Mark Post, co-founder and CSO  

At a glance

Spotify is a streaming service that provides customers with access to millions of digital songs, podcasts, and videos from artists all over the world

It is free to play music, but you can upgrade to Spotify Premium in order to download music, avoid ad interruptions, play any song or skip songs (without limitations)

Statistics


Founded: 2006 | Headquartered: Stockholm, Sweden | Offices: 19 countries | Founders: Daniel Ek, Martin Lorentzon | 2018 Revenue: $5.987 billion | 2018 Net Income: $88.65 million | Employees: 2,500 |

Perception: 4.1 stars on Glassdoor/147 reviews

Funding: $2.56 billion | Tracks available: 40m

 How Spotify Operates Today 

Employees rarely works the same job for more than 2 years - CEO says that

is on purpose

Borrowed the concept from LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, who viewed jobs as "tours of duty" that should be carried out over two to five years. Most importantly, a realistic tour of duty lets both sides be honest about their goals and time horizons, which is a necessity for trust

Employee Alignment

Spotify's mission, vision & values motivate 67% of Spotify employees. A focused mission statement and cohesive core company values are vital to maintaining employee alignment

“Which of the following set of company values is most meaningful to you?”

Scaling Agile @ Spotify 

with Squads, Tribes, Chapters and Guilds

Squads 

  • Designed to feel like a mini start-up

  • A self-organizing team and decide their own way of working

  • They have all the skills and tools needed for a long term mission, to design, develop, test, and release to production 

 

Tribes 

  • Grouping of squads working in related areas. The tribe can be seen as the “incubator”  and have a fair degree of autonomy

  • Located in the same office and sit near each other for collaboration

  • SIze of a tribe based on Dunbar’s Number (<100 people)

Chapter 

  • Offers communication and relationships across function 

  • This is the glue that keeps the company together, it gives some economies of scale without sacrificing too much autonomy

  • The chapter is your small family of people having similar skills and working within the same tribe

Guilds 

  • A more organic and wide-reaching “community of interest”, a group of people that want to share knowledge, tools, code, and practices degree of autonomy

  • Chapters are Tribe Specific while Guilds reach across organization

  • Some examples are the web technology guild, the tester guild, the agile coach guild

A Culture of Innovation and Growth

How Spotify gets their employees to a

“growth” mindset

Training available to all and learning to embrace challenges, criticism, and development opportunities. Focus on ‘effort and learning’ rather than ‘smart and safe’. Set public examples; for example. CEO talks about own failures and what he’s learned - becoming comfortable 

SINCERE

"We mean it. The best relationships are based on mutual trust and respect. We want to be fair and transparent in everything we do. We don’t micro-manage, we trust each other to do a great job"  -  Johanna Bolin Tingvall, HR

 

 Weaknesses in Organizational Culture 

Where does Spotify fall short?

1. The company doesn't have a clear vision

for the future 

“It definitely feels like they're not sure where to go next. They've got a great music streaming app, but it's hard to see what the next steps are and that "fog" can be felt in the day-to-day development cycle sometimes”

2. Teams have strong autonomy, but this can create dysfunction at a macro level

“Because of the autonomy, everyone does what they want. There is not a clear process so a lot falls through the cracks.” 

3. Certain departments and office locations lack a clear trajectory for career growth

“If you work in a satellite office, there is zero room for growth or promotion or title changes. They do not have "career paths". Also if you are in the Ad Sales/ Revenue org, the chances of moving or exploring other departments or teams is zero.”

4. Employees do not feel that they have the leeway to disconnect which leads to burnout

“No one disconnects - you're expected to answer emails during vacation or your boss will text you.

https://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Spotify-company-culture-Reviews-EI_IE408251.0,7_KH8,23_IP2.htm

Spotify is not yet fully integrated because

  1. There is no proof that a design thinking mindset is organization-wide and not just product/engineering

  2. There is employee and user feedback that design is not fully integrated

Spotify fosters collaboration in the following ways:

  1. They have a process in place for discussing multiple ideas, testing and revising numerous possible solutions

  2. They encourage debate to practice appreciating alternate POVs

  3. They leverage consumer needs & data to protect against designs being swayed by the loudest voice

  4. They ensure that designers and data scientists collaborate

  5. Innovation is core to HR and recruiting

  6. They celebrate all team wins, big and small

https://corporate-rebels.com/spotify-2/

https://hrblog.spotify.com/2017/02/03/social-at-spotify-whats-it-all-about/
Junginger, S. (2009). “Design in the organization: Parts and wholes.” Research Design Journal.

How can we tap into authenticity within Spotify’s culture? 

 Culture Change Journey: 12 Cultural Keys 

  1. Power and Influence

  2. Planning and Goal Setting

  3. Problem Solving

  4. Decision Making

  5. Conflict Management

  6. Incentive and Reward

  7. Hiring

  8. Role Definition

  9. Customer Interface

  10. Teamwork

  11. Structure

  12. Aligned Values

At present, it is an organization that enables agile at scale and unleashes the power of small autonomous teams

 

Their values focus on being innovative, collaborative, sincere, passionate, playful

 

As they continue to grow at a fast pace, it will be necessary for Spotify to ensure externally hired leaders are aligned with design thinking and company values.

2. Planning & Goal Setting Assessment

Planning & Goal Setting issues exist at both individual and systemic levels

 

At an individual level, growth is not always well-managed, with employees feeling as though they lack opportunities for upward mobility

 

At a systemic level, there is not a clearly articulated vision for the future of the service, which can lead to “fog” and a lack of motivation

10. Teamwork Assessment

As we saw, Spotify has a well-thought-out team structure that is built for collaboration. However, because there is such a focus on individual units, cross-team communication can break down

 

As Spotify continues to grow, they will need to question the assumption that they are truly collaborative in order to create opportunities for engagement cross-company

 Culture Change Journey: Blue Print 

Set clear benchmarks for employee growth

 

Include employees in constant co-creation sessions to determine the future of the service

 

Ensure transparency in goals

Find a balance between autonomy and process so that teams can relate to each other’s work and collaborate more seamlessly

 

Add liaisons to interface between squads, tribes, chapters and guilds to ensure macro collaboration

Continue to hire leaders and employees who share similar values and have experience in design thinking & innovation 

 

Brief new leaders on company values and design thinking

By committing to the core values particularly collaboration Spotify can unleash authenticity in its corporate culture which will trickle down, conveying a deep sense of caring for its employees and consumers alike

© 2020 by Surabhi Mittal