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Squads

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Let’s call it a new kind of #squadgoals. Employers are increasingly organizing their employees into small, multidisciplinary groups often referred to as “squads”, “units” or “factions”. The re-arranging is part of a move toward embracing “Agile” and “Scrum” methodologies, based on the simple idea that individuals are often more productive as part of a close, cross-functional team than as a member of a large department comprising those with similar skillsets.

This alternative to traditional workplace organisation has been adopted by many well-known (primarily tech) companies. But, perhaps more than most, Sweden-based music steaming service Spotify’s early implementation has paved the way for Agile as the future of hierarchical work.

As Spotify began to scale, it wanted to maintain the same culture of innovation that enabled its early success – but it’s hard to operate like a disruptive start-up when your employee count balloons into the hundreds, then thousands. That’s why, in 2012, Spotify began organising employees into groups of about six to 10 people, each with a single task or assignment. Although team members don’t necessarily have the same expertise as their squad-mates, each squad has the combined expertise necessary to tackle that challenge.

Squads operate like their own start-up within a tech giant, choosing their own leaders, timetables and working methods. The Agile framework is disrupting other huge, matrix-style organisations, upending the traditional working structures of major companies including Apple, Netflix, HP and Bank of America. That’s almost certainly just the start.

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Image credit: Piero Zagami and Michela Nicchiotti.

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