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Principles of Technology Leadership

Bryan Cantrill
October 05, 2017
100

Principles of Technology Leadership

Talk given at Monktoberfest 2017. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QMGAtxUlAc

Bryan Cantrill

October 05, 2017
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Transcript

  1. Principles of

    Technology Leadership
    CTO
    [email protected]
    Bryan Cantrill
    @bcantrill

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  2. Origin of this talk

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  3. Origin of this talk

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  4. Origin of this talk

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  5. Principles?
    • Principles are the fundamental truths that form the basis for
    beliefs and the foundation for behavior — they are universal and
    permanent, transcending culture and time
    • By contrast, values are expressions of relative importance of
    desirable attributes — they are by nature more malleable and
    may change over time or may be naturally in conflict
    • e.g., honesty and integrity are principles; industriousness and
    resilience are values
    • Principles and values are both important!

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  6. Must we elucidate principles?
    • Elucidating principles can feel redundant — if they are universal
    truths, why make them explicit?
    • And if we make explicit principles that human behavior will
    occasionally contravene, are we institutionalizing hypocrisy?
    • This is exactly why we must make them explicit: making clear
    our principles allows our future selves to be guided by (in the
    words of Abraham Lincoln) the “better angels of our nature”

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  7. The ur statement of principles

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  8. The power of elucidated principles

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  9. The power of elucidated principles, cont.

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  10. Organizational principles?
    • Principles are just as important in the small as they are in the
    large — and it behooves an organization as much as a nation to
    elucidate its principles
    • Organizations reasonably conflate principles and values and
    integrate them into their mission — but they all combine to
    express the deeper purpose of the endeavor
    • Purpose is one of the factors in Daniel Pink’s triad of intrinsic
    motivation: autonomy, mastery, and purpose

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  11. Organizational principles, ca. 1990
    • e.g., as part of managing for values, Levi Strauss & Co.
    developed their “aspirations statement”:

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  12. Organizational principles, ca. 1990
    — Robert Haas, CEO Levi Strauss & Co. in an

    interview with Harvard Business Review, September 1990

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  13. Organizational principles, ca. 1990
    — Robert Haas, CEO Levi Strauss & Co. in an

    interview with Harvard Business Review, September 1990

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  14. Meanwhile, in Silicon Valley…
    • Sun’s aspirations were more distilled: “Kick butt and have fun”
    • This was heavily loaded: “kick butt” carried the implication of a
    fair fight (viz. Sun’s championing of open systems in the 1980s)
    • The culture of Sun was more fully expressed by Scott McNealy,
    albeit as an epitaph:
    Kicked butt, had fun, didn’t cheat, loved our customers,
    changed computing forever.
    • Scott elaborated upon this in his farewell e-mail to Sun
    employees…

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  15. Changed computing

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  16. Loved our customers

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  17. Didn’t cheat

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  18. The Web 2.0 generation
    • For the companies of the Web 2.0 generation, the ethos shifted
    • Google: “Don’t be evil”
    • Facebook: “Move fast and break things”
    • Which brings us to Amazon’s Leadership Principles…

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  19. Amazon’s Leadership Principles

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  20. Amazon’s Leadership Principles

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  21. Amazon’s Leadership Principles

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  22. Amazon’s Leadership Principles

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  23. Amazon’s Leadership Principles

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  24. Amazon’s Leadership Principles
    • With essentially no exceptions, these aren’t principles
    • And in as much as these are to be principles, there are some
    important ones missing: integrity, honesty, decency!
    • Some of them aren’t even values!
    • They contradict one another sufficiently that they can be used to
    justify essentially any action
    • The danger isn’t so much in these “principles” themselves
    (many of them represent laudable traits), but rather in how they
    mistakenly inspire the next generation…

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  25. The next generation

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  26. The next generation
    — Marc Andreesen, “Why Software Is Eating The World” (2011)

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  27. The next generation, courtesy James Mickens
    Source: James Mickens, “It was never going to work, so let’s have some tea” (LISA 2015)

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  28. Me want leadership principles!
    • The peril of the me-want-services/software-is-eating-the-world
    generation is that software companies are now coming into
    contact with the much broader economy
    • These software companies see themselves as disruptors — and
    they often rely on skirting (or outright violating) regulation or
    other norms
    • These companies are tautologically new; they lack any inherited
    wisdom or humility — and they view that as a strength
    • When they mimic Amazon by codifying their own principles and
    values, the results are predictably calamitous…

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  29. Uber’s 14 Cultural Values
    • Meritocracy and toe-stepping
    • Own it don’t rent it
    • Super-pumpedness
    • Optimistic leadership
    • Champion’s mind set
    • Celebrate cities
    • Inside out
    • Making bold bets
    • Make magic
    • Always be hustlin’
    • Principled confrontation
    • Let builders build
    • Being yourself
    • Obsession with the customer

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  30. Uber values: “Greyball”
    Source: letter from Uber to Portland (OR) City Attorney, as quoted in PBOT Greyball Audit Report, April 2017

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  31. Uber values: Self-driving cars
    Source: letter from Brian Soublet, Chief Counsel of California DMV to Uber, December 14, 2016

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  32. Uber values: Self-driving cars
    Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CdJ4oae8f4 as reported by CBS San Francisco

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  33. Uber values: Anthony Levandowski
    Source: New York Times, “Uber Executive Invokes Fifth Amendment, Seeking to Avoid Potential Charges”

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  34. Uber values: Susan Fowler’s experience
    Source: Susan Fowler, “Reflecting on one very, very strange year at Uber”

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  35. Uber values: Eric Holder’s verdict
    Source: Report by Eric Holder and Tammy Albarrán on Uber’s workplace environment in light of Fowler’s experience

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  36. Software vs. the world
    • We in software have allowed values of optimization and
    disruption to seep into our organizational thinking
    • But what is right for software is not necessarily right for society!
    • That software is eating the world does not mean that societal
    constraints no longer apply!
    • Software is on the cusp of yet broader societal impact — and at
    a time when our society is increasingly divided and fractured
    • We have a greater burden to society than ever before —
    and we need to start acting that way

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  37. Principles of technology leadership
    • With greater information connectedness and with consolidation
    into relatively fewer entities, the potential for abuse is great
    • There are many grey areas; principles must be elucidated to
    assure individuals exercise sound judgement!
    • Companies must explicitly treat decency, integrity, and the law
    as constraints on the problems that they endeavor to solve!
    • So: kick butt, have fun, don’t cheat, love your customers — and
    let’s lead the world to a better future!

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