Spotify has an interesting “engineering culture”. A video describing their culture on YouTube doesn’t have nearly the number of hits that it should have. Granted, it is just a single company and they are in a niche market, but the nuggets of wisdom inherent in the video make watching the video worthwhile to anyone that wants to improve their organization.
So what does the video tell us? Actually, it tells us more than can be recounted in a single post. The video is twenty-eight minutes long and I enjoyed almost every one of those twenty-eight minutes.
One of the things that I got out of the video that, while not explicitly stated, was evident throughout. In Spotify the software engineers aren’t just part of a squad or a tribe or a guild, they are part of a family. And like all but the most dysfunctional of families (Kardashian’s anyone?) they have one goal in mind: to help the family.
Much like a parent uses different means to help their children grow and become contributing members of society, the Spotify family works on making the individuals as successful as possible, for the betterment of not only themselves but the family as a whole.
This is done by pointing you in the direction of where you need to go, but not telling you how to get there. But if you’re having a problem? Just let someone know and there will be a ton of help to guide you on your way. Let the person/squad try and if they need help, then step in.
One of the items mentioned continually was demos. Every couple of weeks, when working on a new feature or product, they’d demo what they had to make sure that they were going down the right path. They have a Spotify Hack Week twice a year and on Friday they demo what the various teams have built. In their culture, they continually demonstrate what they are working on whether it is internally to other members of their tribe or to the entire organization, or they enlist a group of external customers to try out new features before releasing it in the wild. The focus is on getting something out there as fast as possible to make sure that the right decisions are being made and that everyone is on the right track.
They don’t fear being told that they are going down the wrong track. In fact, they look for that feedback at every opportunity.
How often have you seen that in your own organization? How often have you seen people reach out for feedback, good or bad, in hopes of producing something better, something meaningful?
It’s different than the way many of us were taught. It’s different than the way that many organizations are run. Gone is the idea of keeping things “close to your chest”. Gone is the idea that no one, except for a select few, sees the final product until launch day. Open it up and let the world come in.
It’s interesting what you can create when the freedom to fail is a part of the culture.