February 22, 2021

Scrum at the Core of Adaptive Organizational Design

Many years ago, when I began working with Spotify in New York, Scrum was the agile process of choice. 3 roles, 5 events and 3 artifacts. The framework was in place and teams worked that way. Since then, Spotify has developed their own process often referred to as the Spotify model which is unfortunately often used as a blueprint by other companies.  

For example, when agile coaches from Spotify go on stage at the various conferences they mention at the start of their talks that the Spotify model is something that works for Spotify but they they like to share it with others. They also state that the model might not work for others, actually most likely not unless you are also in the digital music industry. By the end the talk many are so excited and try to copy the model and run into issues.

Organizational change is not "installed" like a blueprint, it takes time to do cause positive cultural change. Just like the Spotify coaches state in the beginning of their presentations, the process might not work as is. It requires tweaking and adjusting just like in an agile project. Not every organization requires guilds, tribes and chapters and for some companies the words are not a good cultural fit either. Spotify has had organic cultural change for years and the model seems to work great for them. The Spotify model did not emerge over night and is not static.  Process changes were refined, abandoned or kept. 

Fun fact, squads which are at the heart of the Spotify model, can and probably still use Scrum (I haven't worked with Spotify in a while but when I did there was Sprint Planning and Daily Scrum etc...). Scrum can bring the agile culture at the core to life and plays an important and integral part of any organizational design. But to have long-lasting cultural change and prepare an organization to become adaptive as a whole more is needed. 

20 years after the agile manifesto was written, we are entering an new era of adaptive organizational design, companies that can react to market changes or drive innovation. Adaptive organizations are more likely to inspect and adapt or sense and respond. As Scrum is not prescriptive it can be used outside of IT and be the core of an organizations adaptive design, the team. If you like to deepen the conversation about adaptive organizations, join me here.