Introduction To Spotify Model

introduction to spotify model

Summary 

If you are looking at scaling agile in your organisation and are considering the Spotify model as one of your options , you have landed at the right place. In this blog, we will attempt to explain the basics of the model listed below and why your organization should explore it as a serious scaling approach.

What is the Spotify Model? 

What are the factors organisations need to consider to implement the Spotify model?

What are the benefits?

Does it suit your organisation?


History

Spotify, which is one of the biggest music streaming products, came up with a model of delivery which was customised over years according to their needs, org culture and the way they wanted to manage their teams and delivery. 

Henrick Kniberg and Anders Ivarsson with the intention of showcasing how development teams are organised at Spotify, published a whitepaper on the same. And because of the model’s inherent simplicity, less need for control and significantly better collaboration, a wide range of  companies  using Agile were attracted towards implementing Spotify and hence the model became popular.


What is the Spotify Model?

Definition : Spotify Model is a people driven, autonomous approach for scaling agile that emphasizes the importance of culture and network. It is not a framework rather an example of how to manage and organise multiple agile teams and Spotify’s view on scaling from both technical and cultural standpoint.


Structure And Key Elements

A typical org / team structure in a spotify model is as depicted in the image below.

Spotify model emphasises around team autonomy and simplicity and during their tenure of organizing the development, they identified certain ways to organise their teams as well.

Squad


Definition : The smallest unit of development, similar to a normal Scrum team 

Traits : 

  • 6-9 Members team 
  • Self Organising and Cross functional 
  • Fully capable of delivering a piece of work 

Focus : One feature Area

Framework : Team’s Choice ( Scrum / kanban / scrumban etc )

Supported By : Agile Coach and Product Owner

Highlights:

  • A squad does not have a leader designated 
  • Squad has full access to the management and all the support functions 
  • They set up their own workspace based on the team’s comfort
  • Product Owner guides the squads on the priorities 
  • 10% of their work capacity goes for hack days

Tribe


Definition : A collection  of Squads working on one product area

Traits : 

  • 100 and less membered team 
  • Internally manage dependencies 
  • Working on one part of the product ( Eg : Search Engine , etc )

Focus : One product Area / Module 

Framework : Squad’s Choice ( Scrum / kanban / scrumban etc )

Supported By : Tribe Leader

Highlights:

  • Help build common alignment within squads
  • Tribe Leader ensures all squads are well equipped with the support they need
  • Common ceremonies like Tribe demos , hack days , knowledge sharing

Chapter

Definition : Group of development team members with same skill set or expertise from the same Tribe

Traits : 

  • Constant collaboration on expertise , challenges 
  • COE / Community structure which is self sustaining and  promoting learnability
  • Setting norms and guidelines within skillset

Focus : Same technology / skillset

Supported By : Chapter Leader

Highlights:

  • Managed by a chapter lead 
  • Frequent meetings to promote cross pollination of skillset
  • Resolving challenges , Promoting learnability as unit

Guild

Definition : A group of people who share a common passion / interest ( Eg : Performance , Testing etc )

Traits : 

  • Community of interest
  • Share coding practices, knowledge and new learnings , tools etc
  • Guilds cut across an organisations / multiple tribes / squads

Focus : Same Interest / Passion 

Supported By : Guild Leader ( optional )

Benefits / Advantages Of Spotify Model

  • Less Control promotes autonomy and productivity – Squads are responsible for their own decision and the way they choose their working model. This promotes self management and builds good team rapport and trust. Also Squads are created keeping dependencies in mind and since they are mostly independent, they tend to have faster release cycles 
  • Encourages teamwork and collaboration over silo working – Spotify Model is a matrix type model i.e it is structured around people and collaboration. This model allows everyone to communicate with anyone in the system, helping solve dependencies or problems. At various levels, i.e be it squads, tribes or chapters, this model encourages a sense of belonging and collaborating effectively to make better decisions among people.
  • Shared Goals helps create a Fail Safe environment helping teams experiment more – No managers and informal communications as well as team structure ( ownership and accountability ) enables a highly effective Fail Safe environment. Also teams and individuals spare 10% of their productive time in hack days / projects. These aspects of spotify ensures there is enough room for continuous experiments.
  • No Formal Ceremony or Process – Spotify lets the teams decide their own framework for their delivery it does not have a set template of ceremonies to be followed, rather it counts on the teams to align with other teams to become more productive

Faster Dependency solving – The model designed keeping in mind the teams at the center, promotes faster problem solving and collaboration by avoiding formal approvals, calls which usually is the case with other scaling methods


Realisation of Spotify Model

Quite often in any agile transformation or any framework implementation, teams tend to become a slave of the process than enjoying / realising the essense of what is being implemented. Below are a few points / aspects / changes which an organisation should realise when spotify is being implemented. 

Real value of Spotify’s model was its engineering and product development culture which Spotify created for it’s fast growing , motivated decoupled agile teams. Below are a few cultural aspects which a team or a company must realise / consider  before implementing Spotify

    • Productivity = Environment and Motivation – Productivity of the teams is very much dependent on the Motivation and Environment they work in. ( Spotify’s productivity formula = Effort * Competence * Environment * Motivation ). To create highly productive teams, appropriate environment has to be maintained 
    • Healthy Balance of Autonomy and Alignment – Spotify pushes for a healthy balance between Central Alignment ( product vision / goals etc ) and team autonomy ( Self sufficient teams ). For instance, managers will tell the teams what to do but not interfere in how to do and when to do
    • System Changes – Spotify changed their architecture to support decoupled , faster and easier releases to support more and frequent production releases. Appropriate system changes might have to be in place to support the model
    • Trusting People Over Commanding – Spotify’s immense trust in their employees helped them build a model which led to complete autonomy of the teams and thus the model itself. A culture of trust and belief is a strong need to support spotify
    • Managers to Servant Leadership – Management to align towards how they can be of help rather than asking what they want to what the teams are doing. 
    • Continuous Improvement Culture – Teams constantly working on how to make their lives better and easier. Shift of thought process where teams are deciding what best works for them without a manager telling. Setting up dedicated people / resource to help teams get to their absolute best 
    • Experiment and Fail Safe Environment: Spotify strongly believed in encouraging their teams to generate ideas and run experiments to measure their results. Which helped them imbibe a culture of maximising value from their experiments by tweaking their approach.

    With this, our blog on “Introduction to Spotify Model”  comes to an end. Please reach out to us at “[email protected]” for any feedback , suggestions or questions.


    Sujith S. 

    Agile Consultant – Benzne

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