Using “Tribes” to successfully implement Agile

agile tribe

As the Agile software development methodology continues to mature, companies are beginning to leverage new and interesting strategies to implement the concept at their shops. Introducing something as revolutionary as Agile can be a difficult task with older, more entrenched IT teams. Even as the movement celebrates its 15th anniversary this year, it still seems foreign to development teams used to the Waterfall and other traditional methodologies.

Some shops are beginning to organize their development, QA, and business stakeholder teams into groups known as Squads, Tribes, Chapters, and Guilds to better facilitate the collaboration and communication vital for a successful Agile transition. Let’s take a look at this concept to see if it makes sense for your company.

Defining Agile Tribes and Squads

This new method for organizing teams in an Agile shop first evolved at the music streaming company, Spotify. The smallest group in their organizational structure is known as a Squad, led by a Product Owner. They tend to sit together; work closely on the same projects, and typically include developers, testers, and business analysts.

A Tribe is made up of a collection of Squads which share space in a common area. For example, a company’s mobile software development Tribe contains separate Squads responsible for iOS, Android, and other mobile platforms. The Tribe Leader facilitates an environment where each Squad is able to collaborate and share findings with each other, but they aren’t necessarily working on the same projects.

Chapters and Guilds help develop the Individual and the Organization

Chapters are independent entities within the overall structure that group employees based on their actual job duties. Many shops will have a Developer Chapter, QA Chapter, Business Analyst Chapter, and so on. A Chapter Lead essentially serves as the direct manager for everyone in their chapter when it comes to salary reviews, skills development, etc.

Guilds are another, less formal, structure inside the organization that are similar to chapters in that they include employees from different tribes, but are instead focused on specific areas of interest, like web development, Agile coaching, etc. The Guild Coordinator serves as the leader. They support the technical growth of the organization by researching new ideas while sharing found insights, code examples, best practices, and more.

There is a separate operations team for handling network and server administration at Spotify, but enterprises already embracing DevOps can easily include employees in that role into relevant Squads and Tribes. In that scenario, creating Chapters and Guilds specifically for those workers also makes perfect sense.

A Constantly Evolving Structure

Spotify uses quarterly surveys and regular dependency reviews to ensure their organizational structure is successfully meeting the needs of the business. This helps to mitigate any clashes and redundancies between individual Tribes and Squads. Additionally, the scope of daily Scrums is able to expand by including more Squads if required on larger products.

Ultimately, these innovative managerial efforts by Spotify and other firms illustrate how embracing the Agile methodology — albeit combined with the organizational changes more typical of DevOps — lets enterprises reach new heights by fostering a highly efficient software development process.

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