Watch: Spotify Engineering Culture

A cool video outlining Spotify’s approach to engineering culture. You can see the full transcript here, but I’ve dropped some key points from the video below:

Agile > Scrum

  • When our first music player was launched in 2008, we were pretty much a Scrum company. Scrum is a well established agile development approach, and it gave us a nice team-based culture.
  • However, a few years later we had grown into a bunch of teams, and found that some of the standard scrum practices were actually getting in the way.
  • So we decided to make all this optional. Rules are a good start, but then break them when needed.
  • We decided that Agile matters more than Scrum, and agile principles matter more than any specific practices. So we renamed the Scrum Master role to Agile Coach, because we want servant leaders, more than process masters.
  • We also started using the term Squad instead of Scrum Team, and our key driving force became Autonomy.
  • So what is an Autonomous Squad?

Autonomous Squad

  • A squad is a small, cross-functional, self-organizing team. Usually less than 8 people.
  • They sit together and they have end-to-end responsibility for the stuff they build – design, commit, deploy, maintenance, operations; the whole thing.
  • Each squad has a long-term mission, such as  “Make Spotify the best place to discover music.” or internal stuff like “infrastructure for A/B testing”.
  • Autonomy basically means that the squad decides what to build, how to build it, and how to work together while doing it.
  • There are of course some boundaries to this, such as the squad mission, the overall product strategy for whatever area they are working on, and short-term goals that are renegotiated every quarter.

Why autonomy matter so much

  • So why is autonomy so important?
  • Well, because it’s motivating! And motivated people build better stuff. 
  • Also, autonomy makes us fast, by letting decisions happen locally in the squad instead of via a bunch of managers and committees.
  • It helps us minimize handoffs and waiting, so we can scale without getting bogged down with dependencies and coordination.


  • Now, None of this would work if it wasn’t for the people.
  • We have a really strong culture of mutual respect. I keep hearing comments like ”My colleagues are awesome” People often give credit to each other for great work, and seldom take credit for themselves.
  • Considering how much talent we have here, there is surprisingly little ego.
  • One big aha for new hires is that autonomy is kinda scary at first – you and your squadmates are expected to find your own solution, no one will tell you what to do. But it turns out, if you ask for help, you get lots of it and fast.
  • There’s genuine respect for the fact that we’re all in this boat together and need to help each other succeed.

Some nice take aways in here.



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