2018/09/12 The Spotify Model with Subha Manohran

Tonight we had Subha Manohran giving the Midlands Testers Meetup an overview of the Spotify Model of working,

How do Spotify scale their work and follow Agile prinicples to support their 14 millions users?

Henrik Kniberg and Anders Ivarsson published a paper on their Spotify Model in October 2012, inspiring many companies around the world to follow their model.



Squads are small, self-organised development teams, where they develop, own and maintain products and software.

They are made up of a mixture of skills, with a Product Owner, techincal lead, UX designer, a tester and developers. As such they have minimal handoff between teams.


Slogan for the team – “Think it, build it, ship it, tweak it” Keep evolving the work, trying news things, and not being afraid to do this.

To encourage this, 10% of their work time is allocated to supporting hack days to promote innovation within the teams.

They use collaborative working spaces instead of fixed meeting areas, to encourage more ideas and not feel restrictive.

Product Owner

A squad doesn’t have a formally appointed squad lead, with the team deciding between themselves. Often it is a PO due to having a wider view of the work coming through.


Has a “tribe lead” for providing the best habitat for each squad within that team.

The size of the tribes are based on the Dunbar number, which is the principle by Robin Dunbar that a social group can only comfortably maintain 150 relationships. By avoiding larger groups they avoid bureaucracy, office politics, extra layers of management and waste.

Chapters and Guilds

These are the glue that keep the company together.

They allow teams to not lose from economy of scale that comes from all the teams being autonomous.


This is done by grouping people together in a family of similar skills, who are all members of the same tribe.

They meet regularly to discuss their areas of expertise and their specific challenges.


They are more organic, wide-reaching “communities of interest”, which reach across the entire organisation, unlike just a tribe with chapters.

Some people can find it difficult to see the differences between the two. The key differences is Chapters are based on skill, what they CAN do, whereas a Guild is what they are interested in, but may not have the capacity to do.

How is this all working out?

Due to how autonomous the teams are, anyone in theory can edit the system. To mitigate this, they have a System Owner for each of their systems. They co-ordinate and guide people, squad members and chapter lead.

As with any organisation, today’s solutions give birth to tomorrow’s problems, so the story is not over yet…


One thought on “2018/09/12 The Spotify Model with Subha Manohran

  1. Many thanks for posting this, Lee. It’s particularly helpful to me because, sadly, I have been told I’m going deaf and I’m afraid that, having been delayed by a horrendous journey, I found myself sat at the back and almost completely unable to hear any of the presentation. I suspect I shall be making enquiries about a Bionic Ear very soon…

    One thing I was able to pick up was that the model will not suit everyone as a way of working. I suspect that this applies both to the team members actually at the codeface and to some traditional middle managers responsible for them. Some in the audience commented that it seemed to be more a model for team organisation rather than work organisation. Certainly, to me it seemed to be a way of adapting the matrix management model, which goes back to the 1960s, to an environment where there are a number of different products under development at the same time, and accommodating Agile methodologies within that 1960s model. It was rather as if either the one old-timer in the company thought of a way of incorporating their favourite management model into an Agile scenario – or alternatively, some modern Agilist had come across a 60’s management textbook in an antiques flea market and suddenly thought “This matrix model actually looks quite useful…”

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s