Our 5 Year Vision
Released July 2019
Table of Contents
Environment and Culture
It’s another warm day on June 3rd, 2024. You can tell summer is coming but we still have those wonderful cool evenings to enjoy for a while yet. When you walk in the door at Integrity, our space is alive with renderings and quotes we’ve either written on our own or are from some of the mentors who brought us to where we are today. We have a few talented team members who have monthly meetings around the branding and messaging our environment is communicating and it often changes to meet the current direction or campaign we are focused on during that time. Our clients and project work are represented throughout the space in unique and yet congruent ways to keep all informed of the common deliveries and objectives we’re both currently working on and have been achieved. Our employees maintain a common voice in the community about the vision that represents our organization so well. Integriteers work tirelessly to make sure Integrity teams stay true to the paths agreed upon by all.
You can’t help but observe the diverse group that co-exists together so well in the space. Integrity throughout the community is known to be a melting pot of all different types of people who add color and unique shape to the organization as a whole. While a Christian owned business, Integrity doesn’t force the owner’s beliefs on others but embraces everyone for who they are showing love, compassion and care to all who are part of the Integrity family. Phil and Travis look at Integrity as a missional part of their lives and their love for people is evident helping to set the tone for the rest of the organization as a whole.
The Integrity teams themselves are fairly diverse in the way they operate as well. While Integrity began as strictly a provider of development services, it has grown to include other positions (PM’s, BA’s, UX experts, etc) essential to building software as well. Many of the individuals who fill these roles have software development backgrounds but have found they also possess the skills necessary to do these other things well. One of Integrity’s core competencies is teaching others to embrace all individuals have to offer to a team instead of pigeon holing their people into things like development or UX or sales. One of the leaders of the class, “Unleashing the Power of Your People”, is a person who has done several different roles within the company from DevOps -> Development -> Event Planning -> Sales & Marketing. His unabashed passion for freeing others to do this as well is evident when he speaks on this topic around the country.
As you make your way around the space, you see a team working together white boarding some “new” architectural challenge they are tackling. You’ll note another team doing a product demo with the client. As you watch this conversation, it’s easy to see the healthy flow that is going back and forth. The client isn’t just a passive participant but is an active partner in shaping and building the software that will change their world. It is a common daily occurrence to see our clients interacting with our software teams.
Finally, you observe a class that Phil and one of his trainers are holding for the new interns that began last week as well as 2 employees who have been with the company for about a month. This is the 5th workshop they’ve attended since coming on-board and is essential to keeping the culture and expectations explicit as to how we operate vs. other places that they have worked in the past.
Integrity works hard to maintain alignment with its people in several ways. This is a challenge as the workforce is always growing and so keeping everyone in sync has been a work in progress for years. We have grown from 10 people when this vision began to 25 Integriteers. While our primary means of growth has been through young and hungry talent, we maintain a strong culture with several employees who have been with us for 3+ years. This includes Travis and Phil as the founding partners, an additional managing partner as well as several key employees who absolutely love the culture they have helped build We cycle through employees over a 5-7 years at which time some stay and become part of the Integrity DNA while others will move on to new heights & success outside of our organization. It’s exciting to see how they continue transforming this city and community we love.
A large part of the focus for this training is making sure everyone is on the same page as to the VisionQuest that Integrity is on. Visioning is a core competency and is one of our most popular training events Integrity offers. Each employee has written their own personal business vision as well as team vision. Many are also running several smaller scoped, yet well defined visions, that match up to some experiment they are currently running within the space. These visions have been key in enabling us to realize each employee’s goals for themselves and their career.
Integrity lives in a vibrant part of Overland Park where we are well known amongst others in the community. There is a fairly mixed bag of types in this community. We have those who live in the community as well as several other similar sized businesses and partners right here in our neighborhood.
As the demand for Integrity teams has continued to increase, growth has surpassed our expectations year over year. Although everyone loves the collaboration that comes from being all together in the same space, our self-organized teams regularly work together in local coffee shops, businesses, parks, and other remote locations in and around town. As others in the community have seen our teams at work in this way, it’s had the benefit of bringing us several new relationships which have led to great conversations and new partnerships in the community.
Software Development Operations
As we roll into the afternoon, one of our teams of four is talking with our newly-hired Business Anthropologist about a card they’re getting ready to pull. She helps us as our sole Business Anthropologist, and she keeps pretty busy helping all our teams. She’s regularly out of the office or on a Zoom call, though, working to understand how our clients actually do their work day to day.
Any team member is free to interact with anyone they need to in order to move the work forward, but having a dedicated Business Anthropologist has made sure important discussions happen with the right people involved and all the right questions get asked at the right time for all concerned.
In this particular case, the card’s acceptance criteria were not fleshed out beforehand, but we’re alright with that because this card didn’t need a lot of up front clarification. Some do, and we have the freedom to make a variety of tactical decisions like this that may differ from card to card, project to project, or client to client.
As our Anthropologist explains to the developers how our client’s financial advisors currently evaluate customer portfolios, she reads a couple of lines from the vision for this software that we helped our client create weeks ago. In the crafting of this vision, we tried to help the client focus on how their advisors could be even more awesome, so the vision contains only a rough outline of their expectations of the software. Most of the vision is occupied with the success they see their advisors enjoying in their operations. They told us, afterward, that the process actually inspired them for the future of not just this software, but their company as a whole. This trajectory of making these financial advisors into super-awesome financial advisors is the guiding star for this software we’re writing, so we know they’ll love it.
Once we had a vision, our fledgling training and coaching division held a workshop to guide the client through a process of coming up with an MVP. We walked the client through coming up with personae, user journeys, and rough maps of those journeys. We picked one, and we broke that journey into features, went through some benefit and risk analysis rating exercises, sequenced out a release map, and the client identified the earliest point at which we’d know the software was helping their advisors. We broke that into user stories, and that became our initial backlog.
Last Monday, we had our weekly meeting with our client where we planned out the week’s work. This time was just a fifteen minute Zoom call since our priorities have not changed and no huge, new complexities were being introduced. We have had more detailed planning meetings in the past as we feel we need them, but most of them are just a routine confirmation with the client that we’re still on course as far as they’re concerned. Next week, someone from the team will email our client contact new timeline projections, as they do every two weeks.
As the team stands around a large monitor displaying the Kanban board for their project, their empty chairs remain grouped around a single desk from the last big discussion they had regarding a difficult coding problem. It’s incredibly common to find our developers operating in pairs or larger groups around a single monitor and keyboard sharing ideas, respectfully debating, and double-checking each other as we code.
New developers tell us constantly how safe they feel knowing that they are not alone and the other team members have their back. Even the most junior level of developer feels they can offer their opinions, knowing that everyone views them as a respected professional and, in the mix of conversation, the team will discover the best solution together in the end.
Also in this discussion is an Integrity veteran who is shaping our internal Quality Assurance practice. The input from a tester’s perspective helps everyone get a clearer picture of the work that will need to be done to produce this week’s user stories, and the discussion around the stories with the rest of the team helps them have a clearer understanding of what needs to be tested.
Our teams enjoy showing the client what they’ve developed at the end of each week, although this particular team is talking with the client over whether it makes more sense to move their demo to every two weeks. Clients often ask, “When will we get to use this?” as they see the demo, and we are full of gratitude when they share corrections or additions since we have the opportunity to shape this software even more accurately into something they’ll love.
Creative signage that outlines our “Project Principles” hangs up on two different walls in our office reminding us of the Integrity Way as it applies to how projects are done. Teams have all the freedom they need to decide what practices and tools to use to get these things done from project to project or client to client, and this level of partnership with one another and with our clients is legendary in the community.
This process has proven itself many times over in the joy clients express to us that comes from using the software we’ve crafted with them. Last week at a Third Friday, some employees from one of our clients stopped by the office to tell us how much better they like the software we built for them than their old system. “It used to take us days to get a quote out the door, but now we can do it in an hour,” they tell us. It’s taken one of the least profitable arms of their business and turned it into a real profit center.
Our final measure of whether or not a project was successful is whether or not our software makes our clients even better than they were before. At the same time, we enjoy a reputation for quality, technical excellence, and solid engineering practices. Our hands-on Test-Driven Development clinic fills up every time we offer it, and more than one of our clients has shared that they valued working with Integrity because of the new technical knowledge and programming paradigms we brought to their software systems.
Training and Coaching
As the day begins for Integrity’s new training division, the collective email box is overflowing. So many inquiries about workshops! Could we offer our metrics workshop earlier? Could we customize our MVP workshop for an existing product?
Phil is writing a blog for the company website on how software teams can rebuild trust. He adds a card to the team’s kanban board about making a video on this topic. We’ll discuss it in the next planning meeting. Creating free videos on YouTube to drive interest has been a very successful investment of our time. Not only is it one of the primary ways people find out about our seminars, the comment sections reveal several people sharing that a given video helped them solve some tricky operational issue at work.
None of our team is out speaking at conferences right now, although we continue to experiment with that. Spreadsheets full of our evaluation forms show that we are consistently favorite speakers at the conferences we attend. The conferences are lots of fun and, as long as we’re helping people and building the team members’ confidence in their speaking and presenting abilities, it’s very much worth it whether we get new business from a presentation or not. Phil continually refills his coffee as he rehearses in his head the material he’ll be presenting in his upcoming workshop on Writing Good User Stories. You can see him thoughtfully sit back in his chair, sip his coffee, and mentally finish out the topic list while Fleetwood Mac plays over the speakers in the background.
Looking out over the floor, you can see the five desks allocated to the Training and Coaching team. Most of those desks are empty as two of our Integriteers are out doing their own workshops, today, and one of them is helping a local company come up with an MVP for their next product. The other two Integriteers are in the office, today, and they’re discussing changes that may need to happen in next week’s Kanban Bootcamp - a response to a card they just pulled.
Everyone is excited for next week’s Bootcamp as that session is notorious for generating new consulting work and, on occasion, more software development work. Although software development continues to be our main line of business, the training division is now bringing in 20% of our total revenues while also contributing to 80% of the leads that are in the project pipeline.
We’re also excited for next week’s Bootcamp because we’ll have two of our own employees going through the class. Our training division will always drop everything to train our own people, but it’s great when we can integrate that into public offerings as well. When they’re done, they’ll punch that on their Orientation Passport and be that much closer to having seen all the facets involved in the Integrity Way. These first ninety days are always hectic for these new hires as they have to book themselves into these training sessions and balance that with getting used to a new job, a new team, and a new codebase, but the people who are successful at this will be dependable team members and probably future team leaders.
Phil has some serious time blocked off on his calendar for tomorrow to finish the last chapter of his next book, which is the first to feature some writing by the team. It’s a complete lark - a business novel where some office workers survive a zombie invasion of their building by using Lean principles. The literary agent in New York we’ve been working with was a little dubious about it, but the other two books have done well and she’s up for taking the risk. Book revenues to the company are fairly small, but it’s been surprising how much credibility simply publishing a book gave our sales and marketing efforts. We should have done this a long time ago.
We still do a fair bit of operational consulting. We actually spend more time consulting than training, but the profit margin on training is far greater. When our Integriteer who’s helping our client with their MVP gets back from his engagement, we’ll talk about the various ways in which he helped the client, and we’ll look for opportunities to turn them into classes and workshops. We had initially thought the training courses would drive consulting business, but we’ve discovered that there’s even more profit when the flow goes the other way. We definitely don’t want to turn consulting into marketing for our courses, but the synergy between helping a business solve a problem and offering intensive training on those topics has worked out even better than we’d hoped. The majority of our training attendees come from our consulting clients.
We always try to record concrete metrics from our consulting clients so we can use these numbers in our sales process. Last quarter, a software development company in South Carolina used us to spin up a couple of pilot agile teams, and those two teams have nearly three times the rate of production as the rest of the teams. The client can’t wait to get us back to South Carolina to get all their other development teams running in a similar manner.
One interesting avenue Phil has been experimenting with is talking to churches and other faith-based organizations about how to integrate their spiritual commitments with their organization in ways that are winsome and welcoming to anyone who might work for them whether they share that faith or not. He’s traveled to two churches so far to do seminars on this topic and found them surprisingly well attended by local business leaders who often end up as consulting or software clients. We may put a class together on that topic.
Next week, our team will be crafting a vision for our hybrid training and staffing program, after which we’ll use our product ideation processes to come up with an MVP for the idea. We want to be able to take individuals who might normally struggle to afford technical training or get a technical job, train them to be good developers, and then place them in good entry level opportunities with larger companies around the town (although we’ll keep the truly amazing ones for ourselves). Our employees have suggested all kinds of experiment groups ranging from inner city teenagers to ex-convicts trying to re-enter society to local groups of immigrants. All of these ideas sound good to me, but we have to start with a small experiment, and we’re excited about what that will look like.
Near 3 o’clock, the team begins to gather around the T.O.R. (Team Operating Report) board as we do every Thursday. One of our newer Integriteers is running the meeting for the first time. She’s seen it done a handful of times but still is a bit nervous. Regardless, she’s excited to take the reins as she tends to geek out about the #’s.
Today we have a couple of folks from another company close by. They had been walking by yesterday and stopped in to ask about the board. We reviewed the #’s with them at that time and invited them to come by if they’d like to see it in action. This isn’t an altogether unusual thing for us. We do fairly regular training events teaching about open book management and walk our board often with other companies in Kansas City.
Every week, our board metrics are updated, and we all meet for the huddle. Each metric has a goal, and updated metrics are written in green (beat the target), black (right on target), or red (failed to meet the target) on the board. During the huddle, a designated team member will report on their metric and explain why the goal was or was not met for the week. (Stocklin, Angie, 2016)
Our board is divided into 3 sections but seems to always be adjusted as we learn more about the metrics that matter to us as an organization. Right now, the sections are focused on Financials, Employee Joy, and Client Joy. Our facilitator for the day begins with the financials asking that month’s line owners to give an overall summary of that line’s data with additional context and interpretation for clarity. Throughout that process, they field questions from other team members trying to paint a clear picture of how that line is progressing.
As we compare our revenue to expenses, this generates a lot of discussion from the employees as they bounce ideas back and forth on ways to reduce our expenses. Everyone feels a sense of ownership that uniquely comes from the fact that they have such a voice in the company’s financial decisions. They note that we are on track to meet our yearly goal of $3M in revenue and $500,000 in profit.
We then move into discussing the active marketing campaigns we are running, the total number of engagements we are actively pursuing, and the projects that we are incubating. As our Integriteer begins the review of the incubator project line items, everyone’s energy seems to perk up a bit. We’ve almost reached our initial round of investment on a product we were assisting with in the real estate market. It released its initial MVP just over a month ago and is building up its customer base while the development team adds high demand features. The line owner fields questions from across the organization about new customer #’s counts, feature prioritization, initial vision alignment as well as if it will be pursuing another round of investment or not.
Finally, we close out the financial part of the discussion by looking at our overall cash overages. When cash on hand hits a threshold of $100K over the projected needs of the organization, it triggers a dividend payout to our stakeholders. Founding partners receive 65% of that revenue, managing partners receive another 20% and the rest of the staff splits the last 15% equally among all remaining employees.
Following our discussion and review of the financials we move into KPI’s around client joy and employee joy. When we began this effort 5 years ago, we made special note that 100% of our projects fell outside of the key quadrant (high profit, high alignment) we were targeting. Since then, we now have about 75% of our projects inside of our “joy” quadrant. The remaining quadrant projects we are involved in are incubator type projects (low profit, high alignment) and 1 project where the client’s culture is coming into conflict with our own. Our Integriteers and the client are exploring different strategies that may be taken to bring them into better alignment for the future. The line owner fields questions around what experiments are working and which aren't and takes notes to discuss further with the project owner and team.
During this review, we focus on KPI’s (Code Greens/Reds) that our clients and Integrity agree are essential indicators of success. On the client side, code greens are anything that our clients report as positive experiences as a result of working with Integrity. We often hear about how pleased they are with our product demos as well as being able to express complex technical topics in ways business users can comprehend and engage with. On the code red side, we note anything that our clients report as negative experiences. While the # of the greens is always quite a bit higher than the reds, we tend to spend a bit more time on the reds as we have high expectations for our clients joyful experience in working with our teams.
Our employee KPI’s tend to revolve around the areas we currently have as areas of growth but there are often times funny tidbits in there as well. For example, there was a recent KPI around the # of times employees had gotten together to play Magic. Not sure why it mattered to employee joy but hey, if it matters to them, it matters to us. There are also more business-centric things that we measure here as well. Things like # of leads currently in the pipeline, # of newly scheduled or held training events from the last week, and even simple things like # of kudos given from one employee to another.
To close out the event, our leader for the day opens the floor so that we may all celebrate together the victories we’ve had in the past week. This is a great time for us to give shout-outs to those around us and encourage one another in our efforts to achieve greatness and joy.
In another month and a half, we will host our first quarterly employment drive. We regularly have developers who have heard about life at Integrity who want to work here. It was so time consuming to deal with each one on an individual basis that we moved to a quarterly hiring window. Each quarter, we decide how many people we need to hire, then all candidates come in for a day of paired exercises, meeting the existing team members, and short interviews. From that group, we’ll bring in a smaller number and begin considering their individual skills and backgrounds more extensively.
Only those who demonstrate competence with a desire to help others and the ability to work as a team are even considered.
This morning, Phil had his monthly phone call with Huruda Software. They’re now in their fifth year of operation and are about as much of an Integrity clone as you could imagine. They have copied virtually all of our practices, and we’re more than willing to share. Chris and the Huruda crew are good friends and frequent attenders of our workshops.
Speaking of which, we’ve seen an uptick in other software firms in the area sending people to our workshops. Through the grapevine, we’ve heard of no less than three of our competitors adopting Kanban and our metrics processes. We try to keep in touch with these firms to maintain good relationships; you never know when you’ll need a referral or want to give one away, and there’s plenty of work to go around. “Anything that makes Kansas City a better place to be a software developer is worth it, even if it helps our competition,” Phil says.
And this seems to be true. We try to get all our prospective clients to shop around, confident that even though firms may reproduce some of our practices, they can’t reproduce our lived out values, culture, chemistry, or heart. This comes through in every sales call, client meeting, and workshop. Because of this, many clients come back to us or don’t even bother to call our competition, convinced that we have their best interests at heart - because we actually do.
The experience of being cared for by a vendor is a surprisingly unique one, and we have far more clients waiting in the wings than we can actually serve in a timely manner. We have our work fully booked out for the next two years without even dipping into the wait list. We send some inquiries that may not be good fits along to our competitors who usually reciprocate with a little kickback.
We just received our last batch of client surveys, which we send out quarterly. We try to keep tabs on how happy our clients are and receive their feedback. This is overwhelmingly positive, and our relationships with our clients are such that they aren’t afraid to raise issues they’d like to see us improve upon or things they’d like for us to change. If the suggestions are in line with our vision and values, we try to make that happen. Anything that is a compliment, we mark as Code Green. Anything that notes a shortcoming or even just an inability to meet a client’s needs at a given point in time, we mark as Code Red. This is purely to help us monitor satisfaction levels. In our eyes, there is no such thing as negative feedback if we can learn something from it that helps us improve our ability to serve our clients.
We are well-spoken of by employees, former employees, clients, former clients, and competitors alike. You can’t make inquiries about software development in Kansas City without hearing our name, and we are considered peers and potential competitive threats by firms much larger than ourselves.
Last week, an email from a workshop attendee told us that the practices they learned in the Kanban Bootcamp has energized their team and, for the first time, they feel excited and hopeful about the future. They’re excited to come to work, again, and the knowledge that we have changed someone’s life reminds us that we’re not simply growing a profitable enterprise, but we are leaving the world and our fellow humans in a much better state for having been part of it.
Epilogue: Customer Onboarding
I’m out this evening having Scotch and cigars in a nice restaurant downtown with a director from a large insurance company. Seated with us is another Integriteer interested in getting involved in business development. Around us are the sounds of the clinking of plates and the ambient buzz of conversations.
Our own conversation has been exploring areas of value alignment. He’s explaining to me how their IT projects are currently being managed, which I think will lead into a larger discussion of the way authority and autonomy work in his division.
This is the first of a small series of meetings to determine if we’ll be a good fit and if their projects will help build our High Profit / High Alignment quadrant of our portfolio. I’m hearing good things, but it’s too early to tell for sure. I want to make sure, at bare minimum, that our teams have the autonomy they need and the level of collaboration they need to work with a large firm, while at the same time making sure they understand the process and value of incremental delivery.
In fact, we try to work with our clients from a throughput accounting perspective to help them budget their projects differently - funding them for incremental delivery of value instead of being focused on a final batch price. This is, to say the least, weird for most of our clients, and not all of them are equipped to do such a thing. We sometimes use our metrical data to project a total batch price, but we massively over-communicate to our clients that such a figure is not a bid or a proposal but simply a statistical projection. For those clients who let us guide them in their budgeting, they often discover they have the money for initiatives they didn’t know they had, and they free up money from “dead branch” projects they can simply break off. Typically, most clients end up just letting go of the whole “project” paradigm altogether.
We’ve discovered that we do our best work when the client allows us to work in our way and is fully accessible to us. We don’t negotiate on that, but we do try to be creative and flexible when coming up with what level of input and output they’ll have. Anyone who is unwilling to be collaborative with us or insists that we run the project according to traditional PM practices is automatically funneled out, although we try to refer them to other firms we trust. This has led to a great relationship with our competitors who aren’t afraid to also send referrals to us or subcontract work out to us.
The director found out about us because his executive coaching group read my book on love as a corporate value. He initially scouted us out for some training, but as we’ve talked, it seems like there’s some room for us to take on a software project or two with them.
As I begin to explain our Product Ideation process, I see a light come on in his eyes. We consistently find that organizations have no structure to their product ideation, if they even bother to do any at all, and they latch onto it like a hungry person latches onto bread. I can see his interest growing as I explain at a high level our structure and tell him stories about how this has worked for our other clients and internal projects.
The fact is that we consistently offer what other firms cannot, and that’s a very unique package of process and delivery that can address all aspects of a client organization, from helping them develop their business processes and giving them the software tools to make them awesome at it.
I explain this to the director as well as how our processes control risk for our clients, and I can tell he is floored by this. No one has ever tried to sell him on their services from the standpoint of managing his own risk.
“At the very least,” I say, “going through our ideation process will mean you have a vision and a solid plan for a first release. You can even shop it around to other firms if you wanted.”
“Oh, I won’t be shopping around,” he replies. And so the door is opened for tomorrow.