Feb 4, 2020 - Valerie Silverthorne    

How iteration helps build our product and improve our work lives

One of GitLab’s core values, iteration permeates everything we do from UX design to product development. And when it comes to our work lives, iteration is a game changer.

it·er·a·tion

/ˌidəˈrāSH(ə)n/

noun

the repetition of a process or utterance.

repetition of a mathematical or computational procedure applied to the result of a previous application, typically as a means of obtaining successively closer approximations to the solution of a problem. – Oxford Dictionary via Lexico

At GitLab iteration is simply what we do – with everything. CEO Sid Sijbrandij explains that even in the very early stages of GitLab, when the company was in the Y Combinator "incubator,” he knew iteration was the right choice because even though it seems contradictory, you can go faster by breaking things down into smaller pieces. "There were people, even at the time, who suggested that we should slow down. The response from GitLab has always been, 'No, we'll get the most we can get done. The smaller we split things up, the smaller the steps we take, the faster we can go.'"

It’s not surprising that iteration is one of GitLab’s six core values, and you don’t have to look too closely to see how it steers our product development. When we wanted to make our error tracking feature stronger, we "scoped” the project down and made small changes more quickly.

Our user experience team took the same approach when trying to improve usability, and when we migrated from Microsoft’s Azure to the Google Cloud Platform we used iteration to guide our process.

But perhaps where iteration shines brightest at GitLab is at the individual level where the ability to take small steps frees employees to take risks and be creative. This is something that’s obvious even if you’re a brand new employee.

We asked six team members to explain the impact of iteration on their work lives.

Heather Simpson, senior external communications analyst: "Honestly, the ability to throw something out there without being judged because it’s not completely formed and polished is new and refreshing for me. I know I’ve got teammates ready to collaborate and help me strengthen my ideas and the end result.”

Ashish Kuthiala, senior director of Product Marketing: "It helps us create a culture and organization that learns very fast and creates a self-learning and always improving organization. We cannot and do not always get things right but we learn and improve really rapidly.”

Emily Kyle, manager, Corporate Events and Branding: "It allows me to be a bit bolder and braver in coming up with out of the box solutions and in my decision making. Small steps make change so much easier to achieve.”

Tina Sturgis, manager, Partner and Channel Marketing: "Iteration for me is a game changer at GitLab. Gone are the days of getting everyone's buy-in prior to rolling out messaging. Put it out there and people will iterate on it making it better. If my messaging was off, no worries – iterate on what it is NOT and keep driving to results."

Lorie Whitaker, senior UX researcher: "To a UX researcher iteration means something different to me than other people. The value of iteration should encourage people to change directions when they find answers to their questions. Iteration should be a stop-gap measure to say ‘This is not the right solution. We will stop and reassess and rethink what is the right solution to this problem.’”

Lee Matos, Support engineering manager: "Iteration is hard because at first it feels unnatural, but once you learn how to really iterate, it's liberating. You can keep being nimble which is huge."

Cover image by Eryk on Unsplash

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