How Agile Helps the GTS Team Get Laser Focus

November 3, 2015

When I first joined the LinkedIn Global Technology Solutions (GTS) team in September of 2014, one of my first observations was that projects were being planned and delivered very differently across teams within the organization. For example, some teams managed their work with spreadsheets, while others used task lists or ticket queues. This presented a whole set of complex challenges, especially for cross-functional projects, in an environment of paramount urgency. In response, over the last nine months, GTS IT has been moving towards the full implementation of an Agile – often called a “Scrum” – work delivery model.

Agile is not just a methodology. It is a set of values that helps focus the team on delivering the highest value products to the business in the shortest time possible. This is underpinned with a predictable planning rhythm, clearly defined release schedule, and self-managing teams.

Some of the immediate organizational benefits of Agile include:

  • Keeping laser focus on commitments and progress towards goals

  • Promoting transparency through daily, frank interaction

  • Shifting decision-making to team members, as opposed to a command and control approach

Working with Agile has allowed the teams within GTS to become more autonomous, provide immediate feedback, and be more collaborative. These are other benefits that we have seen:

  • Unlocking the true potential of the team. Team members are able to volunteer for project items they would like to drive and own, letting folks self-select growth opportunities and new areas of challenge. In a traditional environment, assignments are often set by a leader for the team.

  • Creating a gamified work environment. By tracking work with “sprint points,” or an established merit system, this creates an environment of friendly competition to see who can deliver above the targeted allotment per sprint (work period) and stretch to do more. It’s fun to be the “sprint point master” and deliver the highest volume of work.

  • Achieving a sustainable work pace or level of productivity. By organizing work into two week “sprints,”or work periods, team members have a very refined view of their tasks, giving them insight on how to stay on pace to complete it on time. In addition, teams and team members have the insight from past sprints to know what a sustainable volume of work looks like. With more traditional models, work is not metered, it just has to get done by any means possible by a certain date. With the previous framework, it’s often easy to lose focus or underestimate what needs to get accomplished.

We are still on our journey to expanding Agile to all GTS teams, but the evidence is already showing that this new approach is having a very positive impact on the organization and our delivery. As our Agile practice matures, I expect to see increased velocity and productivity, with enhanced collaboration across our teams.