Gitlab hero border pattern left svg Gitlab hero border pattern right svg

GitLab Values

On this page

CREDIT

GitLab's six values are Collaboration, Results, Efficiency, Diversity & Inclusion, Iteration, and Transparency, and together they spell the CREDIT we give each other by assuming good intent. They are made actionable below.

About our Values

We take inspiration from other companies, and we always go for the boring solutions. Just like the rest of our work, we continually adjust our values and strive always to make them better. We used to have more values, but it was difficult to remember them all, so we condensed them and gave sub-values and created an acronym. Everyone is welcome to suggest improvements.

Collaboration

Helping others is a priority, even when it is not immediately related to the goals that you are trying to achieve. Similarly, you can rely on others for help and advice—in fact, you're expected to do so. Anyone can chime in on any subject, including people who don't work at GitLab. The person who's responsible for the work decides how to do it, but they should always take each suggestion seriously and try to respond and explain why it may or may not have been implemented.

Kindness

We value caring for others. Demonstrating we care for people provides an effective framework for challenging directly and delivering feedback. We disagree with companies that say Evaluate People Accurately, Not "Kindly". We're all for accurate assessment, but we think it must be done in a kind way. Give as much positive feedback as you can, and do it in a public way.

Share

There are aspects of GitLab culture, such as extreme transparency, that are unintuitive to outsiders and new team members. Be willing to invest in people and engage in open dialogue. For example, consider making private issues public wherever possible so that we can all learn from the experience.

Negative is 1-1

Give negative feedback in the smallest setting possible. One-on-one video calls are preferred.

Say thanks

Recognize the people that helped you publicly, for example in our #thanks chat channel.

Give feedback effectively

Giving feedback is challenging, but it's important to deliver it effectively. When providing feedback, always make it about the work itself; focus on the business impact and not the person. Make sure to provide at least one clear and recent example. If a person is going through a hard time in their personal life, then take that into account. An example of giving positive feedback is our thanks chat channel. For managers, it's important to realize that employees react to a negative incident with their managers six times more strongly than they do to a positive one. Keeping that in mind, if an error is so inconsequential that the value gained from providing criticism is low, it might make sense to keep that feedback to yourself. In the situations where negative feedback must be given, focus on the purpose for that feedback: to improve the employee’s performance going forward. Give recognition generously, in the open, and often to generate more engagement from your team.

Get to know each other

We use a lot of text-based communication, and if you know the person behind the text, it will be easier to prevent conflicts. So we encourage people to get to know each other on a personal level through our company calls, virtual coffee chats, and during GitLab Contribute.

Don't pull rank

If you have to remind someone of the position you have in the company, you're doing something wrong. People already know our decision-making process. Explain why you're making the decision, and respect everyone irrespective of their function.

Assume positive intent

We naturally have a double standard when it comes to the actions of others. We blame circumstances for our own mistakes, but individuals for theirs. This double standard is called the Fundamental Attribution Error. In order to mitigate this bias you should always assume positive intent in your interactions with others, respecting their expertise and giving them grace in the face of what you might perceive as mistakes.

Address behavior, but don't label people

There is a lot of good in this article about not wanting jerks on our team, but we believe that jerk is a label for behavior rather than an inherent classification of a person. We avoid classifications.

Say sorry

If you made a mistake, apologize. Saying sorry is not a sign of weakness but one of strength. The people that do the most work will likely make the most mistakes. Additionally, when we share our mistakes and bring attention to them, others can learn from us, and the same mistake is less likely to be repeated by someone else.

No ego

Don't defend a point to win an argument or double-down on a mistake. You are not your work; you don't have to defend your point. You do have to search for the right answer with help from others.

See others succeed

A candidate who has talked to a lot of people inside GitLab said that, compared to other companies, one thing stood out the most: everyone here mentioned wanting to see each other succeed.

People are not their work

Always make suggestions about examples of work, not the person. Say, "you didn't respond to my feedback about the design" instead of "you never listen". And, when receiving feedback, keep in mind that feedback is the best way to improve and that others want to see you succeed.

Do it yourself

Our collaboration value is about helping each other when we have questions, need critique, or need help. No need to brainstorm, wait for consensus, or do with two what you can do yourself.

Blameless problem solving

Investigate mistakes in a way that focuses on the situational aspects of a failure’s mechanism and the decision-making process that led to the failure rather than cast blame on a person or team. We hold blameless root cause analyses and retrospectives for stakeholders to speak up without fear of punishment or retribution.

Short toes

People joining the company frequently say, "I don't want to step on anyone's toes." At GitLab we should be more accepting of people taking initiative in trying to improve things. As companies grow their speed of decision making goes down since there are more people involved. We should counteract that by having short toes and feel comfortable letting others contribute to our domain.

It's impossible to know everything

We know we must rely on others for the expertise they have that we don't. It's ok to admit you don't know something and to ask for help, even if doing so makes you feel vulnerable. It is never too late to ask a question, and by doing so you can get the information you need to produce results and to strengthen your own skills as well as GitLab as a whole. After your question is answered, please document the answer so that it can be shared.

Results

We do what we promised to each other, customers, users, and investors.

Measure results not hours

We care about what you achieve; the code you shipped, the user you made happy, and the team member you helped. Someone who took the afternoon off shouldn't feel like they did something wrong. You don't have to defend how you spend your day. We trust team members to do the right thing instead of having rigid rules. Do not incite competition by proclaiming how many hours you worked yesterday. If you are working too many hours talk to your manager to discuss solutions.

Give agency

We give people agency to focus on what they think is most beneficial. If a meeting doesn't seem interesting and someone's active participation is not critical to the outcome of the meeting, they can always opt to not attend, or during a video call they can work on other things if they want. Staying in the call may still make sense even if you are working on other tasks, so other peers can ping you and get fast answers when needed. This is particularly useful in multi-purpose meetings where you may be involved for just a few minutes.

Write promises down

Agree in writing on measurable goals. Within the company we use public OKRs for that.

Growth mindset

You don't always get results and this will result in criticism from yourself and/or others. We believe our talents can be developed through hard work, good strategies, and input from others. We try to hire people based on their trajectory, not their pedigree.

Global optimization

This name comes from the quick guide to Stripe's culture. Our definition of global optimization is that you do what is best for the organization as a whole. Don't optimize for the goals of your team when it negatively impacts the goals of other teams, our users, and/or the company. Those goals are also your problem and your job. Keep your team as lean as possible, and help other teams achieve their goals. In the context of collaboration, this means that if anyone is blocked by you, on a question, your approval, or a merge request review, your top priority is always to unblock them, either directly or through helping them find someone else who can, even if this takes time away from your own or your team's priorities.

Tenacity

We refer to this as "persistence of purpose". As talked about in The Influence Blog, tenacity is the ability to display commitment to what you believe in. You keep picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and quickly get going again having learned a little more.

Ownership

We expect team members to complete tasks that they are assigned. Having a task means you are responsible for anticipating and solving problems. As an owner you are responsible for overcoming challenges, not suppliers, or other team members. Take initiative and pro-actively inform stakeholders when there is something you might not be able to solve.

Sense of urgency

At an exponentially scaling startup time gained or lost has compounding effects. Try to get the results as fast as possible so the compounding of results can begin and we can focus on the next improvement.

Ambitious

While we iterate with small changes, we strive for large, ambitious results.

Perseverance

Working at GitLab will expose you to situations of various levels of difficulty and complexity. This requires focus, and the ability to defer gratification. We value the ability to maintain focus and motivation when work is tough and asking for help when needed.

Bias for Action

It's important that we keep our focus on action, and don't fall into the trap of analysis paralysis or sticking to a slow, quiet path without risk. Decisions should be thoughtful, but delivering fast results requires the fearless acceptance of occasionally making mistakes; our bias for action also allows us to course correct quickly.

Accepting Uncertainty

The ability to accept that there are things that we don’t know about the work we’re trying to do, and that the best way to drive out that uncertainty is not by layering analysis and conjecture over it, but rather accepting it and moving forward, driving it out as we go along. Wrong solutions can be fixed, but non-existent ones aren’t adjustable at all. The Clever PM Blog

Customer results

Our focus is to improve the results that customers achieve. Customer results are more important than:

  1. What we plan to make. If we focus only on our own plans, we would have only GitLab.com and no self-hosted delivery of GitLab.
  2. Large customers. This leads to the innovator's dilemma, so we should also focus on small customers and future customers (users).
  3. What customers ask for. Often, it’s easier for a customer to think in terms of a specific solution than to think about the core problem that needs to be solved. But a solution that works well for one customer isn’t always relevant to other customers, and it may not align with our overall product strategy. When a customer asks for something specific, we should strive to understand why, work to understand the broader impact, and then create a solution that scales.
  4. Our existing scope. For example, when customers asked for better integrations and complained about integration costs and effort, we responded by expanding our scope to create a single application for the DevOps lifecycle.
  5. Our assumptions. Every company works differently, so we can’t assume that what works well for us will support our customers’ needs. When we have an idea, we must directly validate our assumptions with customers to ensure we create scalable, highly relevant solutions.
  6. What we control. We should take responsibility for what the customer experiences, even when it isn’t entirely in our control. For example, we looked only at GitLab.com when a customer managed instance downtime can be a $1m a day problem.

Efficiency

We care about working on the right things, not doing more than needed, and not duplicating work. This enables us to achieve more progress, which makes our work more fulfilling.

Dogfooding

We use our own product. Our development organization uses GitLab.com to manage the DevOps lifecycle of the GitLab CE and EE projects. Our entire company uses GitLab to collaborate on this handbook. We also capture other content and processes in Git repos and manage them with GitLab. We do this because of the efficiency benefits of a single application.

Write things down

We document everything: in the handbook, in meeting notes, in issues. We do that because "the faintest pencil is better than the sharpest memory." It is far more efficient to read a document at your convenience than to have to ask and explain. Having something in version control also lets everyone contribute suggestions to improve it.

Boring solutions

Use the simplest and most boring solution for a problem, and remember that “boring” should not be conflated with “bad” or “technical debt.” The speed of innovation for our organization and product is constrained by the total complexity we have added so far, so every little reduction in complexity helps. Don’t pick an interesting technology just to make your work more fun; using established, popular tech will ensure a more stable and more familiar experience for you and other contributors.

Efficiency for the right group

Optimize solutions globally for the broader GitLab community. Making a process efficient for one person or a small group may not be the efficient outcome for the whole GitLab community. As an example, it may be best to choose a process making things slightly less efficient for you while making things massively more efficient for thousands of customers. For example: choose to replace a renewal process that requires 1,000s of customers to spend 2 hours each with one that only takes 60 seconds even when it may make a monthly report less efficient internally! In a decision, ask yourself "for whom does this need to be most efficient?". Quite often, the answer may be your users, contributors, customers, or team members that are dependent upon your decision.

Be respectful of others' time

Consider the time investment you are asking others to make with meetings and a permission process. Try to avoid meetings, and if one is necessary, try to make attendance optional for as many people as possible. Any meeting should have an agenda linked from the invite, and you should document the outcome. Instead of having people ask permission, trust their judgment and offer a consultation process if they have questions.

Spend company money like it's your own

Every dollar we spend will have to be earned back; be as frugal with company money as you are with your own.

Frugality

Amazon states it best with: "Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency and invention. There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size or fixed expense."

ConvDev

We work according to the principles of conversational development.

Freedom

You should have clear objectives and the freedom to work on them as you see fit.

Short verbal answers

Give short answers to verbal questions so the other party has the opportunity to ask more or move on.

Keep broadcasts short

And keep one-to-many written communication short, as mentioned in this HBR study: "A majority say that what they read is frequently ineffective because it’s too long, poorly organized, unclear, filled with jargon, and imprecise."

Managers of one

We want each team member to be a manager of one who doesn't need daily check-ins to achieve their goals.

Responsibility over rigidity

When possible we give people the responsibility to make a decision and hold them accountable for that instead of imposing rules and approval processes.

Accept mistakes

Not every problem should lead to a new process to prevent them. Additional processes make all actions more inefficient, a mistake only affects one.

Move fast by shipping the minimum viable change

We value constant improvement by iterating quickly, month after month. If a task is too big to deliver in one month, cut the scope.

Diversity & Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are fundamental to the success of GitLab. We aim to make a significant impact in our efforts to foster an environment where everyone can thrive. We are designing a multidimensional approach to ensure that GitLab is a place where people from every background and circumstance feel like they belong and can contribute. We actively chose to build and institutionalize a culture that is inclusive and supports all employees equally in the process of achieving their professional goals. We hire globally and encourage hiring in a diverse set of countries. We work to make everyone feel welcome and to increase the participation of underrepresented minorities and nationalities in our community and company. For example our sponsorship of diversity events and a double referral bonus.

Culture fit is a bad excuse

We don't hire based on culture or select candidates because we'd like to have a drink with them. We hire and reward employees based on our shared values as detailed on this page. We want a values fit, not a culture fit. We want cultural diversity instead of cultural conformity, for example, a brogrammer atmosphere. Said differently: "culture add" > "culture fit" or "hire for culture contribution" since our mission is everyone can contribute.

Religion and politics at work

We generally don't discuss religion or politics in public forums because it is easy to alienate people that have a minority opinion. It's acceptable to bring up these topics in social contexts such as coffee chats and real-life meetups with other coworkers, but always be aware of cultural sensitivities, exercise your best judgement, and make sure you stay within the boundaries of our Code of Conduct.

Quirkiness

Unexpected and unconventional things make life more interesting. Celebrate and encourage quirky gifts, habits, behavior, and points of view. An example is our company call where we spend most of our time talking about what we did in our private lives, from fire-throwing to knitting. Open source is a great way to interact with interesting people. We try to hire people who think work is a great way to express themselves.

Building a safe community

Everyone has the right to feel safe when working for GitLab and/or as a part of the GitLab community. We do not tolerate abuse, harassment, exclusion, discrimination or retaliation by/of any community members, including our employees.

Unconscious bias

We recognize that unconscious bias is something that affects everyone and that the effect it has on us as humans and our company is large. We are responsible for understanding our own implicit biases and helping others understand theirs. We are continuously working on getting better at this topic.

Inclusive benefits

We list our Transgender Medical Services and Parental Leave publicly so people don't have to ask for them during interviews.

Inclusive language & pronouns

In our general guidelines we list: 'Use inclusive language. For example, prefer "Hi everybody" or "Hi people" to "Hi guys".' Please also visit our Gender and Sexual-orientation Identity Definitions and FAQ page if you have questions around pronouns and other gender/sexual-orientation related topics.

Inclusive interviewing

As part of our interviewing process we list: "The candidate should be interviewed by at least one female GitLab team-member. The GitLab team understands the importance of Inclusive interviewing. We strive to ensure our hiring team is well versed in every aspect of Diversity, Inclusion and Cultural competence. A positive and comfortable candidate experience is priority."

See Something, Say Something

As a globally dispersed company, we have employees from many different backgrounds and cultures. That means it is important for each of us to use great judgment in being respectful and inclusive of our teammates. At the same time, we may sometimes not fully realize we have said or done something to offend someone. It is important that our teammates hold each other accountable and let them know if they have unintentionally or intentionally done something so they can learn and gain additional understanding of perspectives different from our own. It is also important that our teammates don't feel excluded or minimized by the words we use or the things we do. Thus, we all need to speak up when we see something that isn't respectful or inclusive.

Neurodiversity

Neurodiversity is a type of diversity that includes Autism, ADHD, and other styles of neurodivergent functioning. While they often bring unique skills and abilities, which can be harnessed for competitive advantage in many fields including cybersecurity, neurodivergent individuals are often discriminated against, and sometimes have trouble making it through traditional hiring processes. These individuals should be able to contribute as GitLab team-members. The handbook, values, strategy, and interviewing process should never discriminate against the neurodivergent.

Family and friends first, work second

Long lasting relationships are the rocks of life and come before work. As someone said in our #thanks channel, after helping a family member for 5 days after a hurricane: "THANK YOU to GitLab for providing a culture where "family first" is truly meant".

Iteration

We do the smallest thing possible and get it out as quickly as possible. If you make suggestions that can be excluded from the first iteration turn them into a separate issue that you link. Don't write a large plan, only write the first step. Trust that you'll know better how to proceed after something is released. You're doing it right if you're slightly embarrassed by the minimal feature set shipped in the first iteration. This value is the one people most underestimate when they join GitLab. The impact both on your work process and on how much you achieve is greater than anticipated. In the beginning it hurts to make decisions fast and to see that things are changed with less consultation. But frequently the simplest version turns out to be the best one.

People that join GitLab all say they already practice this iteration. But this is the value that they have the hardest time adopting. People are trained that if you don't deliver a perfect or polished thing you get dinged for it. If you do just one piece of something you have to come back to it. Doing the whole thing seems more efficient, even though it isn't. If the complete picture is not clear your work might not be perceived as you want it to be perceived. It seems better to make a comprehensive product. They see other people in the GitLab organization being really effective with iteration but don't know how to make the transition, and it's hard to shake the fear that constant iteration can lead to shipping lower-quality work or a worse product.

The way to resolve this is to write down only what you can do with the time you have for this project right now. That might be 5 minutes or 2 hours. Think of what you can complete in that time that would improve the current situation. Iteration can be uncomfortable, even painful. If you're doing iteration correctly, it should be.

However, if we take smaller steps and ship smaller simpler features, we get feedback sooner. Instead of spending time working on the wrong feature or going in the wrong direction, we can ship the smallest product, receive fast feedback, and course correct. People might ask why something was not perfect. In that case, mention that it was an iteration, you spent only "x" amount of time on it, and that the next iteration will contain "y" and be ready on "z".

Don't wait

Don’t wait. When you have something of value like a potential blog post or a small fix implement it straight away. Right now everything is fresh in your head and you have the motivation, inspiration is perishable. Don’t wait until you have a better version. Don’t wait until you record a better video. Don’t wait for an event (like Contribute). Inventory that isn’t released is a liability since it has to be managed, gets outdated, and you miss out on the feedback you get when you would have implemented it straight away.

Reduce cycle time

Short iterations reduce our cycle time.

Work as part of the community

Small iterations make it easier to work with the wider community. Their work looks more like our work, and our work is also quicker to receive feedback.

Minimum Viable Change (MVC)

We encourage MVCs to be as small as possible. Always look to make the quickest change possible to improve the user's outcome. If you validate that the change adds more value than what is there now, then do it. No need to wait for something more robust. More information is in the product handbook, but this applies to everything we do in all functions. Specifically for product MVCs, there is additional responsibility to validate with customers that we're adding useful functionality without obvious bugs or usability issues.

Make a proposal

If you need to decide something as a team, make a concrete proposal instead of calling a meeting to get everyone's input. Having a proposal will be a much more effective use of everyone's time. Every meeting should be a review of a proposal. We should be brainwriting on our own instead of brainstorming out loud. State the underlying problem so that people have enough context to propose reasonable alternatives. The people that receive the proposal should not feel left out and the person making it should not feel bad if a completely different proposal is implemented. Don't let your desire to be involved early or to see your solution implemented stand in the way of getting to the best outcome. If you don't have a proposal don't let that stop you from highlighting a problem, please state that you couldn't think of a good solution and list any solutions you considered.

Everything is in draft

At GitLab we rarely put draft on any content or proposals. Everything is always in draft and subject to change.

Under construction

As we get more users they will ask for stability, especially in our UX. We should always optimize for the long term. This means that users will be inconvenienced in the short term, but current and future users will enjoy a better product in the end.

Low level of shame

When we talked to Nat Friedman he said: "A low level of shame is intrinsic to your culture.". This captures the pain we feel by shipping something that isn't where we want it to be yet.

Focus on Improvement

We believe great companies sound negative because they focus on what they can improve, not on what is working. Our first question in every conversation with someone outside the company should be: what do you think we can improve? This doesn't mean we don't recognize our successes, for example see our Say Thanks value. We are positive about the future of the company; we are present day pessimists and long term optimists.

Do things that don't scale

First optimize for speed and results; when it is a success figure out how to scale it. Great examples are in this article by Paul Graham.

Make two-way door decisions

Most decisions are easy to reverse, have the directly responsible individual make them without approval. As Jeff Bezos describes only when you can't reverse them should there be a more thorough discussion.

Changing proposals isn't iteration

Changing a proposal isn't iterating. Only when the change is rolled out to users can you learn from feedback. When you're changing a proposal based on different opinions you're frequently wasting time; it would be better to roll out a small change quickly and get real world feedback.

A few challenges have arisen with how we approach iteration. The best example may be the proposal of a 2-month release cycle. The argument was that a longer release cycle would buy us time for bug fixes and feature development, but we don’t believe that is the case. As detailed above, we aim to make the absolute smallest thing possible and that doing otherwise will only slow us down.

That said, we would love to work on a 2-week release cycle, but that should be another conversation.

Make small merge requests

When you are submitting a merge request for a code change, or a process change in the handbook, keep it as small as possible. If you are adding a new page to the handbook, create the new page with a small amount of initial content, get it merged quickly, and then add additional sections iteratively with subsequent merge requests. If you are asked to review a merge request that is too big, consider kindly asking the author to change it to a smaller size before reviewing.

When we iterate slowly

In some cases, rapid iteration can get in the way of results. For example when adjusting our marketing messaging (where consistency is key), product categories (where we've set development plans), sales methodologies (where we've trained our teams) and this values page (where we use the values to guide all GitLab team-members). In those instances we add additional review to the approval process, not to prohibit, but to be more deliberate in our iteration. The change process is documented on the page and takes place via merge request approvals.

Transparency

Be open about as many things as possible. By making information public we can reduce the threshold to contribution and make collaboration easier.

An example is the public repository of this website that also contains this company handbook. Everything we do is public by default, for example, the GitLab CE and GitLab EE issue trackers, but also marketing and infrastructure. Transparency creates awareness for GitLab, allows us to recruit people that care about our values, it gets us more and faster feedback from people outside the company, and makes it easier to collaborate with them. It is also about sharing great software, documentation, examples, lessons, and processes with the world in the spirit of open source, which we believe creates more value than it captures.

There are exceptions. Material that is not public by default is documented in the general guidelines. We are above average at keeping things confidential that need to be. On a personal level, you should tell it like it is instead of putting up a poker face. Don't be afraid to admit you made a mistake or were wrong. When something went wrong it is a great opportunity to say "What’s the kaizen moment here?" and find a better way without hurt feelings.

Even as we move towards becoming a public company and beyond, we know that our value of transparency will be key to our success. Often company values get diluted as they grow, most likely because they do not write anything down. But we will make sure our values scale with the company. When we go public, we can declare everyone in the company as an insider, which will allow us to remain transparent internally about our numbers, etc. Everything else that can be transparent will continue to be so.

Public by default

Everything at GitLab is public by default. If something is not public there should be a reference in the handbook that states a confidential decision was taken with a link to our Not Public guidelines unless legal feels it carries undue risk. The public process does two things: allows others to benefit from the conversation and acts as a filter; since there is only a limited amount of time, we prioritize conversations that a wider audience can benefit from.

Not Public

We make public by default because transparency is one of our values. However it is most important to focus on results. So Most things are public unless there is a reason not to. Not public by default are the following items:

  1. Security vulnerabilities are not public since it would allow attackers to compromise GitLab installations. We do make them public after we remediated a vulnerability. Issues that discuss how to improve upon the security posture of an implementation that is working as intended can be made public, and are often labeled as feature proposals. Security implementations that detect malicious activities cannot be made public because doing so would undermine our operations.
  2. Financial information, including revenue and costs for the company, is confidential because we plan to be a public company and, as such, need to limit both the timing and content of financial information as investors will use and rely on it as they trade in GitLab stock. As a rule of thumb, if it is a first step to constructing a profit, we need to keep it confidential. Examples include:
    • the specific IACV of an opportunity
    • total monthly cash inflow/outflow for GitLab.com
    • Spend of more than 10%
    • a department's cost
    • the Sales pipeline (but the Marketing pipeline can be public)
  3. Deals with external parties like contracts and approving and paying invoices.
  4. Content that would violate confidentiality for a GitLab team-member, customer, or user.
  5. Legal discussions are not public due to the purpose of Attorney-Client Privilege.
  6. Individual job applications, compensation, and feedback are not public since it can contain negative feedback and negative feedback is 1-1 between you and your manager. Job families and our Compensation Calculator are public.
  7. Partnerships with other companies are not public since the partners are frequently not comfortable with that.
  8. Acquisition offers for us are not public since informing people of an acquisition that might not happen can be very disruptive.
  9. Acquisition offers we give are not public since the organization being acquired frequently prefers to have them stay private.
  10. Customer information in issues: if an issue needs to contain any specific information about a customer, including but not limited to company name, employee names, number of users, the issue should be made confidential. Try to avoid putting customer information in an issue by describing them instead of naming them and linking to their salesforce account.
  11. Competitive sales and marketing campaign planning is confidential since we want the minimize the time the competition has to respond to it.
  12. Customer information is not public since customers are not comfortable with that and it would make it easier for competitors to approach our customers.
  13. Sales battlecards are not public since we want to minimize the time the competition has to respond to it. Our feature comparisons are public.
  14. When we discuss a customer by name that is not public unless we're sure the customer is OK with that. When we discuss a competitor (for example in a sales call) this can be public as our competitive advantages are public.
  15. Plans for reorganizations are not public and on a need-to-know basis within the organization. Reorganizations cause disruption and the plans tend to change a lot before being finalized, so being public about them prolongs the disruption. We will keep relevant team-members informed whenever possible.
Directness

Being direct is about being transparent with each other. We try to channel our inner Ben Horowitz by being both straightforward and kind, an uncommon cocktail of no-bullshit and no-asshole. Feedback is always about your work and not your person. That doesn't mean it will be easy to give nor receive it.

Surface issues constructively

Be transparent to the right people (up) at the right time (when still actionable)

Anyone and anything can be questioned

Any past decisions and guidelines are open to questioning as long as you act in accordance with them until they are changed.

Disagree, commit, and disagree

Everything can be questioned but as long as a decision is in place we expect people to commit to executing it, which is a common principle. Every decision can be changed, our best decision was one that changed an earlier one. When you want to reopen the conversation on something, show that your argument is informed by previous conversations. You have to achieve results on every decision while it stands, even when you are trying to have it changed. You should communicate with the person who can change the decision instead of someone who can't.

Transparency is only a value if you do it when it is hard

For example, many companies in California do not give you the real reason why they declined your application because it increases the chance of legal action. We want to only reject people for the right reasons and we want to give them the opportunity to grow by getting this feedback. Therefore, we'll accept the increased risk of holding ourselves to a high standard of making decisions and do the right thing by telling them what we thought. Other examples are being transparent about security incidents, and participating in and contributing to Live Broadcasts.

Single Source of Truth

By having most company communications and work artifacts be internet-public, we have one single source of truth for all GitLab team-members, users, customers, and other community members. We don‘t need separate artifacts with different permissions for different people.

Find the Limit

We accept that we occasionally make mistakes in the direction of transparency. In other words, we accept it if we're sometimes publicizing information that should have remained confidential in retrospect. Most companies become non-transparent over time because they don't accept any mistakes. Making mistakes and reflecting on them means we know where the limit of transparency is.

Say why, not just what

Transparent changes have the reasons for the change laid out clearly along with the change itself. This leads to fewer questions later on because people already have some understanding. A change with no public explanation can lead to a lot of extra rounds of questioning which is less efficient. Avoid using terms such as "industry standard" or "best practices" as they are vague, opaque, and don't provide enough context as a reason for a change.

Reproducibility

Enable everybody involved to come to the same conclusion as you. This not only involves reasoning, but also, for example providing raw data and not just plots; scripts to automate tasks and not just the work they have done; and documenting steps while analyzing a problem. Do your best to make the line of thinking transparent to others even if they may disagree.

Accountability

Increases accountability when making decisions and difficult choices.

Five dysfunctions

Our values help us to prevent the five dysfunctions.

  1. Absence of trust Unwilling to be vulnerable within the group => prevented by collaboration, specifically kindness
  2. Fear of conflict Seeking artificial harmony over constructive passionate debate => prevented by transparency, specifically directness and collaboration, specifically short toes
  3. Lack of commitment Feigning buy-in for group decisions creates ambiguity throughout the organization => prevented by transparency, specifically directness
  4. Avoidance of accountability Ducking the responsibility to call peers on counterproductive behavior which sets low standards => prevented by results, iteration, and transparency
  5. Inattention to results Focusing on personal success, status, and ego before team success => prevented by results

Some dysfunctions are not addressed directly by our values, for example trust is not one of our values. Similar to happiness, trust is something that is an outcome, not something you can strive for directly. We hope that the way we work and our values will instill trust, instead of mandating it from people; trust is earned, not given.

Why have values

Our values should give guidelines on how to behave and must be actionable. They help us describe the type of behavior that we expect from people we hire. They help us to know how to behave in the organization and what to expect from others. Values are a framework for distributed decision making; they allow you to determine what to do without asking your manager.

Hierarchy

Occasionally, values can contradict each other. For instance, transparency would dictate we publish all security vulnerabilities the moment they are found, but this would jeopardize our users. It's useful to keep in mind this hierarchy to resolve confusion about what to do in a specific circumstance, while remaining consistent with our core values.

  Results   It is most important to focus on results.
  Iteration Transparency   We trust these values will lead to results.
Collaboration Diversity & Inclusion Efficiency Distinguish us from other companies.

Updating our values

Our values are updated frequently and as needed. Everyone is welcome to make a suggestion to improve them. To update: make a merge request and assign it to the CEO. If you're a team member or in the core team please post a link to the MR in the #values channel. If you're not part of those groups please send a direct Twitter message to @sytses.

How do we reinforce our values

Whatever behavior you reward will become your values. We reinforce our values by what:

  1. Leadership does.
  2. We select for during hiring.
  3. We emphasize during on-boarding.
  4. Behavior we give each-other 360 feedback on.
  5. Behavior we compliment.
  6. Criteria we use for discretionary bonuses.
  7. Criteria we use for our annual compensation review
  8. Criteria we use for promotions.
  9. Criteria we use to manage underperformance.
  10. We do when we let people go.
  11. We give value awards for during Contribute.

In negative feedback we should be specific about what the problem is. For example, saying someone is "not living the values" isn't helpful.

Permission to play

From our values we excluded some behaviors that are obvious, we call them our permission to play behavior:

What is not a value

Question from new team members

During every GitLab 101 session with new hires we discuss our values. We document the questions and answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the GitLab Culture.

Mission

Our mission is that everyone can contribute. This mission guides our path, and we live our values along that path.