Scaling Decision-Making Across Teams within LinkedIn Engineering

Developing a common understanding of the problem, that is, the benefits and impact of proposed projects for system performance, stability, and efficiency, and their contributions to business metrics, will help teams to communicate and collaborate effectively.

Arrive at a mutually agreed-upon priority
The business environment in the digital economy is dynamic, meaning business requirements and priorities of engineering projects are constantly shifting. In any organization, especially a large organization like LinkedIn, management and teams have to navigate competing priorities and commitments to serve the needs of their customers and stay ahead of the competition. In this environment, it is common for teams to have different or contradicting perceptions of priorities. Performance optimization projects can often compete with, and consume time and resources from, other engineering activities (e.g. feature development and upgrades). In such situations, it is the responsibility of the team proposing the optimization (i.e, the Performance team) to provide context regarding the benefits of the proposed project and its cost and risks with supporting data. This helps engineering teams to agree on the priorities of the project, based on the evaluation of the costs and benefits.

Clean escalation
In situation where it is difficult to arrive at a mutually agreed-upon priority due to a) lack of data, b) roadmap/timeline commitments, or c) failure to arrive at a common understanding, clean escalation should be employed. Clean escalation could involve senior engineers, management, or senior executives in the discussion to help integrate the information, bring a more systemic perspective, and make a judgment call if necessary. You can learn more about clean escalation here.

Get agreement on time-to-market
Once teams agree on the impact, cost, and priority of a project, it is important to communicate clear expectations regarding the timeline or time-to-market requirements and relevant justifications. The collaborating teams identify dependencies and get commitments on timelines/ETAs based on the product roadmap, business requirements, and resource constraints.

The RAPID framework
According to the Harvard Business Review, effective decision making in projects that span across functional teams remains a constant challenge for organizations of all sizes. For instance, a team that thinks it’s more efficient to make a decision without consulting other functions may wind up missing out on relevant input or being overruled by another team that believes—rightly or wrongly—it should have been included in the process. Many of the most important cross-functional decisions are, by their very nature, the most difficult to orchestrate, and that can string out the process and lead to misunderstandings between teams and costly indecisions.

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