Making People the X-Factor

Making People the X-Factor in the Enterprise

John Taschek, Senior Vice President, Salesforce

Every enterprise relies on improved key metrics, operational excellence, and better efficiency at scale. And many people love being part of it. But companies need to re-humanize the machines that led them to success. John Taschek, Salesforce’s VP of Strategy, will share his views on how to bring people back to the forefront of competitive intelligence, customer insights, analyst relations, and even pricing and packaging. Doing so means pointing the people who are really good at softer skills to the world outside your own companies. At the same time, it also means developing the internal executive support to make it possible. The outcomes can be frustrating or fun, but in the long game, everyone wins.

Scale is one of the most defining aspects of work in the enterprise. Tricia Wang (@triciawang) is theme leader, she was a speaker last year. She lives at the intersection of data, design, and marketing.

Theme 4 Introduction

Tricia is feeling awesome after two days of getting to know each other!  She feels like she found her people.  We are all talking about the same issues – you get her issues and her joys.  We have grown another ten years this year. All these amazing issues to being talked about – gun violence, hate groups. Today she wants to continue with this deep exploration; three speakers will share their core issues about scaling while remaining customer-centric.

In enterprise we focus on growth, and we can easily miss something important. This kind of selective attention is rife inside enterprise. We focus on bureaucracy and protocol, and we miss the voice of the customer. Systematic bureaucracy can be de-humanizing.  John doesn’t normally speak publicly, but he has been tapped by Mark Benioff to help ensure Salesforce remains customer-centric. He has been at Salesforce for the past fifteen years. Although the he has done UX work, he is going to help us see from a much higher / aerial point of view.


He was serious that he doesn’t know what he does – maybe it’s nuanced. He doesn’t come from a UX background. He is having an existential crisis that his slides have a light background.  🙂

John is going to share how he is working to make their company a little more human. His world is customer-focused:


The middle part is ‘strategic influence relations’ – they are evangelists. He is known as someone in charge of the Misfits. You can look at all these through a simple business lens, but his goal is to bring more humanity to technology by starting with the person first, and making empathy their top value. There was a whole series of books with Dummies and Idiots in the titles, he didn’t like that.  His goal was to start with the person – maybe it’s an internal or external customer.  But there are obstacles trying to do so.

Obstacle 1: Scale is Hard

At the time their competitor was Oracle and Siebel (now merged). IT was hard to complete, but not hard to understand. This is what his competitive landscape looks like now:taschek-06.png

It is a very fragmented, very niche-oriented world. We can either benefit, or at learn from paying attention to what is happening in this landscape. Growth is great, but scaling is hard. At the beginning he knew everyone by name. With 29K employees it is different now, and they have to adjust.

Obstacle 2: I Have Personal Issues

He hates meetings, and he is an introvert and passionate, and he can feel isolated as a result. Hence, the Misfit. These are actual replies he has sent back to people about not wanting to attend their meetings:


Obstacle 3: Scale Introduces Systematic Dehumanization

It happens to us and to our customers. You can’t stop it, it’s the nature of growth of a business. You have contractual, legal issues, and many layers of people who don’t touch customers. But everyone needs to hear customers, and the industry.  Under those conditions, how can we achieve success without dehumanizing?


They were part of a Vatican Hackathon.  Someone was inspired to get them involved because the Pope talked about bringing tenderness into technology.  The challenge is that when you scale, the pyramid gets flipped:taschek-05.png

Everyone is going through this – not just inside the company. How do we flip the hierarchy back?  In order to achieve career growth, we may not take a straight path.

Solution 1: Resisting Systematic Dehumanization

You have to separate fact and emotion. Communication channels between groups / silos can be broken – how do we make them more inclusive? Email is inherently exclusionary, but there are technologies like Slack that help with that. Establish trust through transparency and be authentic about it. One of the way he does that is push all insights (even the negative ones) up as high as he can.

Starting with Frederick Taylor, there has been such a focus on efficiency and ROI that has caused us to lose sight of the bigger picture:

Solution 2: Adapt / Reinvent Taylorism


Take those Misfits with intuition and make them peers with the executive team. Don’t monitor your employees. Instead, monitor your customer outcomes.

What Salesforce has done – what Mark Benioff describes as his greatest invention – is their V2MOM:taschek-03.png

This kind of focus helps to increase the relevance of your company.

Solution 3: Change the Metrics for Team’s Success

Sometimes you feel like a lone wolf. But he wants to encourage his team to be part of a pack. How did he make that happen?

He looked for Misfits, people that look at things differently. He wanted to find people that didn’t know them and what they were doing as a way to uncover issues. How has he done that?

He flipped the hierarchy through untiered analyst firms, untiered roles, an untiered channels of communication.  There aren’t tiers, but there are priorities. Many of these things cannot be measured. You can always get more efficient, but there are things that you can do to show value in other ways.

Does it work – yes!  They have grown, and as long as they stick to their values they will continue to do so.

Five key takeaways

  • Identify your promotors, promoters, detractors – both internal and external
  • Elevate the counter-intuitive nature of Misfits
  • Don’t worry about your next meeting; worry about the two meeting that will follow
  • There often isn’t good or bad in an organization; sometimes there just “is”
  • Humanization is ironic and necessary – create your own narrative, tell your own story


1 Comments on “Making People the X-Factor”

  1. Pingback: EUX18 Recap | Natalie Hanson

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