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[Yow! 2019] 3 insights from 4 years at Spotify

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Thinking back over my 4 years at Spotify, I see 3 main insights:
1. Aligned autonomy is an ongoing struggle;
2. Building teams in the context of high growth require different assumptions;
3. Consulting companies are generally better at forming high-performing teams fast.

Publié dans : Direction et management

[Yow! 2019] 3 insights from 4 years at Spotify

  1. 1. (versus 14 years at ThoughtWorks) Jason Yip Senior Agile Coach Spotify NYC @jchyip 3 insights from 4 years at Spotify
  2. 2. This talk is about what I’ve learned at Spotify over 4 years (long time for a hypergrowth company)
  3. 3. Before Spotify, I was at ThoughtWorks for around 14 years. (mostly in Australia!)
  4. 4. I’ve picked 3 insights that I think might be most interesting.
  5. 5. Insight #1: Aligned autonomy is an ongoing struggle.
  6. 6. Insight #2: Building teams in the context of high growth requires different assumptions.
  7. 7. Insight #3: Consulting companies are better at building high-performing teams fast.
  8. 8. Insight #1: Aligned autonomy is an ongoing struggle.
  9. 9. What do I mean by “aligned autonomy”?
  10. 10. Autonomy
  11. 11. Autonomy Alignment
  12. 12. https://blog.crisp.se/2016/08/23/henrikkniberg/alignment-at-scale-agile-africa-keynote
  13. 13. What’s so hard about aligned autonomy?
  14. 14. Hypergrowth! (aka scale) Politics (aka people are involved) “Air Sandwich”
  15. 15. Hypergrowth! (aka scale) Politics (aka people are involved) “Air Sandwich”
  16. 16. Does the following look familiar to you?
  17. 17. Clear vision and future direction. Day-to-day action.
  18. 18. “An Air Sandwich is a strategy that has clear vision and future direction on the top layer, day-to-day action on the bottom, and virtually nothing in the middle...” Nilofer Merchant https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/collaborative-strategy-with-nilofer-merchant/
  19. 19. “We need X, figure it out!” doesn’t actually work
  20. 20. Hypergrowth! (aka scale) Politics (aka people are involved) “Air Sandwich”
  21. 21. 1 Tribe ~20 people Multiple Product Area / Tribes ~200 people(After peeling off an entire Mission along the way) 2015 2019
  22. 22. AKA more than doubling every year. (even with exits and backfill)
  23. 23. Hypergrowth! (aka scale) Politics (aka people are involved) “Air Sandwich”
  24. 24. https://labs.spotify.com/2014/03/27/spotify-engineering-culture-part-1/
  25. 25. “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable.” Fred Rogers
  26. 26. What I don’t think works for alignment
  27. 27. Spreadsheets
  28. 28. One-off speeches
  29. 29. From Spotify: Plan Do Flush issue 5
  30. 30. What I think works for alignment
  31. 31. “Catchball” (back-and-forth dialogue) “Rhythm” (aka meetings) Boundary objects (shared models and maps)
  32. 32. “Catchball” (back-and-forth dialogue) “Rhythm” (aka meetings) Boundary objects (shared models and maps)
  33. 33. “Catchball” is a Toyota/Lean metaphor.
  34. 34. Imagine throwing a ball to someone, they throw it back, you throw it back, etc.
  35. 35. Alignment dialogue should be like this.
  36. 36. Alignment dialogue is not one-way.
  37. 37. Alignment dialogue is typically not just one back-and-forth...
  38. 38. ...especially when it matters.
  39. 39. Reporting line
  40. 40. Peer-to-peer
  41. 41. Vertical catchball
  42. 42. This doesn’t get any back-and-forth.
  43. 43. This does.
  44. 44. Lateral catchball
  45. 45. The following doesn’t work.
  46. 46. “I’m sure they know we’re depending on them.”
  47. 47. “We’ve marked them as a dependency in a spreadsheet that none of us regularly check.”
  48. 48. The following seems to work… (at least better)
  49. 49. “We’ve talked directly about this.” “They have us in their OKRs.” (or whatever their planning approach is) “We have a regular sync.”
  50. 50. “Catchball” (back-and-forth dialogue) “Rhythm” (aka meetings) Boundary objects (shared models and maps)
  51. 51. Serendipity Informality 1:1 Deliberate Explicit n:n
  52. 52. As an example...
  53. 53. ● “R&D” = “research & development” = product development arm of Spotify as opposed to business operations ● “Squad” = cross-functional team ● “Tribe” = collection of Squads working on a shared mission ● “TPDI” = 4 main functions we have in R&D: Technology, Product, Design, Insights. They all have independent reporting lines. ● Tribe leadership team - Typical consists of one lead from each of TPDI but varies depending on context or other circumstances ← (I typically operate here) Crash course in Spotify jargon
  54. 54. “Tribe R&D Leads” Open-ended Participants Agenda Key events Problem-solving Whatever is top of mind Tribe Leads (TPDI + Coach)
  55. 55. Open-ended Participants Agenda Key events Problem-solving Whatever is top of mind Tribe Leads (TPDI + Coach) Add PMs and CLs “Tribe R&D Leads”
  56. 56. Open-ended Participants Agenda Key events Problem-solving Whatever is top of mind Tribe Leads (TPDI + Coach) Add PMs and CLs Add Senior ICs “Tribe R&D Leads”
  57. 57. Started to feel clunky...
  58. 58. The larger the meeting the longer it takes to get to depth.
  59. 59. “R&D Leads” “R&D Leads” “Tribe Leads” “Squad Delivery syncs” Open-ended problem-solving Smaller groups More focused agenda
  60. 60. Started to feel like meetings were redundant...
  61. 61. “R&D Leads” “R&D Leads” “Tribe Leads” “Squad Delivery syncs” “Tribe Leads” “OKR sync” “Squad leads sync” Open-ended problem-solving Smaller groups More focused agenda Less redundancy More focused agenda
  62. 62. The balancing act
  63. 63. The larger the meeting the longer it takes to get to depth.
  64. 64. The less perspectives in a meeting the less likely problems are detected.
  65. 65. “Catchball” (back-and-forth dialogue) “Rhythm” (aka meetings) Boundary objects (shared models and maps)
  66. 66. “A term from the sociology of science, “boundary object” refers to an object (physical or mental) that allows groups with different goals to coordinate their actions.” Brian Marick http://www.exampler.com/blog/2011/05/22/business-value-as-a-boundary-object-2/
  67. 67. https://www.jpattonassociates.com/read-this-first/glad-we-all-agree-2/
  68. 68. A shared model or “boundary object” facilitates real over fake alignment.
  69. 69. Some shared models tried/used in 1 Tribe.
  70. 70. Metaphors
  71. 71. Flywheels This is Amazon’s flywheel. Replace with actual Spotify flywheels that I’m not comfortable sharing publicly.
  72. 72. “Design hierarchy of needs” https://medium.theuxblog.com/design-hierarchy-of-needs-the-product-owners-guide-29ceb28205ae
  73. 73. Campaign Setup Segmentation Creative Editor Scheduling A/B Testing Rendering User Protection Delivery Reporting Process/Journey Map
  74. 74. Machine learning System context diagrams https://c4model.com/
  75. 75. Cause and effect diagrams
  76. 76. The balancing act
  77. 77. If the model is too simple, it’s misleading.
  78. 78. If the model is too fancy, it’s confusing.
  79. 79. Whatever works is the right model or map.
  80. 80. What works may change over time.
  81. 81. Insight #1: Aligned autonomy is an ongoing struggle.
  82. 82. Hypergrowth! (aka scale) Politics (aka people are involved) “Air Sandwich” Because...
  83. 83. Therefore... “Catchball” (back-and-forth dialogue) “Rhythm” (aka meetings) Boundary objects (Shared models and maps)
  84. 84. Insight #2: Building teams in the context of high growth requires different assumptions.
  85. 85. What do I mean by “high growth”?
  86. 86. 1 Tribe ~20 people Multiple Product Area / Tribes ~200 people(After peeling off an entire Mission along the way) 2015 2019
  87. 87. AKA more than doubling every year. (even with exits and backfill)
  88. 88. What’s so hard about building teams with high growth?
  89. 89. Can’t rely on cultural osmosis Can’t assume stable teams
  90. 90. Can’t rely on cultural osmosis Can’t assume stable teams
  91. 91. This is kind of straight-forward...
  92. 92. Can’t rely on cultural osmosis Can’t assume stable teams
  93. 93. The new people outnumber the veterans.
  94. 94. Default culture is NOT what pre-exists.
  95. 95. Default culture becomes whatever new people bring with them.
  96. 96. What I don’t think works for building teams with high growth
  97. 97. Presumptive team splits
  98. 98. “This will eventually be a separate team so we might as well split it now…”
  99. 99. OR
  100. 100. “We need to split the team because teams shouldn’t have more than N members.”
  101. 101. Unclear on mission, missing skills Disengage or quit Fill time with low-value activity Get bored
  102. 102. What I think works for building teams with high growth
  103. 103. Deliberate cultureStructure follows strategy Organic org design
  104. 104. Deliberate cultureStructure follows strategy Organic org design
  105. 105. “Unless structure follows strategy, inefficiency results.” Alfred D. Chandler Jr
  106. 106. As an example...
  107. 107. ● “Squad” = cross-functional team ● “Tribe” = collection of Squads working on a shared mission Reminder: Spotify jargon
  108. 108. (For us) Tribe missions are much more stable than Squad missions.
  109. 109. Therefore...
  110. 110. Tribes should be more stable than Squads.
  111. 111. Emphasise Tribe identity over Squad identity
  112. 112. Encourage movement and collaboration across Squads
  113. 113. NOTE: The point is NOT “Tribes should be more stable than Squads.”
  114. 114. The point is...
  115. 115. Structure should follow strategy
  116. 116. Deliberate cultureStructure follows strategy Organic org design
  117. 117. This is how I approach splitting (Squads, Tribes, etc.)
  118. 118. Wait for seams to appear, that is, clunkiness in communication flow and interaction patterns, especially meetings.
  119. 119. Nudge things apart, that is, separate rhythms and events.
  120. 120. Formalise the split. If done correctly, this is mostly an acknowledgement and non-event.
  121. 121. The target reaction is something like “Finally!” OR “Well, obviously!”
  122. 122. 1.Wait for seams to appear 2.Nudge things apart 3.Formalise the split
  123. 123. Deliberate cultureStructure follows strategy Organic org design
  124. 124. 1. Artifacts 2. Espoused Beliefs and Values 3. Basic Underlying Assumptions Edgar Schein’s 3 Levels of Culture
  125. 125. There is no such thing as universal “bad culture” but a culture can be incompatible with a strategy.
  126. 126. 1. Diagnosis 2. Guiding Policy 3. Coherent Actions Richard Rumelt Strategy Kernel
  127. 127. 1. I can’t accept the diagnosis 2. I can’t accept the guiding policies 3. Therefore I won’t engage in the actions because they will seem nonsensical. An incompatible culture means...
  128. 128. If you are not deliberate about culture, you will have random strategic problems.
  129. 129. Default culture becomes whatever new people bring with them...
  130. 130. … unless you a much more deliberate about occupying that space.
  131. 131. 1. Role modelling 2. Systems (processes, tools, etc.) 3. Symbols 3 tools for deliberate culture
  132. 132. Insight #2: Building teams in the context of high growth requires different assumptions.
  133. 133. Because... Can’t rely on cultural osmosis Can’t assume stable teams
  134. 134. Therefore... Deliberate culture Structure follows strategy Organic org design
  135. 135. Insight #3: Consulting companies are better at building high-performing teams fast.
  136. 136. Why are consulting companies faster at building teams?
  137. 137. No choice, no time
  138. 138. Revenue is based on billable hours.
  139. 139. Clients don’t want to pay for setup time.
  140. 140. Therefore...
  141. 141. Get fast at building high-performing teams.
  142. 142. What I think matters to build high-performing teams fast
  143. 143. Focus on craft, not mission Practice teaming and re-teaming Same training, same assumptions
  144. 144. Focus on craft, not mission Practice teaming and re-teaming Same training, same assumptions
  145. 145. You can hit the ground running, if you don’t have to stop to negotiate roles, rhythms, rituals.
  146. 146. When I started at ThoughtWorks
  147. 147. “I don’t know you but I can assume you’re into XP and Martin Fowler.”
  148. 148. AKA being much more particular in hiring (though watch out for D&I)
  149. 149. Alternatively...
  150. 150. At some point after I started: ThoughtWorks University
  151. 151. https://www.thoughtworks.com/careers/graduates “You’ll spend five weeks with ThoughtWorkers from around the world, discovering our values, practices and principles, and hearing all the best stories.”
  152. 152. AKA much more involved onboarding (e.g., 4 - 6 weeks)
  153. 153. Focus on craft, not mission Practice teaming and re-teaming Same training, same assumptions
  154. 154. “we need teams of missionaries, not teams of mercenaries.” John Doerr, via Marty Cagan
  155. 155. Enthusiasm for purpose doesn’t compensate for lack of skill.
  156. 156. Granted...
  157. 157. Skilled craft doesn’t excuse participation in an unethical mission.
  158. 158. Consultants focus on craft because clients are typically not that interesting...
  159. 159. “Time spent on Open Source” “How interesting is the client?”
  160. 160. Craft-building sessions I think worked
  161. 161. Brown Bag sessions Facilitate workshops or presentations on interesting topics over lunch at the client or back at the office.
  162. 162. Hack Nights Meet-up after work to work on personal or Open Source projects together.
  163. 163. https://www.meetup.com/Progressive-Hack-Night/events/hrkfjryzqbgb/
  164. 164. Coding Dojos A pair demonstrates how they solve a problem with an audience. I especially liked the randori style with rotation and audience participation.
  165. 165. Mob Code Review I remember doing this with reviewing coding submissions. I think this is a very effective design taste calibration activity.
  166. 166. How should this happen when the work IS interesting?
  167. 167. Still have these kind of extracurricular craft events? (practice vs working)
  168. 168. Modify how work is done to accommodate more practice? (aka regular on-the-job training)
  169. 169. Unless something else pops up, I’d like to explore this next year.
  170. 170. Focus on craft, not mission Practice teaming and re-teaming Same training, same assumptions
  171. 171. Consulting company Product company Typical lifetime of team Weeks to months Multiple quarters
  172. 172. “If it hurts, do it more often” https://martinfowler.com/bliki/FrequencyReducesDifficulty.html
  173. 173. Insight #3: Consulting companies are better at building high-performing teams fast.
  174. 174. Because... No choice, no time
  175. 175. Therefore... Focus on craft, not mission Practice teaming and re-teaming Same training, same assumptions
  176. 176. ...and non-consulting companies can do those things too!
  177. 177. 3 insights from 4 years at Spotify
  178. 178. Insight #1: Aligned autonomy is an ongoing struggle.
  179. 179. Hypergrowth! (aka scale) Politics (aka people are involved) “Air Sandwich” Because...
  180. 180. Therefore... “Catchball” (back-and-forth dialogue) “Rhythm” (aka meetings) Boundary objects (Shared models and maps)
  181. 181. Insight #2: Building teams in the context of high growth requires different assumptions.
  182. 182. Because... Can’t rely on cultural osmosis Can’t assume stable teams
  183. 183. Therefore... Deliberate culture Structure follows strategy Organic org design
  184. 184. Insight #3: Consulting companies are better at building high-performing teams fast.
  185. 185. Because... No choice, no time
  186. 186. Therefore... Focus on craft, not mission Practice teaming and re-teaming Same training, same assumptions
  187. 187. Questions? Ideas? Advice?Jason Yip @jchyip https://www.spotifyjobs.com/
  188. 188. How does what I said about alignment fit with what Gene said about lunch factor?Jason Yip @jchyip https://www.spotifyjobs.com/

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