Spotifying SAFe with Guilds, Chapters and Squads

Last month’s Agile Australia conference played host to both +Dean Leffingwell, the creator of the Scaled Agile Framework and +Anders Ivarsson, Spotify Agile Coach and co-author of the Scaling Agile @ Spotify paper. Those who were able to drag themselves (and their hangovers) out of bed early enough on day 2 of the conference were treated to an “Ask the experts” panel featuring both +Dean and +Anders, along with +Linda Rising and +James Shore.  I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that it was not long before an audience member asked what might seem like the obvious question – SAFe vs. “the Spotify model”.

After the mandatory cringe from +Anders (the Spotify folk really wish the rest of us would stop calling what they do the “Spotify Model”), both +Anders and +Dean were quick to agree that it was not an either or question. To quote +Dean Leffingwell, “We had +Henrik Kniberg in class last week and I think it would be fair to say we learned a ton from him and I think they will learn a ton from us.” As someone who has been using ideas from +Henrik Kniberg’s books and the Spotify folk since very early in my SAFe journey I must say I agree with the sentiment.

The first time I came across the Scaling Agile @ Spotify paper was when EDW Release Train Engineer +Wayne Palmer decided that the EDW Agile Release Train would benefit from creating a series of “Guilds”. Despite +Wayne‘s enthusiasm, I don’t think he got past telling us his great idea was “Guilds” before the rest of my leadership team laughed him out of the room, having quickly reached the consensus that “Guilds” sounded like something from Lord of the Rings and had no place on our Release Train! I remember +Wayne invoking the power of wikipedia in his eagerness to help us understand his vision. “According to Wikipedia, a Guild is a collection of artisans who are responsible for the practice of their craft.“, he argued. Resulting in only more laughter from the team. Not one to be easily deterred +Wayne took it on the chin and set about convincing me he was onto something…

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