Scaled Agile Software Development, Spotify's Way

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Scaled Agile Software Development, Spotify's Way

Queue up your playlist and read about how Spotify takes a unique spin on Scaled Agile.

· Agile Zone ·
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For people who haven't heard about Spotify, Spotify is a popular music streaming company based out of Stockholm, Sweden. Spotify was founded in the year 2006 and its closest competitor is Apple Music. Spotify had 180 million active users as on June 2018 and it provides 40+ million songs to its users and their services are available across 65 countries/markets.

Moving ahead, the reason for sharing their Agile journey/story is for the fact that it indeed reflects value creation using Agile principles in a positive sense and has worked well so for a continuously scaling organization. Spotify can be seen as a successful Scaled Agile Framework which is and can be applied organization-wide and its value is not just limited to small groups or business unit. Spotify is basically a people-driven, autonomous framework for scaled Agile. For those who are new to Scaled Agile, its good to list down some of the popular Scaled Agile frameworks:

  • SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework)

  • DaD(Disciplined Agile Delivery )

  • and LeSS (Large Scale Scrum ) are widely accepted and deployed Scaled Agile frameworks.

Let’s take this a step further and understand the details of how stuff works at Spotify. Squads, Tribes, Chapters, and Guilds are the key drivers to run the Scaled Agile Machinery at Spotify.

The Squad is the core foundation of the Agile framework at Spotify and is very similar to a Scrum team. The Squad, like Scrum or Agile teams is self-organizing. It defines and decides the preferred execution model from Scrum to Kanban to any hybrid model. The Squad is single-product, single-project focused. A Squad can be related to a mini start-up and it essentially means it can operate reasonably autonomously. As a team, it has all the knowledge and tools to design, build, test and put into production a product.

Since its self-organizing, it, therefore, does not have a formally appointed Squad Leader or a Scrum Master, but to prioritize the work to be done, each Squad has a Product Owner. In line with Scrum, the Product Owner maintains the Team Backlog. An Agile coach works with the team to accelerate Agile transformation. This essentially means enough emphasis is given to the Agile coach role and value it brings.

A Tribe is group of Squads that are working in a common area. The Tribe is co-located with the Squad and is typically limited to ~100 people.

The Chapters are part of a Squad and are a group of team members working together. The Chapter Leader can be related to the engineering manager and is responsible for personnel aspects such as hiring, compensation, career development, and guidance. In addition to these tasks, the Chapter Leader also acts as a specialist in a Squad.

A Guild is a group of people with shared interests. Guilds are typically not tied to the boundaries of a Tribe, but rather walk right through the organization. Every Guild has its Coordinator who facilitates Guild meetings and motivates the participants. The Guild Coordinator has, in contrast to the Chapter Leader, no hierarchical powers.

On the face of it, the concept of Squads, Chapters, and Tribes looks like a typical matrix organization, but the principle differentiators are the driving values and the inherent autonomy in the Spotify model.

This all is fine but what but what makes things work? It’s important to look into some of the core values practiced at Spotify:

  • Agile mindset over Scrum or a specific methodology
  • Agile Coach over Scrum Master
  • Cross-pollination across the organization over standardization prescribed to teams
  • Fast Failure and Recovery over Failure Avoidance
  • Impact over Velocity
  • Trust over Control
  • Innovation over Predictability (100% Predictability means 0% Innovation)
  • Value Xreation over Plan Fulfillment

What we can learn from Spotify is to just to be fair and pragmatic, as there are no magical ways which can be applied as a standard prescription for one and all. The model and organization under discussion will for sure have its own set of challenges and they might still be continually evolving and things might shape up differently when they scale further and dynamics change dramatically. Every organization has its own culture build slowly and firmly out of exhaustive factors like organization evolution, size, locations, product or business complexity to name a few. Choose or tailor what works best for your team/organization.

agile, scaled agile, scaled agile framework, scrum, spotify

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