Deciding Whether the Spotify Approach Is Right for Your Enterprise Agility Strategy
On its surface, Spotify’s approach to enterprise agility is attractive, but it may be more like a utopian dream for larger enterprises. Its success relies on entirely on the ability of people to bond and to respect and trust one another.
While that often works on a small scale, it’s often less effective on a larger scale. Just as smaller countries can typically function well with less bureaucracy, and larger countries crumble when they don’t have enough central control, a small business may thrive with less management, while a large enterprise can fall into chaos without a more structured framework.
To decide whether the Spotify approach is best for your organization, ask yourself and your organization’s leadership the following questions:
- Does our organization have a strong sense of community? Do people trust and respect one another? If not, can we create a culture of mutual respect and trust? If your answers to any of these questions is “no,” then I don’t recommend the Spotify approach. Without a strong collaboration culture, such an organization is likely to fall into chaos.
- Is our organization comfortable with experimentation, failure, and compromise? Your answer needs to be “yes” to this question if you plan on adopting the Spotify approach. The level of autonomy is much higher at Spotify than at most large organizations. If this isn’t how your organization currently operates, leadership will need to completely reimagine its corporate vision. This isn’t entirely a bad thing. If your organization truly wants to be agile, a change in vision is required regardless of the enterprise agile framework you choose.
- Are we a heavy top-down, process-oriented organization? If you answer “yes” to this question, then you may want to draw inspiration from the Spotify model without completely adopting it. If you’re a smaller, more nimble, community-focused organization, this approach can give you a lot of guidance.
- Are we comfortable adopting a relatively unproven approach? If you answer “yes,” the Spotify approach may be worth trying. However, while it has proven effective in scaling one organization up to a medium-sized company, the jury is still out on whether it can work for a large enterprise. If you’re a large enterprise with thousands of developers, then you may test the limits of this approach.
Other enterprise frameworks, including SAFe, LeSS, and DAD, are all currently being used in very large companies. As of this writing, there haven’t been any public demonstrations of really large organizations using the Spotify approach.
Don’t think of Spotify’s approach as a separate solution or a clear roadmap. Approach it as a case study of how a very novel organization decided to scale agile to an enterprise level. It may give you some good ideas for making your organization more agile, and it may provide the inspiration to do so, but it’s not a pre-packaged solution.
The good news is that if you follow the Spotify approach, you’re likely to end up with an agile framework that’s tailored to your organization. You will adopt what works, toss what doesn’t, adopt elements of other agile frameworks, and create your own principles, processes, and practices. As a result, your organization would probably be much more agile than if you had chosen a more substantive framework, such as SAFe, LeSS, or DAD.
In some ways the Spotify approach is like flipping through a weightlifting magazine. Some organizations may find it inspirational, while others look at the shiny mounds of muscle and think to themselves that there’s no way they could (or would even want to) do that to themselves!