The Spotify Model is an autonomous approach to scaling agile, focusing on culture communication, accountability, and quality. The Spotify model was first recognized in 2012 after Henrik Kniberg, and Anders Ivarsson released a white paper detailing how streaming company Spotify approached agility. Therefore, the Spotify model represents an evolution of agile.
While it has become popular in agile development circles, Kniberg stresses that the model is less of a framework and more a unique company philosophy. In other words, the Spotify model simply represents Spotify’s view on scaling agile in a technical and cultural context.
Nevertheless, the model has received praise because it has enabled Spotify to successfully expand and scale agile. It also serves as a more attractive form of embodying cultural change, creating motivated and empowered employees through increased autonomy.
Spotify now has over 30 agile teams spread over four cities in three different time zones. To explain how the company achieved this, consider the following seven constituent parts:
- Squads. Similar to Scrum teams, a squad is an autonomous and self-organized group of 6 to 12 people. Each squad has a mission and is free to choose which agile methodology it will use – whether that be Kanban, XP, or a combination of both. Each squad has an Agile Coach who improves processes and a Product Owner who clarifies the vision for the feature area. Face to face communication is encouraged and squads have direct contact with stakeholders.
- Tribes. A tribe is a group of multiple squads working on a related feature. Approximately 100 individuals are ideal, but some tribes may contain as many as 150 individuals. Each tribe has a leader who is responsible for creating the conditions necessary for innovation and productivity.
- Chapters. These are groups formed by individuals of various squads that exist within tribes. Like tribes, each chapter is led by a manager who supports individual members to achieve personal growth and overcome challenges.
- Guilds. A guild is an informal group of people from different tribes who share similar knowledge, tools, or practices. Guilds are similar to chapters because they maintain transparency in problem-solving and help keep work in alignment. Guilds are less formal in that anyone interested in joining can do so. But their ability to reach across an organization and exert influence is greater than the ability of chapters.
- Trio. A trio simply refers to a tribe that has a design, product area, and tribe leader.
- Alliance. An alliance is formed by three trios. Again, each alliance has a design, product, area, and tribe leader.
- Chief architect. The individual who defines the architectural vision, guides design and deals with issues that arise from architecture dependency. The chief architect reviews the development of new systems to ensure they avoid common mistakes. Note that the chief architect gives feedback in the form of inputs, but the final decision ultimately lies with the squad building the system.
Two of the more obvious benefits of this model include:
- Less focus on the process. The Spotify model seeks to empower employees to do the best work they can in whatever way they see fit. With less of an emphasis on rigid ways of working, the organization becomes more flexible, adaptable, and productive.
- More autonomy. When project teams are given more autonomy, trust and accountability also increase. These values help create an environment where employees are free to share their failures as much as their successes. When a team does fail to deliver, they have a safe space to learn from their mistakes and make the necessary improvements. Spotify as a company progressed through many iterations of the Spotify model in much the same way, improving incrementally and becoming highly successful as a consequence.
- The Spotify model helps businesses scale agile with autonomy and purpose with a primary focus on culture and people.
- The Spotify model is not a framework that can be emulated but more of a company philosophy of best practices. These best practices are underpinned by seven constituent parts: squads, tribes, chapters, guilds, trios, alliances, and chief architects.
- The Spotify model empowers employees to deliver great results by providing an environment that is conducive to continuous improvement, flexibility, and autonomy.
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