Engineering culture built into a structure of cooperation
A big success factor in Spotify is its agile engineering culture built into organic structure of cooperation. They both enable this company hitting 2500 people to still operate alike a startup.
How does it work? Specialists from different areas work in a small interdisciplinary and autonomous teams. Each team focuses on one system (e.g. search) and have end-to-end responsibility for built staff: design, commit, deploy, maintenance, operations. With some boundaries, the autonomy means that the team decides what to build, how to build it and how to work together.
Network structure & culture
What makes this organic structure successful? While working together, people from different specialization (e.g. IT, UX, quality assistance) can solve any problem. Autonomy is motivating and helps the team learn and act really fast. Working within small teams is quite natural. Much more challenging is to make cooperation between many teams seamless and effective. Spotify puts a lot of attention here by focusing on the structure and culture.
The company knows that the most valuable communication happens in informal and unpredictable ways. And most organizational charts are an illusion. Hence, the Spotify lets its structure to be changed and flexible and more alike a network of teams than a hierarchical structure.
While any squad has its own mission, it’s important to align it with product strategy, company priorities and other squads. Here the culture comes in handy: be autonomous, but don’t suboptimize. Spotify describes it as playing a jazz in a band. Although each musician is autonomous and plays its own instrument, they listen to each other and focus on a whole song together.
The effect? Spotify has achieved something that few did - it wins with such giants as Google or Apple with its application for listening to online music.