One size fits both, none or all


I noticed this Techcrunch article about Spotify’s innovation and development processes a few weeks ago, but some of my recent discussions with clients made it even more timely. The article eloquently lays out an interesting approach to “agile” and “lean” processes.  And, it’s something that could definitely be copied by many larger organizations if they wanted. The key to me, however, was slightly different than what I think the author was pushing to: the theme that through the increased autonomy of the groups, the output created AND employee satisfaction actually goes up.

My angle on the whole thing is that Spotify like other startups has found a mixture of organization and autonomy that works for them! But, just as the article goes on to say…there are still growing pains. It’s not that Spotify doesn’t have structure and organization; rather it’s been creatively tailored to match what the growing company needs. Plus, it probably fits the way their employees and management want to work.  It’s not devoid of structure in both process and org, it’s just radically different than IT shops of the 80s-00s.

And, that’s the key.  There is really no one size fits all. An organization that’s in place could be completely fine, if the outcome that management, employees, investors, etc. want to achieve is in alignment, e.g. if you want to be a cost efficient company, building an org without controls, then continuous improvement may not be appropriate. Conversely, an innovative organization like Spotify might thrive on the very opposite (lack of formal reporting hierarchy and small, self-organized teams) as indicated in the article.

Organizations need to be designed with the full understanding of the goals and strategy in mind and then layer in the process and approach that match. Start with something practical and pragmatic.  Overtime, the goal for an organization should be to find that balance which suits them best.