Wednesday, November 6 • 9:30am - 9:55am
OPEN TALK: Fixing Broken Teams - Gaining Throughput on a Budget

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It is not uncommon for organizations, especially ones in the early-stage to make choices that lead to suboptimal processes and team structures. This type of team tends to produce a large amount of technical debt and once the number of customers and/or the codebase gets large enough, its productivity becomes erratic leading to delivery delays and poor quality output.

This talk will introduce a high-level framework for getting a software team back on the right track, by focusing on execution, quality, and ultimately continuous improvement. A combination of theory and real-world examples will be used to show how a software team can gain throughput by fixing fundamental problems and do so without increasing the budget.


In order to gain customers, launch quickly into a market, or to get an idea ready for investors it is common to use an ad-hoc process and structure. For those of you that have lived in this world, the mantra is “all hands on deck” and “we all do everything!” This philosophy and behavior is necessary to gain traction in the market quickly, but will ultimately lead to problems down the line.

Once the customer base grows and starts demanding more, and the investments start to increase, the team is again forced into a situation where meeting customer demand is more important than fixing the ad-hoc nature of the process. The resulting natural outcome of this is technical debt. Everyone knows they are willingly creating this debt and the reward is considered great enough to continue down this path.

Fast forward to some point in the future. Revenues are healthy and the customer base is established and is no longer limited to early adopters. What happens next? Almost without notice, the customer mindset shifts from “I’m excited to have this product” to “this product is a critical part of my business”. The result is a new focus on timely delivery and quality.

Study Design

This session focuses on the speaker's personal experience and how that shaped the key concepts presented in the talk. The methodology has been applied in multiple organizations ranging from post-startup, to fortune 500 in size.


The session offers insight and tools that can be applied within an engineering leader’s environment to increase the throughput of their organization. By focusing on setting new cultural values, reducing waste, and making improvements in a disciplined and sensible fashion this can be done without any significant change to the team budget. Getting more for the same amount of effort is the end goal.

avatar for Mike Watson

Mike Watson

VP Engineering, Synerzip
Mike Watson, VP Engineering at Synerzip, is a veteran engineering leader with over 15 years of experience leading software teams. Mike’s passion is in helping software product development organizations transition into strong Agile practices and cultures within. He has experience... Read More →

Wednesday November 6, 2019 9:30am - 9:55am CST
Expo Stage