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The guild is an organizational strategy that involves groups of different people with a common goal: sharing and learning. They were born as a solution to questions and needs that Agile Reloaded coaches began to perceive:
Who is a reloader?
What can we do to be attractive in people’s eyes? How do we cultivate growth, positive development and the opportunity to evolve in AR? How can we put even more “People” – our people – at the center of decisions, values or actions?
A little bit of History
The term guild (of uncertain origin, perhaps German perhaps Anglo-Saxon), was used in the Middle Ages to indicate the phenomenon of associative ties between professional groups. The main characteristic of these associations was to involve and enclose all individuals with the same objectives, habits, desires, needs.
If history teaches, man learns.
Where were they born?
In the modern corporate age, Spotify has developed an internal organizational approach that we at AR have taken inspiration from and adapted to our context: the guild structure.
The Agile principles are the foundations of this “model”. The organization of the work is developed through different units: the Squads, the Tribes, the Chapters and the Guilds.
Guilds are groups that can cross the entire organization. They allow people from different teams with well-defined rhythms to address topics of common interest to participants, even those outside of Spotify. Guilds stimulate collaboration and teamwork, encouraging cross-contamination between squads and thus sharing knowledge across the organization.
Guilds are therefore cross-team groups of people, which are created for the purpose of learning and sharing knowledge.
The reason for the guilds in Agile Reloaded
As previously mentioned, the guilds are born from the urgent need to have moments of learning, identifying solutions to propose later to interlocutors and customers.
Agile Reloaded has innovative components:
- the learning dimension;
- the search for novelty and experimentation.
In the past, learning happened individually and comparisons were random. Moreover, people in AR are different, from different places, with unique backgrounds and with varied experiential baggage.
Hence the need to give a structure to learning, as well as to have consolidated automatisms within the same structure. Also, the need to work together, to have a common language, to be united by a shared objective matured.
Finally, they wanted to bring order to the increasing complexity and variety of messages they wanted to convey.
The testing period for this new organizational model within Agile Reloaded began following the December 2019 Agile meeting that brought to light limitations of the previous organization. AR coaches started to desire protected spaces in which learning was recognizable and armored.
The guild is the moment aimed at team sharing and group improvement, as it responds to the demand for rhythm and meeting to work together.
Organizing an Agile Reloaded Guild
According to the principles of autonomy and self-organization, it is the individual to propose democratically the issues on which to focus the work in the guild; there are no authorities or guidelines. The process for the decision of the topic provides:
- democratic choice;
- self-organization of research and learning work.
In Agile Reloaded, you create three working groups per guild cycle. So, once themes are chosen, the team that will make up the guild is identified and the group can self-organize.
The guild lasts about 3 or 4 months, during which participants meet weekly. This type of organization not only creates a regularity of guild meetings, but also stimulates them by providing remuneration – meetings and interpersonal exchanges take place for business purposes during office hour.
Each guild has a personal budget that can be used during the pre-established working period according to participants.
Like any organizational modes, guilds have pros and cons. The main reason lies in the fact that this structural format has no universally recognized and applicable rules! Each company is on its own, each structure has peculiar groups and individuals – a situation clearly visible even from a minimal internal comparison between Spotify and AR. In the case of Agile Reloaded, the biggest obstacle was in the lack of constancy in the work of the teams, due to the different commitments in the agendas of the participants; in general, therefore, in the difficulty of self-organization of the guilds.With time and experience, the objectives of the work were revised and better defined. As for the topics, it was clarified that they should remain consistent with the internal topics of Agile Reloaded. Alongside, it was reiterated that a guild’s output had to meet one main requirement: to generate a product that could be shared within or outside of Agile Reloaded….
But whatever the outcome, we always celebrate at the end of the guild and we recognise the work done together!
Guilds can take on different purposes or come into existence for multiple reasons. External realities demonstrate the effectiveness and efficiency of such an initiative. E.g.: The Intrè group (“cousins” of AR) in three years has given birth to 45 different guilds, making this modus operandi its strength. For further information, we invite you to visit their website, at the link https://www.intre.it/gilde/ (italian version).
In Agile Reloaded several guilds have had successes both in our organization and in external projects. A concrete example is the “feedback” guild – which will be explored in more detail soon on our blog – and which is already seeing its output being tested. In the year and a half that we have been experimenting with learning space and time, we have clearly seen the potential of this value:
- the creation of a shared culture;
- the emergence and sharing of knowledge;
- the team development and consolidation.
The guilds in AR serve a shared goal, reflecting our unique and parent philosophy: putting “People” at the center of projects, decisions and actions.