Lots of companies who utilize the agile approach find it difficult to scale thanks to the complexities involved with numerous different cultures, time zones, locations, and teams. Over the last 10 years, there have been several scaling frameworks introduced like DAD, LESS and SAFe, to name a few, to help with scaling Agile. One of the most popular is often referred to as the Spotify Model.
Whether you have heard of it or not, you have likely heard of Spotify; you may even use it to listen to your favorite music. In the following post, we are going to shed some light on the scaling framework behind the name.
The Spotify Model – What Is It?
The scaling framework known as the Spotify Model is an autonomous, people-driven approach to scaling agile with an emphasis on network and cultural importance. The name comes from the fact that it is the approach that has helped the company Spotify (as well as various other companies and organizations) to increased productivity and innovation by concentrating on quality, accountability, communication, and autonomy.
It is important to note that, as noted by Henrik Kniberg, the Scrum and Agile coach/author who helped Spotify, the Spotify Model should not be considered a framework. Why? It represents Spotify’s own view of scaling from a cultural and technical perspective. As such, it is just one example of the successful organization of multiple numbers of teams in an organization involved in product development and places a lot of focus on networks and culture.
It was first introduced when Anders Ivarsson and Kniberg published the Scaling Agile @ Spotify whitepaper, which unveiled the dramatically simple way the company approached agility. Since that whitepaper was published, this Spotify Model has generated a lot of interest and has become hugely popular within the agile transformation space. A large part of what makes it so successful and appealing is the focus it places on organizing around the work an organization must complete rather than sticking to a particular set of practices.
In more traditional scaling agile frameworks, it’s the specific practices that determine the execution of the framework. With the ING Spotify Model, however, the focus is on how a medium-size business can structure its organization to enable scalability and encourage agility.
Team autonomy is championed by the Spotify Model, and therefore all teams (or Squads as they are referred to in this approach to agile) select their specific framework. The squads are then organized into tribes and guilds to ensure people are fully aligned, and cross-pollination of knowledge is possible.
We understand that we just mentioned a whole host of new terms that you may not readily be familiar with, so let’s take each of these in turn and discuss them.
Squads are like scrum teams and are autonomous, cross-functional teams made up of anything from 6 to 12 individuals that are focused on one feature area. All individual squads have their own unique missions that direct what they do and feature an agile coach for continued support and a product owner for continued guidance. Each squad determines the framework or methodology of agile they are going to use.
Tribes is essentially a collection of Squads who are coordinating within one another on the exact same feature areas. Tribes exist to make sure there is alignment across all the Squads and normally consist of anything from 40 to 150 people to ensure alignment. All Tribes have Tribe Leads who are tasked with helping to coordinate across all the Squads and encourage collaboration.
Guilds can be formed by team members who share the same passion for a topic. Guilds are generally seen as a community of interest. Anyone is free to join a specific Guild, and these are entirely voluntary. While Chapters belong to a specific Tribe, Guilds can feature members from numerous Tribes. Although there is no formal lead in a Guild, someone will normally put themselves forward to be the Coordinator of that Guild and help bring like-minded people together.
Trios, also known as TPD Trios, is a combination of a Design Lead, Product Lead, and Tribe Lead. All Tribes have a Trio that ensures there is constant alignment between these important perspectives when working on specific feature areas.
When organizations start to scale, there may come the point when many different Tribes need to work more closely together to achieve a particular goal or meet a deadline. Alliances are essentially a combination of at least three or more Tribe Trios that can work side-by-side to provide the help with their Tribes need to collaborate on a specific goal that is bigger than anything any single Tribe is working on.
There you have it – the basics that you need to understand about the Spotify Model. There are not a lot of different practices that need to be followed or even ceremonies that need to occur. While Squads may have ceremonies, like retrospectives and sprint planning, the focus of this model is how teams are organized around work. It is up to specific Squads to determine the best approach to getting their work done and achieving the end goal.
The one thing we would say is that you should avoid trying to copy the Spotify Model step-by-step because it has been devised to work specifically for Spotify. Rather, it is better to understand the mindset, practices, and structures that Spotify has utilized and then tweak the different aspects of the model to work for your own environment and organization. Remember, you don’t want to be Spotify; you want to understand how you can improve your business, so it works better together.