Presentation: The Holistic Detective Hunt For Great Tech Culture



4:10pm - 5:00pm

Day of week:



Key Takeaways

  • Gain ideas for developing a tech engineering culture that drives people and teams
  • Learn how to measure and influence team performance to make teams predictable and pivotable
  • Understand how one organisation is improving their engineering culture using a big holistic picture


Seeing the whole and thinking wider than software and development processes is something we find very hard to do in the tech industry. It’s so easy to get distracted by the amazing new languages, the neat gadgets, or the fun of tricks like mob programming. If we start to apply a wider lens, some systems thinking, queuing theory, psychology and a sprinkle of cynefin we soon see that if we want to drive an organisation of great teams made of great people that create great products, it’s going to be hard! We need to pull some really big levers like culture, leadership, and HR processes. These all bring crazy complexity and we need to worry about them at individual, team, and the organisation level, even with the customer! This requires a big holistic picture, a holistic detective team and a commitment from senior leadership to change the big things.

I will cover key elements of the organisational complexity puzzle, why it’s so important, what patterns could you choose to use, how we coordinate to achieve change, what changes we have driven in Ocado Technology following this idea and how can we measure the success of this.


What makes a tech culture important?

When you want to motivate and empower your people, engineering culture matters. At Ocado we prioritise the people side over building the right thing over building it right. We have had intense discussions on what craftsmanship means to our organizational systems and our leadership approach.

Is this a talk that technical folks, like developers and tech leads, should attend?

In my organization almost everyone has come from ground up developer tech space, all the managers have a tech background. This talk is interesting for tech people that want to become team leads or tech leads, and for those who already are doing that role. The talk is not about about specific techniques like TDD or continuous delivery; I will be talking about team dynamics and how teams and people can interact with each other, what organizations might be doing to block people and flow and how to deal with that.

What can people expect to to away from your talk with?

In my talk I will show how we are developing the big holistic picture of our culture. There will be examples of what we’ve been doing over the last years working on our engineering culture. I will dive into the conversations that we are having about what our culture can be, the values that might make a great organization and what behaviors would we like to see from our peers.

Attendees can learn about things like trust, autonomy, self organization, collaboration, and feedback. They will see what teams can measure and how they can measure it, and what can be done to find out how predictable and pivotable teams are.

Speaker: Doug Talbot

Head of Organisational Effectiveness @Ocado

Doug Talbot is currently the Head of Organisational Effectiveness for Ocado Technology. He leads a team whose mandate is to catalyse improvements in anything that might assist “creating great teams made of great people that create great products to change the way the world shops”. This often means using a systems thinking lens to create change in culture, building the right thing and building it right. The team is distributed across development centres in four countries. The team thinks both locally and centrally stealing ideas from many disciplines (lean, agile, data, psychology, hr, training, networks … ). Doug acts as a central thinker, and direction setter for this team of Catalysts. Doug has been transforming organisational culture, structure and technology for over a decade. He believes in creative and innovative change through empowering learning culture and lean thinking. He has led and transformed groups within science, government, banking and retail. Doug has previously spoken at conferences on lean culture, organisational transformation, measuring the right thing, trust building for great teams, core agile and agile testing.

Find Doug Talbot at

Similar Talks

Software Engineer @containersoluti (Container Solutions)
CTO who understands the science around helping people do their best
Software Engineer, Educator and Founder of Code Cooperative
Senior Software Engineer @IBM, Committer on Apache Aries
Distributed Systems Engineer Working on Cache @Twitter


Conference for Professional Software Developers