The Spotify Methods & Culture Recap

The Spotify Methods & Culture Recap


Spotify hosted an amazing conference in New York, where 60 invitees from around the globe came together to discuss cools things their company is doing around Culture and Methods. Comprised of lightening talks, workshops and open-spaces, the Sept 23 conference exceeded all my expectations. Here’s how.

Spotify is comfortable with vulnerability. It’s okay to elevate problems — evident by Jason Yip’s opening talk, “How things Don’t Quite Work at Spotify…and How We’re Trying to Solve It.” Jason tackles the issue of physically separated teams and how, “it’s hard to have empathy when you are ‘protected’ from contact with others.”

Spotify brings in astute experts, confident in presenting alternative ideas – Yuval Yeret asks if teams lose their esprit de corps when scaling agile. He explores team pride in cross-functional structures with questions like “do we scale collective ownership across teams or have cross-functional specialized teams?”

Spotify provides incredible workshops with actionable takeaways. In less than 60 minutes, Steve Denning taught us the three essential steps for how to give a compelling persuasive talk.

  1. Get attention – assume most people don’t want to attend your talk.
  2. Inspire desire – give people a real reason to rethink change
  3. Reinforce with reason – answer the how, what, and when questions.

Jeff Patton taught us Story Mapping basics, and addressed common problems for why story mapping doesn’t always go well:

  1. Often, there are too many people in the room and they lack the necessary knowledge level. What’s needed is the right combination and number of participants. Those who understand the business, the user’s perspective, and the development aspects create the essential balanced team for proper story mapping.
  2. A wandering goal level prohibits the correct focus on the intent — to “decompose the understanding of the business request from the perspective of a customer journey.”.Avoid too high or too low levels when it comes to story mapping.
  3. People get hung up by the narrative flow of the story. The guidance here is to focus on the linear step by step activity and not on all of the possibilities.

Spotify provides space for attendees to build their own agenda to discuss things that matter most to them. Two open spaces I attended tackled these questions:

  1. What is it about a company culture that enables them to great things? The answer? Generative Cultures (for details on Generative Culture, see the 2015 State of Devops Report)
  2.  How do companies define “good enough”, when it comes to creative work? Four options surfaced:
    1. Address the fear of never getting to go back and fix the embarrassing “good enough” deliverable.
    2. Timebox the work – the show must go on.
    3. The work is part of a larger picture – it’s not just about the creator of the work. “Designers don’t get to claim victory when the wire frames are done.” (h/t )
    4. SaaS is different from hardware – iterative changes are welcome.

Spotify brings agile, lean, and kanban leaders together to renew community, learning and purpose. They pull it off beautifully with a lovely venue, a fluid format, clear logistical communication, and — a fika. The event will live long in my memory as one of the best conferences ever.



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