Asier's thoughts

Blogging about software development

Standardisation kills innovation

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I’ve recently re-watched the video from Spotify about their culture at work. It’s a really cool video, if you haven’t watched it yet you should. I’ll wait.

Part 1

And part 2

It’s been a year since I first watched it. I understand now much better many of the things they talked about. I guess because these are things I have experienced through the last year.

One of the things that stuck in my head is that autonomy is more important than standardisation.

In Spotify teams are quite autonomous. They make their decisions based in their own rules instead of following some general company rules. Rules are not good when you want innovation. Standardisation kills innovation. How can you try new things if each time you want you have to change some rule in the company? How can you learn? How  you grow? Isn’t it better to keep this rules down just to the team? You will just have to convince your team instead of the whole company!

I’ve seen a pattern coming into place in software companies who are changing from product to project teams, they are adopting standards! In these companies teams instead of working in a specific product in a company work in different products all the time. Each product will be changed by more than one team through its lifetime. In order to make everybody’s life easier everybody will have to be on the same page. Therefore the need to standardise everything: which tools to use, frameworks, naming conventions, coding standards, methodologies, ways of testing, branching, deployments, code reviews, how to write a commit message.. You need to have the same rules for every team so changing from one product to another it’s not a pain in the ass..

Now, let’s say you or your team doesn’t like one of these “rules” or just thinks it could be improved. Good luck if you want to change any of that easily.
Standards make change hard, they give no much autonomy to teams and makes continuous improvement difficult. And autonomy it’s important not just for innovation, also for job satisfaction as mentioned in Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us.

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