For never losing sight of the people behind the projects
Jeffrey Lin is a firm believer in project management—and the magic that happens when it’s combined with true human connection.
Case in point: While working at blockchain startup Symbiont, he led a team developing a mortgage servicing system on the company’s proprietary enterprise platform. To deliver, Lin cultivated cross-functional collaboration—like encouraging mortgage experts to join development mob sessions. And he promoted open communication by leaning into psychological safety.
“We set clear boundaries and working agreements with one another and established a brave space where we were aligned and could depend on each other,” he says. “This ethos is about a culture of learning and understanding and, through trial and error, creating continuous improvement.”
The result was a team ready to tackle any challenge: “It didn’t matter what product or service we were building.”
Once that kind of trust and alignment had been established, Lin found it far easier to introduce Disciplined Agile®, with an eye toward driving consistent outcomes across multiple fronts. “The toolkit is very powerful in that it doesn’t start a conversation with ‘What should we do?’ It starts with ‘What do we want to achieve? And what are the options?’ I love that openness about options before solidifying a solution,” he says.
The combination of a human-centric approach and high-powered tools drove a company-wide transformation. “We saw team members were much more open to failing forward, failing fast, and also looking back and saying, ‘Okay, we didn’t do this well, but now we can try these other methods,’” Lin says. “It created an openness.”
In late 2022, Lin took his passion for people-centric transformation to Canoe, which develops AI for the alternative investments industry. Though his new role is still centered on product management, this time Lin is helping build a team from scratch, drawing on the agile practices gleaned in his own work and study, as well as his mentorship with former colleague Joshua Barnes, who showed him the value of minimum business increments.
The basic idea? “As we’re thinking about building new products, what's the minimum value that I can provide to our clients? And what is the process of getting that throughout the entire organization to deliver that value as soon as we can?”
Throughout Lin’s quest for innovative solutions, he remains laser-focused on creating inclusive, cross-functional groups that can define their own way of working. It’s an ethos that resonates with younger leaders who “aren’t bound to traditional methods of managing projects,” he says.
Lin acknowledges that remote work has created some challenges for teams, but he remains optimistic about finding solutions that enable continued workplace flexibility without sacrificing deep relationships. Along with new technology and increased cross-team collaboration, business leaders and society “are becoming more aware of mental health, and this will drive new heights of communication and understanding,” he says. “Over time, this will create new ways to manage projects and how teams interface with one another.”
And though Lin has no big career changes planned for now, he’s confident his human-centric approach will serve him well wherever his path takes him. “I could be working at a restaurant or a Fortune 500 company,” he says. “It doesn’t matter—as long as I’m extending my knowledge base around organizational behavior and making sure that we’re delivering the best, while not sacrificing the people.”