Spotify Model, the Darkside

Ah, the Spotify Engineering Culture.

We've all heard the gloss:  Small, independent Squads organized into buzzwordy terms like "Tribes," and "Guilds." These terms hearken to days past in humanity, days of community and craftsmanship.

Here's what I take from the above:  None of that fricking matters.  What really matters is a throwaway blurb at the very end of the video, starting at 12m 30s.  Transcribed here:
We've learned trust is more important than control.  Why would we hire someone we don't trust?  Agile at scale requires trust at scale, which means NO POLITICS.  It also means no fear.  Fear doesn't just kill trust; it kills innovation.  Because, if failure gets punished, people will be afraid to try new things.

 There's the secret sauce:

  • Hire the right people.
  • Trust them.
  • Dump the politics.
  • Expect failure and deal with it appropriately.
* * *

So here's the thing with the above:  I question whether it's sustainable by any organization of human beings.  Organizations have a natural succession, like a forest.  When the forest is just beginning, certain types of plants and animals thrive.  As it moves towards being old-growth, those new plants just don't fit anymore.  Then, a fire comes and kills the forest, and the cycle begins anew.

Spotify seems dedicated to keeping itself in that 'Succession' phase, with maximal growth and competition.   Can it sustain that?  

The dark side of the model is, ironically, that it is so trusting of individual performance and correct behavior.  That is:
  • Talented individuals need to be in all the roles. (To the "Hire the right people" statement)
  • The organization must not apply too much control.
  • The org must staunch natural human social behavior (read: politics).
  • The org must embrace failure and not blamestorm.
Said a different way, the Spotify model trusts human beings to be "good."  Once sociopathic behavior emerges, intractable egos, or other issues emerge, there's no indication how to deal with it.  I'm sure there's a copout in there somewhere: "You're doing it wrong." (e.g. you made a bad hire, etc.)  

Look, one bad hire should not crater your product delivery, okay?

The tagline occurs to me is this:
I don't trust the code I WRITE.  Because of that, I write unit and integration tests.  QED: People are fallible.  The spotify model asks me to trust a conjoined web of dependencies to ship my product?!

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