VIDEO INTERVIEW – Hierarchical organization, goodbye! Embracing servant leadership and a horizontal reporting structure, Spotify is redefining the idea of company.
Interviewee: Kristian Lindwall, Agile Coach, Spotify
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Planet Lean: In the face of very quick growth, how did Spotify stay competitive?
Kristian Lindwall: I think that the key success factor there is that from the beginning we had a lean and agile mindset. It is built into the culture: people really believe in servant leadership and in supporting people in teams and having them make decisions.
PL: People have been talking about the “Spotify model” – what is the company’s approach to leadership?
KL: What we try to do with it is to counter what happens in a more hierarchical organization by putting the reporting structure sideways. No leader will have sole influence over the team. On the flip side, to get this to work we need to create leadership teams to support the squads, as we call them.
PL: Can you explain what a minimum viable structure is?
KL: If we could, we would just have 600 people who magically know what to do. We would have no leaders and no structure, but the world is too chaotic. To reduce complexity, we introduced this model of organizing the business. When bureaucracy arrives, we try to get rid of it.
PL: Some of the Spotify’s agile coaches came up with a very original approach to visual management, which they called “squad roadmap” – what is it?
KL: This tool was implemented in one of the tribes. Even in agile, it is always important to have some sort of perspective of the horizon and so we came up with a fun way to do road mapping – but we don’t have a codified way to do it across Spotify.
PL: In an organization that is not very hierarchical, how does the corporate strategy link to the work of individual squads?
KL: Currently, we obviously have a high level view of where we want to be as a company, as envisioned by top-level management. That strategy has to be aligned with the ideas that exist in the squads. In between, there are a lot of different conversations that create input for discussion in the lead team, which in turn will be input for discussion in the squads.
To really reinforce innovation and ensure that we have points in time when we generate new ideas, we have Hack Weeks at least twice a year. The whole company gathers, there is no plan… it’s just about pitching ideas and work on them. From Hack Weeks we have got some great ideas that have then made it to production.