Guilds solve two problems
Guilds at Spotify solve two problems:
- Improve the cross-boundary state of practice for critical skills / capabilities (community of practice);
- Help people engage with their passions and interests (community of interest)
There’s usually a blend of these problems in any Guild but there are generally two archetypes which I’ll call “strategic capability guilds” vs “hobby guilds”.
Hobby Guilds build “friend at work” type engagement; Strategic Capability Guilds build strategic capability.
Guilds have three kinds of activities
- Just hang out and talk about things;
- Run events. Hobby examples: Spotify Gaming (Twitch streams, Extra Life fundraising, etc.), Board Games (internal Table Top Day). Strategic capability example: typically an internal conference (though this has now been combined into one cross-Technology conference);
- Run initiatives to improve the state of practice — produce guidance, tools, frameworks, etc.
Guild structure starts minimally with a Slack channel and grows from there
The minimum structure for a Guild is a Slack channel (or similar equivalent).
One step above that, regular Guild meetings.
One step above that, a fika budget.
One step above that, explicit initiatives and/or larger events.
One step above that, an executive sponsor to provide larger funding and political clout.
There is typically a Guild Lead who is the point of contact and coordinator. This is generally a more senior person and I would suggest rotating the role.
Guild participation is optional but is recognised
Even for strategic capability guilds, participation is optional. Participation is not restricted to official roles and is based on interest. This is why Guilds are not equivalent to a formal functional structure.
However, active contribution in and/or leading Guilds is recognised in the promotion framework.