Spotify is not like other Scalable Agile Frameworks

The english language is sometimes a system for confusion. That is not what language should be! But consider the times “there” is used when it should be “their”. That “read” (in the past tense!) and “red” are said the same but have nothing to do with each other (unless you “read a red book”). That you drive on a parkway and park in a driveway. And that Spotify is not just a streaming service but also an agile framework!

How that came to be is because Spotify, the company, was dissatisfied with how SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) seemed to lead to increased cycle times and higher costs that all increased as the company grew. And so, in an agile fashion, they started experimenting and trying alternative ways of scaling agile methods such as scrum and kanban.

The result for Spotify is their own agile framework. The confusion begins when others learn about this and decide, “here is a framework for us to adopt!” Hold on there, cowboy!

Whether one can adopt Spotify is an open question. I’m actually not a fan of straight adoption of any specific agile framework because every organization is different and their business and technical objectives vary as do the people and teams. And so a more pragmatic approach seems appropriate, borrowing from the various methods and frameworks to help teams and organizations progress the best they can.

But never mind that, if adoption is what is on tap, then Spotify would seem the least appropriate. That is because it is an emergent result of one organizations history and learning. It is fantastic that this works for Spotify. Whether it can work for your organization is another question.

The key difference is that Spotify is ruthless on refactoring and redesigning the solutions and delivery architecture for optimal agile team operation. The notion is to make the organization structure, agile team relations, communication pathways, the solution architecture, the methods and timing of delivery, and the pattern of use by customers all map to each other.

So can any organization use the Spotify approach? Not really. You’d have to have the culture to do it. And most large transformations struggle with culture change.

I’m thinking that Spotify is probably not applicable to any other organization. It’s a great example. And maybe that is the benefit. It says that each team and organization should really be doing what Spotify as an organization and set of teams did – making agile their own by identifying wasteful activities (through value stream analysis or lean-agile principles) and finding ways to eliminate them and make the organization more efficient.

And then better able to meet its business value outcomes for its customers. Which is, after all, what we do Agile for!

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