Refer & Earn

Squads in Spotify Model

Squads in Spotify Model

Vivek Jayaraman
26th Jan, 2022

Spotify is a streaming and media services provider based in Sweden. Their software development approach is termed Spotify Framework and is one of the most discussed over the Agile community. Many companies have studied and tried adopting the same in their organization. So, what is so special about the Spotify framework?


Spotify used Scrum initially when they started to develop their application. As they continued to expand, they started adopting and creating practices that could help build faster features and maximize collaboration between their teams. 


What is a Squad?

A squad is the basic unit of development in Spotify. Designed similar to that of the Scrum Team, the squad is self-organized and cross-functional. Cross-functionality defines the necessary skills to develop product features and release them to production. Self-Organization describes that the squad decides their ways of working to deliver value. 


In Spotify, the squads decide how they want to work. Different squads use different approaches like Scrum, kanban, or scrumban (a mix of the best practices provided by Scrum and kanban), or it could be other practices they would like to explore. They moved away from Scrum because they did not want to follow everything Scrum suggested. 


Every squad in Spotify is like a mini-startup, and they own product features and are responsible for them. They were encouraged to apply lean startup principles such as MVPs (minimum viable product) concepts early. Early release is done to validate their learning and receive faster feedback. The fundamental principle of a Lean startup is that we need to build, measure and learn continuously. It's a continuous loop. The slogan of the squad is "Think it, build it, ship it, tweak it."


The lean startup principle is also at par with the PDCA cycle proposed by Edward Demming. PDCA implies Plan, Do, Check and Adapt. The squads do A/B testing to measure and learn about the user's pulse. A and B are two different samples of a product feature or a piece of functionality. AB testing widely helps teams to test their implementations directly with the users. Varied users experience different samples, and the squad collects data based on the usage to make an informed decision. 


The squads stick with one product area, and they get experienced very well in those areas. For example, in Spotify, there are multiple features like Search, Library, Playlists, etc. As the squad owns features in the product, they get well-versed in it. 


Each squad has their personal space to work together, and they have separate rooms for performing their daily huddles and other discussions. Their workspaces are custom-designed to maximize collaboration. They do continuous learning and experimentation as part of their work. They take timeouts during their job to do some hackathons. The squad was encouraged to perform 10% of their time in hacking. 


Each squad has a product owner responsible for prioritizing the work for the squad. They work closely with product owners of other squads in prioritizing the work and creating a backlog and roadmap. It also implies that each squad also has its own product backlog. 


Just like the qualities of cross-functionality and self-organization, the squads are also autonomous. They do not have dependencies with other squads. They have their product backlog and release their own sprint goal. As discussed earlier, they are like mini-startups. 


There are no Scrum Masters in squads, but they have agile coaches. In reality, both do the same job, but they have renamed their facilitators to Agile Coaches to eliminate any resemblance to Scrum. The coaches work continuously with the squads to identify and address impediments. They help improve the processes that help with the system's efficiency. 



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