What your company can learn from Spotify Squads and agile design

Space Refinery
April 30, 2024
What You Can Learn From Spotify Squads and Agile Design

What your company can learn from Spotify Squads and agile design

We could all learn a thing or two about the Spotify way of doing things (agile design and all). In case you’ve been living in a cave for the last few years: Spotify is a popular music streaming service that continues to dominate the likes of Apple, Google, and Amazon in the music streaming industry. However, what makes Spotify such an interesting company, is HOW they managed to reach the top.

Regardless of the fact that Spotify completely transformed the music industry and inspired organizations worldwide to also adopt agile method, they weren't the first to develop an agile, scalable approach. Alistair Cockburn, an American computer scientist, was one of the initiators of the agile movement in software development. The legend goes that he visited Spotify once and said, "Nice - I've been looking for someone to implement this matrix format since 1992".

Here's how we use the idea of squads in our conceptual design development - check out the article.

Let's take a look at organizational units called Squads and how this people-driven, autonomous approach for scaling agile emphasizes the importance of culture and community.

What are Spotify Squads?

Spotify squad principle breakdown

Spotify understands that focused teams work better and are far more likely to achieve whatever task they are set out to accomplish. Every Spotify Squad (of no more than 8 people) is tasked with a specific mission and has the autonomy to complete it however they want.

For example, a Squad may be tasked with improving the mobile experience of a certain part of the Spotify application. Each member of the team will work together, using their relevant skills, to solve this problem. The team can choose how they want to approach it, what they will build to solve it, and who will do what.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Tribes, Chapters and Guilds

Spotify squad workflow and collaboration explanation

Next to the mission-focused Squads, other individual groups are formed across the company to accelerate development and creativity. The Tribes are groups focused on specific facets of the Spotify platform (e.g., user experience, desktop interface, algorithms, etc.). In contrast, Chapters are groups organized around a specialty skill (e.g., designers, programmers, and marketing).

In our above example, the Squad on a mission to improve mobile experience will collaborate with the Tribe specialized in mobile features and bounce ideas off the Chapter grouped around app development. The overall idea here is to promote cohesion and allow employees to bounce ideas and problems off of each other to find the best solution that makes sense in the grand scheme of things.

The last group is Guilds. These are more complex to form and are usually focused on a larger goal, like a specific type of marketing or security, or a specific metric, like performance. Guilds can contain employees from all areas of the company. Members are free to join and leave guilds as they please, and the Guilds will tap into the Tribes, Chapters, and Squads.

Spotify tribe ecosystem explanation

So how does all of this apply to office design?

There are a few things we can learn from Spotify Squads, especially when it comes to what makes them successful in the first place.

1. The modern agile design workplace

In the age of efficiency, agility is everything. While traditional offices still exist almost everywhere we look, more companies should look to Spotify and embrace the agile workplace.

Agile design workplaces become essential when it comes to working in smaller squads. If members of a team are tasked with solving smaller problems, they need workspaces where they can band together, identify problems, draft solutions, and execute. This kind of collaborative system is challenging to implement in an office where employees are segregated in cubicles and communication only takes place through emails.

The very idea of autonomy requires an office that allows its employees to find a space that enables them to work effectively. We’ve talked about it before, but employee autonomy is one of the easiest ways to promote engagement and well-being. Some of the most common aspects of a workspace designed with agile design in mind include things like:

  • focus spaces
  • team meeting rooms
  • relaxation spaces
  • collaboration spaces
  • private rooms for calls
  • multipurpose spaces

You may think, "Great, most offices already have these rooms."

And in many ways, you're right. But an agile workspace is much better because it can satisfy a specific squad's needs. This can take place at any time simply by providing enough flexibility and autonomy. Traditional offices often lack this flexibility because employees have to worry about interfering with scheduled meetings in a conference room, disturbing other employees, or simple misunderstandings with their managers.

There are many benefits to agile working. Some of the biggest ones include:

1. increased productivity and efficiency

2. better use of office space

3. innovation boost

4. increased employee engagement and well-being due to autonomy

5. flexible workspaces that make better use of employee skills

2. Culture is everything

Some of the best companies to work for are the ones that have a positive company culture.

The Spotify model understands this and emphasizes the importance of company culture. Spotify's employees are encouraged to share, not own, their work. Every employee can contribute to code, propose revisions, and discuss everything about a project. A model like this promotes collaboration, motivates team members to work together and benefit each other, and makes the company a great place to work.

One of the easiest ways a company can create a positive employee experience and company culture is to provide them with an office that enables this type of creativity. It taps back into the idea of the agile workplace. The more a company offers its employees a workplace where they can work on their terms, the more often they will do great things and contribute at a higher level.

3. Better employee engagement

When a company invests in its employees, whether through specific programs or an agile workspace, the result is usually a boost in employee engagement. And this isn't some conspiracy being pushed by smaller companies, either. Some of the largest companies in the world have embraced the agile workspace philosophy. Not surprisingly, they see tangible results because of it.

Agile, functional and collaborative office of AskQ in Vilvoorde

Examples of agile design in big companies

A flexible work practices initiative rolled out by BT as part of the Workstyle 2000 program found a 63% reduction in absenteeism when employees were allowed to work flexibly. Those same employees were, on average, 20% more productive than their more restricted coworkers. The program also saw its employee turnover reduced by 20%.

The British HSBC bank saw a similar outcome when they rolled out their program. "Our staff feared the worst, but the POE shows that they are much happier working in the new environment, and management believes this is being reflected in increased productivity. Our people now want to move into the flexible working environment rather than the old style," said a spokesperson for the company.

Microsoft credited the flexible workspace initiative for allowing it to accommodate 30% more people in the same space.

Key akeaways

Companies have a lot to gain by adopting Spotify's take on the agile workspace. Every company will have its way of approaching it. Still, agile design has provided a lot of noticeable benefits to a company like Spotify.

Every company should learn from Spotify's positive culture and approach to agile design and the modern office. Agile workspaces are an excellent investment for any company looking to invest both in its employees and its long-term sustainability.

Spotify's success is due to its commitment to creating a great company culture through agile workplaces and flexible working. The average company may not be able to replicate Spotify Squads as efficiently as they have. Still, they can learn a lot from the overall philosophy of the company and the way its employees work.

Check out how our team implements the agile workspace design notions while developing our concepts through co-creation workshops.

If you have any questions, get in touch with us! We love design, and we’d love to answer any questions you may have!

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