Scaling Agile @ Spotify with Tribes, Squads, Chapters & Guilds

Dealing with multiple teams in a product development organization is always a challenge!

One of the most impressive examples I’ve seen so far is Spotify. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Spotify on and off ever since the company was founded, and it’s one of the few companies I’ve seen with a truly agile culture. Spotify has grown a lot lately and now has hundreds of developers divided into 30 agile teams spread over 4 cities in 3 timezones. So how is this managed?

Check out the article: Scaling Agile @ Spotify with Tribes, Squads, Chapters and Guilds. I wrote it together with Anders Ivarsson, one of the agile coaches that I’m working with (Spotify has a truly awesome group of coaches!).

Translations:

85 Comments

  • 1
    November 14, 2012 - 3:33 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting reading. Thanks Henrik and Anders for publishing it .

    How that snapshot of Spottify way of working emerged in the time, what forces where at work and who contributed ?

    Are there differences in practices, way of working, organization among different squads or different tribes ? What caused them ?

    Luca

  • 2
    November 15, 2012 - 11:16 am | Permalink

    [...] Hur Spotify jobbar agilt [blog.crisp.se] 0 poäng | Postat november 15 av Erik Starck [...]

  • 3
    November 17, 2012 - 5:07 pm | Permalink

    great article. especially the idea of “a guild” as a crossteam entity. a cool name for a cool idea.

  • 4
    November 18, 2012 - 3:55 am | Permalink

    [...] Hacker News http://blog.crisp.se/2012/11/14/henrikkniberg/scaling-agile-at-spotify This entry was posted in Uncategorized by admin. Bookmark the [...]

  • 5
    Johan Jacobs
    November 18, 2012 - 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting reading…
    I face similar challenges being responsible for the development of direct channels in a major Belgian Bank.
    One question I’m still left with: how do you deal with maintainance on delivered software especially if this adds up to about 30% of all work. Separate it in a separate squad?

    • 6
      November 19, 2012 - 8:46 am | Permalink

      Squads do their own maintainance. There’s no handoff to another squad, that’s just expensive and breaks the learning loop. Programmers need to live with the consequences of their design decisions.

  • 7
    Konstantin Razumovsky
    November 19, 2012 - 10:58 pm | Permalink

    Great post! One thing I was surprised with is the “operation” squad which seems to be not a feature team. Also aren’t the members of this squad disappointed being a “servant” team and not producing the external features?

    • 8
      November 19, 2012 - 11:15 pm | Permalink

      The people in ops do ops stuff because it is their job, because that is what they love doing, and that is why they came to Spotify to do it. The ops folks are heros, they enable everyone else to put stuff into production, and keep the systems running 24/7.

  • 9
    November 20, 2012 - 12:05 pm | Permalink

    [...] källor: TechCrunch  IDG  Crisp Länk-kärlek:Mer « Ghost, koncept på en ny blogg-plattform Avbryt [...]

  • 10
    November 21, 2012 - 12:25 pm | Permalink

    [...] process on this site’s What is the role of a product owner? page. His recent post about the way Spotify structures a large Agile team is fascinating. Share this:FacebookEmail Posted in Uncategorized Recent [...]

  • 11
    November 21, 2012 - 6:12 pm | Permalink

    [...] of the people who’ve bred this strange animal have taken the time to write up the organizational methods and thinking that go …. It makes for interesting reading, much  more than I can achieve, and it’s also quite brief [...]

  • 12
    November 23, 2012 - 1:59 am | Permalink

    [...] How Spotify Works Posted by Code Monkey on November 22, 2012 While I wish I could write a long article on how Spotify works technically this is not what I want to tell you about today. Nor will I tell you how I would build Spotify if I had to, but that would be an interesting blog post. But today I want to tell you about a great article describing how Spotify has organized their teams, how they work and best of all; they have cool names for it too: Squads, Tribes, Chapters & Guilds! [...]

  • 13
    November 26, 2012 - 1:06 am | Permalink

    Hello Henrik,
    It is a very interesting article. I have translated it into french :
    Agilité à grande échelle chez Spotify
    Regards,
    Fabrice

  • 15
    Russ Zumwalt
    November 26, 2012 - 10:35 pm | Permalink

    Your article mentioned that user experience decisions were left to the squad, and I was curious how you’ve gone about staffing that need for each squad. That’s something that my organization has grappled with since adopting Scrum in 2004. We’ve waffled back-and-forth between putting user experience/design members on the teams and creating a central team composed entirely of functional design and user experience. Does every squad have a dedicated member for these functions? If not, how many squads do they typically get split across? Have any of your squad members taken on UX/design responsibilities with little or no prior experience? Do you encourage that?

    • 16
      November 27, 2012 - 9:16 am | Permalink

      We’re still waffling around with this, will have to get back on this topic later :o)

      • 17
        Russ Zumwalt
        November 27, 2012 - 3:28 pm | Permalink

        Oh, good, it’s not just us :-)

  • 18
    November 27, 2012 - 12:36 am | Permalink

    [...] http://blog.crisp.se/2012/11/14/henrikkniberg/scaling-agile-at-spotify Related Posts [...]

  • 19
    Christer Åkesson
    November 27, 2012 - 10:49 pm | Permalink

    Great post! I really like the clearity both in the vertical(Sqaud, tribes) and horizontal(Guild, Chapter). Have some what the same type of setup in my organization but not that clear…
    I really like the idea of “quarterly survey with each squad” a good tool help the team to be high performing.

    Now to my question:
    How is the process for a squad to take a new feature from customer requirement to production?
    At what sync points do sqaud and stakeholders meet up?

    Regards,
    Christer

  • 20
    Shawn
    November 28, 2012 - 11:07 pm | Permalink

    Great post and article, thanks for posting!! Could you share some information about any tooling is used to help facilitate/manage Spotify’s process(s)?

  • 21
    Manuel Palacio
    November 30, 2012 - 6:24 pm | Permalink

    Great article. I translated it to Spanish:
    Agilidad en Spotify

  • 22
    December 3, 2012 - 10:56 pm | Permalink

    [...] This paper (PDF) tells the story on how Spotify organizes the work of tens of engineers and designers in an agile manner.   [...]

  • 23
    Aaron
    December 7, 2012 - 3:00 pm | Permalink

    I like this article!

    I notice that the idea of “guilds” is spreading. Maybe you want to have a look at Jurgen’s post about that: http://www.noop.nl/2012/11/business-guilds.html

    I practice this idea having cross-team (knowledge-) “domains” with experienced “domain owners” guiding and leading it.

  • 24
    December 13, 2012 - 5:38 pm | Permalink

    [...] en spännande artikel om hur Spotify organiserat sin utveckling i något som liknar en matris synliggör Henrik Kniberg och Anders Ivarsson en viktig dimension vid [...]

  • 25
    December 25, 2012 - 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Hi, Henrik!

    This is link to Russian translation:

    Масштабирование Agile в Spotify

  • 27
    Carmen Morrison
    January 1, 2013 - 12:02 am | Permalink

    Great article thanks you. I love being a Scrum Master/Iteration Manager and I want to work for a company that has a true Agile Culture. Can you get my resume in front of them. ;-)

    Cheers,
    Carmen

  • 29
    Carmen Morrison
    January 1, 2013 - 12:02 am | Permalink

    P.S. Happy New Year!

  • 30
    Omar Bermudez
    January 4, 2013 - 2:12 am | Permalink

    Interesting article. My question is how you support this process electronically? I like JIRA + green-hopper, but I am not sure it is the right one to support the full process.
    Thanks,
    Omar

  • 31
    January 8, 2013 - 10:19 pm | Permalink

    [...] Masse an erfolgreichen agilen Transitionen noch nicht erreicht ist, so sind Erfolge wie bei SAP, Spotify und Xerox  Indizien dafür, dass agile Entwicklung der richtige Weg sein [...]

  • 32
    January 19, 2013 - 4:17 am | Permalink

    Completely love it! This is the type of org I am constantly guiding companies toward but not always with success. :( Thanks for providing a case study I can use to fuel my efforts.

    Question: Can you share a sketch of a typical squad area floor plan? How is the desk area, lounge area, and a personal “huddle” room configured?

    Thanks!

  • 35
    February 19, 2013 - 2:44 pm | Permalink

    [...] Respecto a otra forma de organizarse tengo pendiente de leer el famoso artículo de Henrik Kniberg sobre su trabajo en Spotify. [...]

  • 36
    February 27, 2013 - 1:33 pm | Permalink

    [...] 대한 원래 문서는 이곳을 참조하면 볼 수 있다. Share this:더전자우편Print이것이 좋아요:좋아하기 [...]

  • 37
    March 14, 2013 - 8:04 pm | Permalink

    [...] recently create a workspace layout for a client based on the team spaces used at Spotify, one of the shining beacons of organizational Agility. Ideal agile [...]

  • 38
    March 14, 2013 - 8:24 pm | Permalink

    [...] recently created a workspace layout for a client based on the team spaces used at Spotify, one of the shining beacons of organizational Agility. Ideal agile [...]

  • 39
    March 15, 2013 - 5:47 pm | Permalink

    [...] development team should be autonomous. A development team (or ‘squad’ in Spotify lingo – see http://blog.crisp.se/2012/11/14/henrikkniberg/scaling-agile-at-spotify) should always be able to move independently of other squads. Even if there is a dependency between [...]

  • 40
    March 19, 2013 - 6:16 pm | Permalink

    There’s a Portuguese version at http://www.infoq.com/br/articles/spotify-escalando-agile but the link doesn’t seem to be here yet.

  • 42
    March 20, 2013 - 9:01 pm | Permalink

    [...] Scaling Agile at Spotify and Daniel Pink’s Drive Posted on March 20, 2013 by Bart Vermijlen — No Comments ↓ FB.Event.subscribe('edge.create', function(response) { _gaq.push(['_trackEvent','SocialSharing','Facebook - like button',unescape(String(response).replace(/+/g, " "))]); }); Last November I was really amazed by an article from Henrik Kniberg – I admit, I’m a fan – on how he helped scaling agile at Spotify. [...]

  • 43
    April 11, 2013 - 12:22 am | Permalink

    [...] http://blog.crisp.se/2012/11/14/henrikkniberg/scaling-agile-at-spotify Share this: This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged Agile on April 10, 2013 by Gerrit Quast. [...]

  • 44
    April 12, 2013 - 6:34 pm | Permalink

    [...] in November, Spotify released a paper titled Scaling Agile @ Spotify with Tribes, Squads, Chapters & Guilds. I recently had a chance to chat with Henrik Kniberg, one of the coaches on site, to ask him some [...]

  • 45
    April 14, 2013 - 7:45 am | Permalink

    [...] misses sent me an interesting article about Spotify’s Agile process and how they steer a technical team of over 250.  This has probably no short term relevance to [...]

  • 46
    April 29, 2013 - 12:47 am | Permalink

    [...] Story: Scaling Agile @ Spotify with Tribes, Squads, Chapters & Guilds) Like this:Like Loading… agile agile Siege is an http load testing and [...]

  • 47
    Pete
    May 22, 2013 - 9:19 pm | Permalink

    Awesome! That’s a fantastic approach, Henrik! Thanks so much for sharing.

    I’m curious how the rest of the company (Management, Sales, Marketing,..) is organized?
    Are they structured in Squads and tribes as well or are they organized in a classic way?

    A further point that interests me: Is the a kind of PO lead who coordinates or even leads the POs? (Deciding on the high level road map) Or are the POs organizing themselves collaborately?

    And a last one:
    Has the tribe lead any influence or saying on the road map or is she “only” responsible for the squads container?

    Happy about your answers.

  • 48
    June 2, 2013 - 4:18 pm | Permalink

    [...] of scaling agile. Should we all adopt Dean Leffingwell’s Scaled Agile Framework? Do the Spotify tribe/squad thing? Or just roll our own? Or is Ron Jeffries’ intuition right, and do the terms scaling and [...]

  • 49
    June 4, 2013 - 2:57 pm | Permalink

    [...] on the planet. I had previously read Henrik Kniberg and Anders Ivarsson’s excellent article Scaling Agile at Spotify with Tribes, Squads, Chapters and Guilds, and this talk helped to bring the ideas to life. Henrik was also interviewed on InfoQ about his [...]

  • 50
    June 5, 2013 - 8:42 pm | Permalink

    [...] nach nicht mehr notwendig. Hier reicht es aus, wenn ein Agile Coach verfügbar ist. Ähnlich hat es Henrik Kniberg ja auch schon [...]

  • 51
    Jason Skidis
    June 28, 2013 - 6:58 am | Permalink

    Henrik,
    I am an Agile Coach in a large IT department of an even larger organization. I have read this article with great interest. Our organization started a full department transformation to Scrum last winter and we continue to look for ways to improve this ongoing transformation to make our organization more Agile. I’ve discussed this article with a number of people in my organization and I get 2 consistent pieces of feedback on the topic of Chapters Leads as line managers (I also get lots of feedback on other pieces of the article, but that’s another story)

    1. Many in our organization still have a higher affinity for their functional role relationships than team membership, re: still lots of functional silo thinking. Having Chapter Leads could entrench that behavior further.
    2. If a person’s line manager is on a different team, then they aren’t involved in the day to day with that person. The concern is around the ability of the Chapter Lead to evaluate the individual’s performance and/or know them well enough to help them with personal/career development.

    My response to this feedback has generally followed these concepts…
    1. Leadership and Agile Coaches need to a better job of breaking down functional silos whether we try something like this or not. If we do a great job of it, then this becomes much less of an issue (or a non issue).
    2. If we change our focus from “evaluate and develop individuals” to “evaluate teams and develop the individual” then this concept might actually be a strength. Since the person developing an individual still has the same type of responsibilities as the individual, as opposed to someone that used to (maybe) have that same job in the past.

    I believe that are a number of benefits to this approach that outweigh these concerns. However, I was wondering if you (or any of your readers) have additional feedback on ways to minimize these concerns.

    Thank you,
    Jason Skidis

    • 52
      June 28, 2013 - 1:54 pm | Permalink

      Hi Jason, thanks for the detailed and insightful feedback. The short answer is that we sometimes see the problems that you mention, but so far the advantages of this model seem to outweigh the disadvantages. We also compensate for the disadvantages by making sure that the chapter lead is physically close to his chapter members, although they are spread across different squads, and that each chapter is quite small. The chapter lead does not oversee or judge the day-to-day work of the chapter members, instead he focuses on things like craftmanship, personal development and motivation.

      • 53
        Jason Skidis
        June 29, 2013 - 12:22 am | Permalink

        Thank you Henrik for your speedy response. I can definitely see how small chapters with squads being adjacently (or at least very close) can help minimize these concerns.

        As a Scrum Trainer once told me, evaluate teams and have the team evaluate the members of the team. With these two points of reference you get a more accurate and agile compatible appraisal of an individual compared to just a manager judging a team member completely outside the team context.

        Your comment about chapter leads developing competencies of but not judging an individual is another data point in favor of separating (to some degree) development from evaluation. Your feedback is greatly appreciated.

  • 54
    July 22, 2013 - 11:07 am | Permalink

    [...] value of a well-performing team is massive, but this is not a trivial thing to build and maintain; teams need real ownership over code, and that means the team takes decisions about that code and exclusively works on that [...]

  • 55
    September 6, 2013 - 3:47 pm | Permalink

    [...] promised, here is a link to Henrik Kniberg’s post about Spotify. events, Kanban    Agile on the Beach, Falmouth, feedback SHARE THIS [...]

  • 56
    September 19, 2013 - 9:46 am | Permalink

    [...] nie trzeba skalować, jeśli jesteśmy w stanie przeskalować nasz produkt. Tak jak na przykład zrobili to w Spotify. Kluczem do sukcesu nie jest stworzenie squad’ów, tribe’ów, chapter’ów czy [...]

  • 57
    October 8, 2013 - 10:57 am | Permalink

    [...] persönliches Highlight der Konferenz waren die Keynotes: Henrik Kniberg, der über Agilität im Großen bei Spotify berichtete. Eine Firma, die es durch ein geschicktes Skalierungsmodell geschafft hat, [...]

  • 58
    October 16, 2013 - 6:39 am | Permalink

    I’ve just published “Scaling agile @ spotify” Japanese version. http://lean-trenches.com/scaling-agile-at-spotify-ja/ It’s very interesting article. Thanks, Henrik.

  • 60
    October 20, 2013 - 6:13 am | Permalink

    [...] and XP from the Trenches“, “Agile Product Ownership in a Nutshell“, and “Scaling agile at Spotify“. (Agile Product Ownership a Nutshell is actually a video, but the creative process was [...]

  • 61
    November 14, 2013 - 8:59 am | Permalink

    [...] Crisp used. Anders Ivarsson, agile coach at Spotify, and Henrik Kniberg, agile consultant at Crisp, introduced the ideas that came out of the restructuring at Spotify, in October 2012. A year prior to that, the company had begun to restructure its internal [...]

  • 62
    December 1, 2013 - 10:19 am | Permalink

    […] How such organization should work, guild is perhaps the answer. After inspiration from Spotif’s Tribes/Squads/Chapters & Guild. […]

  • 63
    December 8, 2013 - 4:15 pm | Permalink

    […] 团队基于主题构建“公会”(译者注:参见Henrik写的关于Spotify Scaling Agile的文章) […]

  • 64
    January 3, 2014 - 9:17 pm | Permalink

    […] here’s a post on how to scale Agile within a large organization posted at Henrick’s own consultancy […]

  • 65
    January 16, 2014 - 3:27 am | Permalink

    […] Ambler   http://disciplinedagiledelivery.com/ Spotify/Crisp approach – Kniberg & Ivarsson  http://blog.crisp.se/2012/11/14/henrikkniberg/scaling-agile-at-spotify Agility Path – Schwaber / Scrum.org  […]

  • 66
    January 29, 2014 - 7:05 pm | Permalink

    […] year I had the privilege of meeting Kevin Goldsmith, and he introduced me to the whitepaper and methodology Spotify uses to build their products. While the whitepaper covers more of the […]

  • 67
    January 31, 2014 - 3:55 am | Permalink

    […] deploying and supporting their own parts of the service, as Spotify describes for their company in this paper. While many of the companies we spoke to were some way off achieving this model in their own […]

  • 68
    February 1, 2014 - 9:56 pm | Permalink

    […] Der Erfahrungsbericht von Henrik Kniberg, wie Agile bei Spotify gelebt wird […]

  • 69
    February 3, 2014 - 1:14 pm | Permalink

    […] Click here to see the full post. […]

  • 70
    February 20, 2014 - 5:17 am | Permalink

    […] understand how to potentially tackle this situation, Spotify can be used as a case study that you can read about here. The creation of guilds in particular allows for architectural excellence at each layer in the stack […]

  • 71
    March 1, 2014 - 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Hi Henrik,
    Chinese version for scaling agile of Spotify is ready on my blog, http://bobjiang.com/2014/02/07/scaling-agile-spotify-with-tribes-squads-chapters-guilds/ , could you add a link here? Thanks a lot :)

  • 73
    March 2, 2014 - 2:03 am | Permalink

    […] needed in a post on DevOps interview questions (although this is a bit out of date now). The team setup at Spotify is worth understanding, with a fluid matrix-type grouping of skills and interests […]

  • 74
    March 10, 2014 - 4:25 pm | Permalink

    […] When a functional area like design/UX wants to be a separate team for site consistency, this is similar to any functional area wanting to separate from the Scrum team (or create their own team) for the sake of consistency. Have periodic functional meetings on a periodic basis to keep the consistency. It might be an hour meeting every other week, or on demand, and doesn’t deter from the team’s ability to get work done. This is similar to a community of practice, a special interest group, and the guild concept at Spotify. […]

  • 75
    March 14, 2014 - 11:03 pm | Permalink

    […] was there, I ended up connecting with a couple different companies who have been inspired by Henrik Kniberg’s whitepaper on Scaling Agile at Spotify, and who have been trying to do implement some of those ideas in their own […]

  • 76
    March 30, 2014 - 8:58 pm | Permalink

    […] When a functional area like design/UX wants to be a separate team for site consistency, this is similar to any functional area wanting to separate from the Scrum team (or create their own team) for the sake of consistency. Have periodic functional meetings on a periodic basis to keep the consistency. It might be an hour meeting every other week, or on demand, and doesn’t deter from the team’s ability to get work done. This is similar to a community of practice, a special interest group, and the guild concept at Spotify. […]

  • 77
    April 2, 2014 - 2:20 pm | Permalink

    […] on the planet. I had previously read Henrik Kniberg and Anders Ivarsson’s excellent article Scaling Agile at Spotify with Tribes, Squads, Chapters and Guilds, and this talk helped to bring the ideas to life. Henrik was also interviewed on InfoQ about his […]

  • 78
    April 10, 2014 - 1:01 pm | Permalink

    […] Scaling Agile at Spotify (Pete) […]

  • 79
    May 7, 2014 - 2:04 am | Permalink

    Italian version here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/b9urjkxsgq2zbe8/ScalingSpotifyIta.pdf
    Best Regards!

    Tony

  • 81
    May 7, 2014 - 6:50 am | Permalink

    […] Spotify, engineers and product people work within a kind of matrix organization that evolved out of a need to scale agile teams. Their basic unit or “cell” is called a […]

  • 82
    June 5, 2014 - 3:05 am | Permalink

    […] Spotify, engineers and product people work within a kind of matrix organization that evolved out of a need to scale agile teams. Their basic unit or “cell” is called a […]

  • 83
    June 16, 2014 - 4:49 pm | Permalink

    […] persönliches Highlight der Konferenz waren die Keynotes: Henrik Kniberg, der über Agilität im Großen bei Spotify berichtete. Eine Firma, die es durch ein geschicktes Skalierungsmodell geschafft hat, […]

  • 84
    June 23, 2014 - 1:49 am | Permalink

    […] k ničemu. Líbil se mi zajímavý model organizace, který používají. Inspirovali se ve Spotify a upravili si to k obrazu […]

  • 85
    July 2, 2014 - 1:56 pm | Permalink

    […] communities of practice are perhaps best known through the tribes-squads-chapters-guilds meme. […]

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