Presentation: Building a Culture of Continuous Improvement

Track: Building Great Engineering Cultures & Organizations

Location: Whittle, 3rd flr.

Duration: 10:35am - 11:25am

Day of week: Tuesday

Level: Intermediate

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What You’ll Learn

  1. Hear about the challenges encountered when doing large-scale culture change in a ten-year-old company

  2. Learn how you can improve communication, autonomy and alignment

  3. Find out how autonomy and accountability can go together


Avvo created tools to encourage data-driven thinking, autonomy and a spirit of continuous improvement. This talk describes those tools, their implementation and the issues and challenges encountered when doing large-scale culture change in a ten-year-old company. Continuous improvement is the goal for agile teams. We strive for it. What does it look like when we create a continuous improvement beyond our agile teams and bring it to the larger organization: the company level? Kevin Goldsmith was leaving Spotify, a company that had a built an amazing continuous improvement culture. He saw the benefits that it brought, first hand. When he joined Avvo as its new CTO, his primary goal was to help Avvo create that culture for itself. In this talk, Kevin shows what Avvo has done to build a foundation for a continuous improvement culture: frameworks, organizational and processes that support and empower individuals and groups to own and drive improvements to make themselves more efficient and the company a better place to work. The ideas presented will inspire cultural and organizational changes that you can make to bring continuous improvement to your work environment.


What is the focus of your work today?


I’m the CTO of an established 400 person technology startup in the legaltech space. My work is primarily establishing technology strategy for the company, leading the development, data and IT organizations and ensuring that we are delivering and innovating.


What’s the motivation for this talk?


When I joined Avvo as it’s CTO almost two years ago, I found a lot of issues that had resulted from the quick organic growth without a lot of deliberate thinking on how the organization should scale. We spent a lot of time creating structures and processes to give us better communication, autonomy and alignment. These efforts were influenced by my experience as a senior leader at Spotify and Adobe.


How you you describe the persona and level of the target audience?


This talk has resonated very well with senior leaders, dev managers, agileists and individual contributors who are interested in alternative organizational structures.


What do you want “that” persona to walk away from your talk knowing that they might not have known 50 minutes before?


How having autonomous teams does not lead to a lack of accountability on the part of the developers or leadership.


What trend in the next 12 months would you recommend an early adopter/early majority Software Engineer to pay particular attention to?


Non-cryptocurrency uses of blockchain technology.

Speaker: Kevin Goldsmith

CTO @Avvo, former Spotify, Adobe, Microsoft

Kevin Goldsmith is the Chief Techniology Officer at Avvo in Seattle, overseeing all Research and Development, Data Engineering, Dev Ops and IT teams. Previously he was the Vice President of Engineering, Consumer at Spotify in Stockholm, Sweden, where he led both the product development and streaming delivery organizations. Kevin was a Director of Engineering at Adobe Systems for nine years, where he led the Adobe Revel product group and the Adobe Image Foundation group. He spent eight years at Microsoft, where he was a member of the Windows Media, Windows CE CoreOS, and Microsoft Research teams. Kevin has also worked at such companies as Silicon Graphics, (Colossal) Pictures, Agnostic Media, and IBM. He has a degree in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University.

Find Kevin Goldsmith at

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