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The “Spotify Model” in Favro

Agile transformations in most organizations begin with the teams that create value. It could be teams developing software, teams creating marketing campaigns, or any team building a product or service. Of course, this is also true for agile startups. As they grow beyond what’s essentially a cross-functional team of ten, they want to replicate what’s worked for a single team and expand to teams of teams without losing the core culture. If the overall goal is to build an organization around autonomous and aligned teams, based on a culture of trust, then the Spotify Model is ideal.

The Reluctant “Framework”

It started in October of 2012 when Henrik Kniberg and Anders Ivarsson published Scaling Agile @ Spotify with Tribes, Squads, Chapters & Guilds. Since then, it’s attracted a lot of attention with many organizations attempting to duplicate Spotify’s success by adopting it as a framework. Here’s what Henrik Kniberg has to say about it:

“… many companies have been “copying” the Spotify model, which I found rather scary at first. But now I’ve met quite a number of those companies (and heard back from even more), and so far I have yet to see a case where a company ended up in a worse position than where they were. In fact, some have seen some huge improvements! Pretty surprising actually. So apparently, yes, companies can copy models from each other, and it can sometimes be helpful — mainly because it’s almost always valuable to look at your own organization and process with a critical eye, and take inspiration from others. As long as you adapt to your local context (which most do, eventually).”

Keep in mind that exactly what works for Spotify might not work for your business. A better plan is to gain inspiration from the model and experiment with its minimum viable structure and minimum viable bureaucracy. Kevin Goldsmith, former engineering leader at Spotify, says:

“ If you are looking to improve the speed of your development and are inspired by Spotify’s organizational model, there are a few things that you need to understand. Our model works because it is layered on top of our corporate culture. Our culture values autonomy, agile processes, democratic teams, and servant leadership, amongst other things. You can certainly take some of the ideas from the way we work and apply them in your organization, but without the cultural underpinnings you may not get the same returns.”

The organizational model itself is what’s most often replicated. Squads, Tribes, Chapters, and Guilds which look like this:

Illustration of teams working in tribes, chapters and guilds
The spotify model in a diagram

Source: Spotify Engineering Culture

However, as Kevin Goldsmith points out, it’s the underlying culture at Spotify that makes it work. This culture is best documented by the principles defined in Spotify’s agile manifesto entitled Agile à la Spotify:

Continuous Improvement — At Spotify, part of my work is to look for ways to continuously improve, both personally, and in the wider organisation.
Iterative development — Spotify believes in short learning cycles, so that we can validate our assumptions as quickly as possible.
Simplicity — Scaling what we do is key to Spotify’s success. Simplicity should be your guidance during scaling. This is as true for our technical solutions, as for our methods of working and organising the organisation.
Trust — At Spotify we trust our people and teams to make informed decisions about the way they work and what they work on.
Servant Leadership — At Spotify managers are focused on coaching, mentorship, and solving impediments rather than telling people what to do.

The Spotify Model & Favro

Favro is based on visual cards, boards, and backlogs, which facilitate team collaboration and trust. The app’s collections combine these elements perfectly into Spotify’s flexible structure. Cards can exist in multiple places. Collections can contain multiple boards and backlogs. Boards and backlogs can exist in multiple collections

Favro boards with backlog and kanban
Squad Collection
Timeline view of a Favro release board
Tribe Dashboard Collection
A QA team working in Favro
Chapter Collection
A guild backlog and agile workboard in Favro
Guild Collection

The Way Forward

Businesses that embrace agile at the team level but pay lip service to it at middle management and executive levels often lean towards more prescriptive, hierarchical frameworks that maintain a substantial degree of command and control. Organizations that take agile seriously strive to flatten legacy hierarchies, remove silos, move toward servant leadership, and promote team autonomy while providing overall alignment and direction. These progressive organizations gravitate to the Spotify Model and its many documented benefits.

 Benefits of the Spotify Model

Source: Kevin Goldsmith "The Spotify Tribe"

Favro builds the trust necessary for any business to succeed with their own version of the Spotify Model thanks to transparency across all Squads, Tribes, Chapters, and Guilds. Also, it’s flexible design makes it effortless to scale as your organization grows. Anyone can invite new team members, add collections for new Squads, or create dashboard collections aggregating Squads into Tribes. Favro easily adapts as your organization continuously improves and refines its unique framework.

This video walks you through how to configure your interpretation of the Spotify Model in Favro.

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