418 Teapot

Spotify’s Failed #SquadGoals

Without a single engineering manager responsible for the engineers on a team, the product manager lacked an equivalent peer—the mini-CTO to their mini-CEO role. There was no single person accountable for the engineering team’s delivery or who could negotiate prioritization of work at an equivalent level of responsibility.

The amount of job vacancies I’ve seen which tout that they work according to the Spotify model is just too high. The Spotify model turned in to a buzz word like ‘working agile’, ‘doing scrum’. With most companies that means ‘we do a daily standup’.

I’m lucky to be at a company that committed and followed through. We followed the agile manifesto, the department believed in it, we started a change in the company. All was great, until we started growing more and then you reach the point that the Spotify Model doesn’t scale. Something we specifically hit is mentioned in the quote above in combination with team Autonomy. Teams have complete freedom and no one is able to call them out on it because ‘Autonomy’.

There is nothing inherently wrong with that. It’s a good point to start; especially at that point in time. But the Spotify model never really evolved to what to do ‘after’. What when we get bigger?

You might have discovered the Spotify model because you were trying to figure out how to structure your teams. Don’t stop here. Keep researching. Leaders of companies that have withstood longer tests of time have written far more than Spotify blogged. Humans have been trying to figure out how to work together for as long as there have been humans. The industrial age and the information age changed some of the constraints, but academics studying organization theories have found timeless truths about what humans need to be successful in a collective.

Turns out, Spotify in 2012 had not figured out how to maintain the speed and nimbleness of a small team in a large organization. The company evolved beyond its eponymous model and looked outside of itself to find better answers. You should too.

So by all means take a look at the Spotify model as inspiration for your organisation, just look at the lessons learned and don’t waste time experiencing them yourself.