TeamOps — making teamwork an objective discipline

TeamOps’ vision and methodology overview.

Solving DIY Management with TeamOps

Organizations need people and teams — their creativity, perspectives, and humanity. That need will only grow as we move towards a future with bigger problems to solve, and as AI displaces every variety of rules-based knowledge work which can be automated.

Tomorrow’s winners will be determined by how they bring teams together, and how well they’re able to get every person on those teams to contribute to their mission.

Up to this point, teams, and the ways the people on them work, have been treated in a profoundly subjective manner: ad hoc, DIY, left up to whims of the individual manager and the quirks of a given corporate culture. It’s viewed as a soft problem, mixing 20th century management philosophies with pop psychology. Grounded in opinion, not reality. Feelings, not behaviors.

Meanwhile, other critical areas of business have been studied, made objective, codified, and operationalized. Why not so with our most valuable resource: teams?

TeamOps Vision

It is GitLab’s mission to make it so that everyone can contribute. When applied to management, this creates an atmosphere where everyone is empowered to lead.

TeamOps differentiates itself from other management philosophies and people practices by consciously enabling decentralized decision making at a centralized (organizational) level. While guiding principles exist, TeamOps is not static. It is designed to be iterated on and evolved by everyone. This system is designed to apply to all work environments, from no remote to strictly remote.

By implementing TeamOps at an organizational level, individuals within the organization are less constrained. Each team member receives greater agency to exert self-leadership. Collectively, we believe this atmosphere allows for more informed decisions, made quicker, more frequently, and with a higher likelihood of successful execution.

TeamOps is a recipe which has worked at GitLab. It may not be perfectly applicable in your company, and that’s OK. As with The Remote Playbook, we are transparently sharing it to inspire other organizations and to invite conversation.

Understanding and applying TeamOps

  1. TeamOps describes an ideal state. In management, it is not possible to remain in an ideal state in perpetuity. Competing priorities, conflict tradeoffs, and coordination headwinds will be present at varying times. When applying TeamOps, resist the urge to take a binary approach. Rather than asking, “Have we completely achieved TeamOps in our team or company?,” leverage TeamOps principles to navigate with more information and greater velocity.
  2. TeamOps is for individual contributors and people managers. TeamOps empowers individual contributors to be better stewards of their own time and attention. Concurrently, it empowers people managers to lead with deeper conviction while creating more space for their direct reports to grow, develop, and contribute.

Prerequisites for TeamOps

There are a number of foundational elements that should be in place in order for TeamOps to be maximally successful within a team or organization. These prerequisites consist of the processes, organizational structure, and culture that create an ideal environment to implement TeamOps principles.

If your organization is missing some of these building blocks, consider this an opportunity to invest in your team. GitLab’s Remote Playbook can serve as a blueprint.

  1. Communication guidelines. You’ll want to have a robust list of guardrails and tips outlining all aspects of communication within the organization. This includes how to approach sensitive topics, what tools to use for various types of interactions, and how to embrace asynchronous communication. There should be no unwritten rules.
  2. Shared set of values. Your core values must be more than words on a page. They should be actionable, clearly documented, and reinforced in everything you do as a team. These values also act as a filter for hiring, ensuring you continue to grow the team with people who are committed to living out these values in their work.
  3. Team trust. Implementing new management techniques can be uncomfortable at first. A baseline of trust across the organization will better enable the team to embrace change and assume positive intent along the way.
  4. Focus on results. Measuring output instead of input is foundational to managing a distributed team. This means establishing clear, transparent goals so that team members at all levels of the organization can see and take ownership for how their work is contributing to the team, department, and company’s success.
  5. Culture of belonging. Prioritize cultivating an inclusive environment where team members feel a sense of belonging and psychological safety. This unlocks the potential of your team and creates a non-judgmental culture that welcomes diverse contributions and ideas.

TeamOps Certification

To become a TeamOps practitioner, enroll and complete the 🎓 TeamOps Practitioner Certification course on LevelUp 🎓! It’s free and open to the public. To be amongst the first to earn the certification, sign up below and we will email you when it’s available.

GitLab TeamOps teamwork illustration

Last modified May 19, 2023: Adding new roles (b88e5bb)