Scaling Agile with Tribes

Without teamwork, corporations fall flat. By promoting teamwork in the form of agile tribes, each tribe forms their own cultural identity, thus initiating a shared presence that opens the door to vulnerability and trust. Identity is essential to human growth and organizational culture and identity is essential to corporate success. Due to a feeling of belonging and a strong sense of identity, such tribes promote employee engagement and contribute to employee satisfaction.


Commonly seen in project management for software development, the term “agile” refers to the breaking down of larger projects into smaller tasks allowing for frequent assessments and realignment of project plans. In a sweeping trend, agile tribes are popping up in tech companies across the country. Agile tribes are small divisions within a company that are formed based on initiatives to promote bonds that produce further interaction and collaboration towards an end-goal.

Tribe members possess complementary and overlapping skill sets, which allows for full immersion into shared goals. For example, one team may consist of one software developer specialized in application development, a graphic designer with expertise in web design and graphics, a project manager to own and lead the project, and a quality assurance specialist to ensure value in the finished project. Each player brings with them a specialized skill set that corresponds well with the others.

Therefore, it is vital to form solid agile tribes and the first step in doing so is to hire employees with strong collaboration skills who are passionate and reliable. Agile tribes shift the perspective of value from what is produced to who is producing. Essentially, agile tribes shifts focus to the people in your company, asserting each member of an agile tribe as a vital component to the value produced by the company.

How do you build these tribes? Teach by example. No structure thrives if leadership is not on board. Great tribe members make dynamic leaders and dynamic leaders make great tribes. When screening potential hires for your company, pay close attention to each potential hire’s tendencies toward autonomy and their prospective ability to work with others. Possessing empathy and vulnerability allows a person to adapt to other’s viewpoints and enables the trust and camaraderie that makes a tribe successful. And, success equals value.

Spotify is a dynamic example of the use of agile teams broken down into squads, tribes, chapters and guilds. To learn more about Spotify’s “agility,” here is their white paper outlining their use of agile teams.

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