

My feelings that Atlassia feels more like a set of laps. We’ve had a tool that manages all of our teamwork and I looked at it the other week, we’ve got 420 active teams across Atlassia, 3000 people across the globe. 420 active teams, most of them feel like small labs. They are evolving, they own some of their destiny, they are experimenting.

When things go wrong, they share the lessons learned. We get blogs, we get stories.

When something goes well, they share that as well and we celebrate those.

If anything, I think we’re better at sharing the shit stuff than we are the good stuff.

Sometimes something really good happens, we’re like hm, that was good.

And something bad happens, we’re like let’s all pour on that and debate how we could have done it better and that’s cool, it’s self improvement, but you’ve gotta get the balance right.

For us, it’s that embracing the failures and keeping things small, manageable chunks and changing them. That’s values and culture.

Values and culture isn’t something you set over an 18 month period, it’s something that lives and breathes every day in how you work.

And then what I’ve realised is the business world I was taught about at university and Sigma signs up for is input, process, output.

That’s what I learned about in school.

That’s not the business world I’m in today. It’s circular, it’s really complex.

It’s an ecosystem of many different players, many different demands and needs and timezones. Many different responsibilities, backgrounds experience and for me, when I go into large businesses and I realise it’s got an optimization programme, it’s normally one of those circles that they’re polishing on repeat. And what they don’t do is look at the system. I guarantee a common thing that you’ll see today from all the speakers is that values and culture is a system. It all interlinks together.

Don’t polish one part at the detriment of another. You have to understand the whole.

So I love to give actions.

Emmett touched on one of these before but the first action is around unlearning.

I had the fortune to be in New York a few years ago, this lady explained the concept of unlearning to me. And I had one of those moments where I was like oh, that’s why I’m average as a human.

It really hit me that I’ve been accumulating new stuff and I hadn’t given my cognitive load any chance to forget old stuff, so we did this exercise together and I do this every quarter now.

I look back at the previous quarter, what did I love? What did I love about what I did the previous quarter? And there’s a reason for that, is I think life is too short and we should fucking love what we do and I am unapologetic about that.

The reason I mention it is because my parents come from a generation where the more you hated your job, the better it was.

Every Sunday on FaceTime when I’m back onto Manchester, my mom loves having a bad story about what happened that week.

And she’s like how’s your work, is it terrible? And I’m like it’s quite good actually, I really quite like it, and she says aw, that’s a shame.

Like it’s a different generation.

How do we love what we do and embrace that and do more of it? If you love something, do more of it, life is too short. The second part is an equation, the long fall and the load. I only allow myself to add in a long fall if I take out a load, because you’re full, you’ve got no capacity, you got no ring.

Even if you think you’ve got a few hours or a few minutes, bullshit, you haven’t.

‘Cause your cognitive load is already full solving complex problems.

So how do you take stuff out before it becomes a problem? This isn’t about fixing things that are broken, it’s taking things out that will or might not pay a dividend next quarter or next year.

It’s giving yourself the time to plant a seed today, ’cause I guarantee you spend 40 hours a week foresting trees, and if you continue to forest trees, eventually you’re gonna run out of trees.

So find some way of planting, it could be personal development, personal learning, could be anything. My example of this recently, probably about three quarters ago I longed to do more coaching and mentoring, I really enjoy it, I get a lot of enjoyment out of coaching and mentoring, a lot of people were asking me to and I was too busy and I loathed meetings.

Really, really don’t like them, so I deleted every meeting and I got one of the brilliant techy guys to write a little script thing and it said this meeting is either a boomerang or a stick.

If it’s a boomerang, it comes back to me, but I wanna know the agenda, my responsibility, what contribution do I give, what’s my role and do you need me or can someone else do it? So that was the boomerang.

The other option was a stick.

You don’t need me in this meeting, it will never come back. Sticks don’t come back, boomerangs do.

So about half the meetings never came back. And then a few weeks later I started to get pings from people going that meeting you declined, we had a look at it, turns out, didn’t need it anymore.

We just had it ’cause it’s always been in the calendar as a reoccurring meeting.

We’ve already added a new version of it, we just kept both of them ’cause no one ever walked into a meeting and goes I don’t think this should occur.

So how should you stop the load to add in things that you long for? And then the learn is the gift that keeps on giving. As I experiment on myself, who can I go and share my peers, my boss, anyone in the organisation share what works and what didn’t so they can learn from my experience? And I expect them to repay me with a lesson that they’ve learned as well.

Culture and values isn’t an HR programme, it’s the conversations occurring in the hallway of your workplace.

How people are willing to share.

Second was environment, I think we’re going through an environmental change that impacts values and culture massively and I think this can get very scary.

One of the mistakes I’ve seen with understanding the environment is people actually try to predict it, scientifically go how do we get the answer to diversity inclusion, how do we get the answer to mental well being? And I’m like don’t try and solve them, just understand them. Just invest enough time in understanding them so you get the variables.

The fact that we’re in a borderless business, people are like yeah, how do we main competitor as an Australian economy, we’re in a borderless business? How do we manage people in the office and embrace remote and distribute teams? Understand that people will work all over the world? The key for me here is I believe that curiosity is the new currency of business and I think the old currency of business is consistency.

Businesses used to value doing the same things on repeat and doing them faster and now we want creativity and curiosity, they are fundamentally different than consistency and we need to understand how we change our value structures to do that.

And the last one which should be right in the wheelhouse for you folks is how do we embrace the lever of adaptability and business agility? I believe Darwin got it right, I believe nature has solved the problems that businesses try and solve now. Nature knew that adaptability was the key to thriving, not just surviving, and I think we know that as well. But we need to change our value structures to make sure that we actually embrace agility, we embrace that experimentation.

Now, I always love to finish on a quote because quotes are wonderful and they make you sound intelligent. Peter Drucker’s probably one of my favourite business authors of all time.

And he talks about this and this is, if there’s only one thing you take away from this talk, take this, which is you have a choice right now.

Most of you will be sat there thinking I wonder whose job this is? It’s yours.

That’s why you’re here, it’s why you chose to not go into work today and come here, ’cause you actually give a shit about culture and values.

So it’s therefore your job.

You still have a decision.

You can be a bystander and watch it happen and say I told you so when it goes wrong, or you can be a participant. You can drive it.

Driving’s a hell of a lot braver and a hell of a lot scarier, but trust me, it’s a shitload more fun. So if you’re gonna do one thing, instead of trying to predict the future, just create it by not thinking about it but by doing something.

Become a do-ocracy of action, and doing stuff, small manageable chunks, try it, if it works, do more of it, if it doesn’t, tell everyone why it didn’t work and maybe try again.

Confession, it’s not Peter Drucker, it’s Abraham Lincoln but I don’t like politics, I don’t wanna be associated with politics.

And I’ve seen about this today in this audience, actually I’ve seen about Ted, Ted was like my persona for today, and I was like this is gonna be a technical audience who cares about culture. How could I make this a reference that they actually understand? So I converted it to Yoda for you.

‘Cause I know you all speak Yoda which is create the future the best to predict it.

So my challenge to you is go and find the thing after today, after all the talks, only write down the things that you can do and tomorrow in work, try them and let us know what happens.

Thank you very much.

(applauding) (bright music)

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