- How can we, as a company, adapt flexibly to changing requirements and order volumes?
- As a growing company in a rapidly changing business, how do we ensure efficient work, good communication, and knowledge exchange?
- How do we promote team spirit and employee motivation, and at the same time ensure happy customers?
These and similar questions probably occupy many companies. We have found answers in the agile Spotify model.
How Does Agile Organization Work According to the Spotify Model?
The streaming service provider Spotify has developed a model that enables even larger and fast-growing companies to work agile. The organizational model is based on so-called tribes, which are divided into squads. A tribe functions similarly to a business incubator, in which the appropriate "mini startups" in the form of squads are formed depending on the current order situation. As autonomous teams, the squads work independently on a topic/project.
Further components of the agile organization according to Spotify are chapters and guilds – structures that facilitate the exchange of knowledge between employees. But before we get lost in terminology, let's just show how we have applied the Spotify model to our everyday agency work.
Agility at Blackbit: The Tribes Model in Use
To provide our customers with optimum support, we have formed three tribes, each of which serves specific technologies (stacks): Tribe Digital Commerce, Tribe E-Commerce, and Tribe Digital Marketing. Similar customers with similar technical and content requirements are assigned to a tribe. Within a tribe, all competencies should be available that are needed to meet the respective customer requirements (e.g. web developers, graphic designers, SEO/SEA experts, copywriters). The size of the subordinate squads is based on the efficiency of the teamwork. The squad itself estimates from which size the teamwork is difficult and a new squad is founded. In a tribe there are three additional employees besides squad members:
- Tribe master: acts as CEO of his/her tribe and is a mentor to his squads; gives the tribe a development path and defines priorities; represents his/her tribe externally and in meetings with customers
- Tribe leader: is the "right hand" of the tribe master and specialist of the technology stack of his/her tribe; as head of application development, he/she sets the direction of development, determines the way the most important projects are implemented and drives the further development of the developers
- Sales representative: is an expert for the services and products offered by his/her tribe and is involved in the conception, effort estimation and retrospectives of the squads
Autonomy and Self-Organization of the Project Teams
The agile tribes model creates the organizational framework for self-responsible teamwork in flat hierarchies. A squad has the task of implementing project requirements in a customer-oriented, effective, and efficient manner. It is up to the squad to decide how it achieves the best result. Because projects are always handled by the same squad, the members of one squad know the working style of the others, know who can do what, and can tackle tasks together. This is the only way to ensure that employees and squads make projects their own and take joint responsibility for the success of the project instead of just looking at the fulfillment of their subtasks.
The project manager (in the original Spotify model: the product owner) manages the projects of the squad, leads the team, and coordinates all tasks. He/she is responsible for project calculation and budget monitoring as well as coordination with the customer.
Knowledge Transfer as Part of the Corporate Culture
To ensure that the division into squads does not slow down the exchange of knowledge and experience as well as communication between colleagues with a similar task focus, the agile methods according to Spotify include so-called chapters and guilds:
- Chapters are specialist departments within a tribe (about one hundred people).
- Guilds are inter-tribal interest groups.
Since the tribes at Blackbit are comparatively small and tribe masters and tribe leaders take care of the personal and professional development of the tribe, we use a mixed form of chapters and guilds: Tribe-spanning departments, which can be shared later if required. The exchange of knowledge across tribes and locations takes place, for example, via group chats and regularly scheduled roundtable discussions/video conferences – on topics such as leadership, management, web development or online marketing. For example, our developers regularly invite other employees to TechTalks in which they present new application developments. The video recordings of the sessions are then available to all interested colleagues.
Agile Work: The Advantages at a Glance
Organizing according to agile methods brings all sorts of positive effects and is an essential cornerstone of a successful digital transformation. According to our experience, agile companies benefit in particular from the following advantages:
- Scalability: New tribes or squads can be flexibly established at any time to meet new project requirements/volumes.
- Speed/efficiency: Flat hierarchies, short decision-making paths, and well-rehearsed teams allow agile projects to be implemented quickly.
- High quality of results: Structures for knowledge transfer and communication, experienced teamwork, and a high degree of customer orientation, as well as a sense of responsibility among the team members, ensure the best results.
- Motivated employees: Participation and the right of co-determination as well as working in familiar groups with flat hierarchical structures motivate team members to work independently.
- Satisfied customers: Agile projects, which are characterized by efficiency, customer orientation, and high-quality results, naturally also inspire the clients – a good basis for long-term cooperation.
Blackbit Talks in a Podcast about Agility and the Spotify Model
In an interview with SAR Business Solutions, our managing director Stefano Viani tells us more about how we have developed as an agency over the past years and how we have changed our organizational structure according to the Spotify model. Click here for the podcast