Problems that organizations of various profiles face are often associated with managerial difficulties caused by both general market barriers and individual obstacles. On the example of Spotify, a Swedish streaming platform that provides services for legal listening to audio content, some issues have been considered. Due to the division of the company’s personnel into small teams in which tasks are performed separately by the type of outsourcing, the excessive spans of control are the result of an increased burden on managers who are forced to monitor a wide range of units. A related problem is weak role distribution because, in the context of distinctive cultural, professional, and other characteristics of employees in groups, this is difficult to manage the operational process effectively, which, in turn, affects planning negatively. Introducing a knowledge-sharing system and integrating the TRIAD model into Spotify’s workflow are proposed as potentially viable solutions to the presented issues.
Spotify’s Issues of Operational Activities and Organizational Design
Establishing productive working regimes in companies operating globally depends largely on how sustainable and efficient these enterprises’ organizational designs are. Management aspects related to control over the workforce, available assets, and other activities determine performance and can be critical factors in maintaining a high reputation in the target market. As a business under consideration, the world-famous streaming service Spotify will be reviewed with a focus on the organizational features of this Swedish platform and the challenges that prevent adequate development in its market niche. Based on the analysis of credible sources, excessive spans of control and weak role distribution are highlighted as the key problems of Spotify, which are caused by the ineffective control policy. In the context of sustainability implications, these issues entail underperformance and, therefore, the risks of loss of competitive advantage, which is crucial to avoid in a dynamic innovation environment. The organizational model of the business in question differs from traditional entrepreneurial approaches to capital accumulation, and addressing the presented issues can help reinforce management practices associated with human resource management and the allocation of available resources.
Spotify’s Main Problems
As a legal service for streaming music, audiobooks, podcasts, and other audio products, Spotify is one of the world’s most popular platforms in its market niche. According to Smite et al. (2019), over the past ten years, the company has shown steady growth and is an example of an agile business that can quickly adapt to consumer interests and effectively segment the target audience. At the same time, given the global operation of the service, one can note that management is one of the most vulnerable aspects of Spotify’s operation. This is due to the difficulties associated with the remote work of a number of employees and the diverse nature of the business’s assets since the organization works predominantly with digital content and, therefore, is forced to operate with online transactions. As a result, the company’s activities are complicated by the challenges of allocating assets and insufficiently competent supervision of personnel performance.
The work of Spotify employees involves not only communicating with the audience and adjusting digital content but also constant analytical activities. In their assessment of the company’s performance, Mankins and Garton (2017) note that the management distributes tasks to individual and small teams that are sometimes not connected to each other either regionally or operationally. According to the researchers, in the context of planning, this practice has a negative impact on long-term analytical work because employees do not interact with each other and cannot establish a smooth decision-making process because this format of setting tasks does not imply the collective engagement of personnel in planning (Mankins & Garton, 2017). As a result, productivity suffers due to weak management control and a lack of comprehensive performance measurement, which are the crucial aspects of agile and profitable operations.
In addition to the problem of weak role distribution, the excessive spans of control are the consequences of an inefficiently organized management policy. Mankins and Garton (2017) analyze the aforementioned issue of splitting the Spotify staff into a large number of separate working groups and argue that, in such conditions, leaders have to check the intermediate outcomes of subordinates’ activities for much longer. The range of monitoring tasks is expanding, which affects the success of monitoring. In a traditional work environment, managers have an opportunity to measure productivity by evaluating overall performance results. In Spotify, due to the use of outsourcing as a practice to delegate tasks remotely, control is more challenging due to the fragmentation of the team and distinctive performance indicators. Therefore, the burden on the administrative apparatus increases due to the extended spans of control.
The distribution of tasks in diverse groups is complicated and is one of the main issues in Spotify. In addition, as Smite et al. (2019) state, even building individual teams and running them take many efforts. The researchers explain this by the fact that membership and design conventions may differ depending on many criteria, such as legislative regulations of various regions, fiscal control principles, and many other factors (Smite et al., 2019). The distribution of tasks requires a comprehensive and adequate assessment of the operating environment, but due to the aforementioned constraints, discrepancies between the anticipated and planned outcomes of operational activities are likely. Thus, the excessive spans of control and weak role distribution are the key issues in the organizational design of Spotify.
Analysis of Spotify’s Problems
To evaluate the issues presented problems of Spotify regarding its operational activities and organizational design, this is essential to take a closer look at the specifics of the company’s business and draw conclusions regarding the premises of the issues. Concerning the problem of the excessive spans of control, Remenova et al. (2018) note that there are actual and optimal boundaries. In the first case, the real situation is taken into account when, regardless of existing business norms and development models, the actual spans of control are considered from the perspective of the employee number, management positions, and other relevant data (Remenova et al., 2018). Regarding the optimal boundaries, the main focus is on the manager-subordinate ratio in which control is carried out as efficiently as possible without taking into account the accompanying restraints and barriers (Remenova et al., 2018). In relation to Spotify, the actual spans of control are critical to consider because the organization has real difficulty with the spectrum of control over disparate small groups, and the analysis of optimal indicators, in this case, is not relevant because this will not help correct the situation in the company.
Analyzing role distribution should be based on the specifics of Spotify’s business, particularly its development policy and interaction with the target audience. Since this platform is an online application where users can select relevant audio content, personnel tasks are presented in a wide range. Edison et al. (2018) pay attention to the functions of developers and note that under these terms, a large list of positions is meant – analysts, programmers, designers, and other specialists who optimize the interface, establish a system of paid services, and perform many other crucial tasks. In such conditions, the distribution of responsibilities plays an extremely important role because the effective use of human resources depends on whether their combined activities are smooth and fast. Based on the problem of weak role distribution, one should take into account that multitasking, which is one of the features of the company’s activities, is difficult to implement in the conditions of individual groups’ disparate work. Thus, to discuss real positive changes as optimization solutions, this is critical to assess the business of the company in question from the perspective of its system of development and organizational environment.
Given the innovative nature of Spotify’s activities, one can note that the company adheres to an open development model that involves active interaction with external participants and the adoption of technologies and other developments in the digital market. Since the venture is a registered business, its operation can be regarded as that of a formal organization. According to Scott and Davis (2007), in such enterprises, the nature of power is structural rather than personal, and the roles of employees are clearly assigned according to specific responsibilities. At the same time, according to Mankins and Garton (2017), since Spotify is a new generation business, subordinates are endowed with autonomy, and the leadership role in the company implies communicating tasks rather than giving orders. In such an environment, employees are often free to choose work strategies, which has both pros and cons. For instance, without pressure from direct management, the staff demonstrates creativity and loyalty. However, too much autonomy is fraught with the lack of a clear work plan, which is characteristic of rational development models (Scott & Davis, 2007). Therefore, the discrepancy between the planned and real work outcomes is possible.
In an environment where staff autonomy is a natural phenomenon, performance control can be complicated by the ambiguity of managerial functions. Gunner et al. (2018) mention a span-of-control model, according to which one can evaluate the occupational choice of managers and preferences regarding their leadership styles. This framework allows for finding and evaluating how convenient and, at the same time, effective a particular approach to monitoring the productivity of subordinates is. With respect to Spotify, given the existing problem with the excessive spans of control, more attention should be paid to planning and decision-making with an emphasis on personnel management in accordance with more stringent monitoring principles.
While taking into account the open organizational system of Spotify, the company’s management should adjust the system of role distribution in the conditions of individual teams’ remote work. Edison et al. (2018) note the success of the open innovation strategy in modern digital enterprises but also emphasize collaboration as an essential attribute of successful activities. The more cohesive the work will be, the lower will be the risks of loss of productivity and unreasonable distribution of tasks among individual units. Therefore, the management of Spotify should be guided by the principles of an open organizational model when planning subordinates’ activities.
The organizational environment in which Spotify operates is dynamic and characterized by constantly changing trends due to continuous progress in the digital field. At the same time, given the fact that the company’s service is customer-oriented and offers personalized options for listening to audio content, the operation of the business can be considered in the context of the behavioral theory. According to Scott and Davis (2007), this concept covers a wide range of important operational aspects to assess, particularly restrictions on access to information, structured workflow, and the distinctive interests of the actors involved. Divided into many individual teams, Spotify’s staff is not limited by information containment. However, due to the flexibility of the schedule and the heterogeneity of tasks, the workflow cannot be called structured. In addition, employees’ different interests can be explained by distinctive cultural, professional, or other criteria. As a result, this theory reveals the difficulties in coordinating the work of Spotify’s personnel.
As another relevant concept, one can turn to the structural contingency theory. Scott and Davis (2007) explain it as an idea according to which this is impossible to determine the only correct approach to maintaining the sustainability of the entire organization. In other words, each company works individually, using its resources as required by the organizational environment, and being tied to one particular development algorithm can be fraught with the loss of productivity. However, despite the flexibility of Spotify’s business, this service cannot exist outside the target market and outside the overall entrepreneurial concept. Staff autonomy and management loyalty are relevant if there are no difficulties. Nonetheless, control over the distribution of roles in the company is complicated since managers have to cover a wide range of tasks to monitor due to the specifics of the division of personnel into groups. Therefore, the pursuit of coherence in Spotify cannot imply contingencies.
Need for Change
The urgency of organizational change in Spotify is driven by the aforementioned issues that need to be addressed through the formulation of an objective control strategy. Performance monitoring can be optimized while maintaining the overall dynamics of the company. Merida (2015) cites the example of King Solomon, who promoted appropriate strategic decisions designed to benefit the entire nation. This is essential for Spotify management to establish a monitoring system that could reduce the burden on line managers and help teams work in a more cohesive manner. Otherwise, the risks of losing control over interim results increase, which, in the end, can create severe problems for the company, including both financial and reputational challenges.
Workflow optimization can contribute to the sustainable development of the company. According to Guner et al. (2018), an appropriate business framework can help managers find adequate algorithms for controlling operational processes, for instance, a span-of-control model as a tool to help balance a growth path. Within the context of the market in which Spotify operates, the need to adapt monitoring gaps is a critical perspective in view of competition and ever-changing customer preferences. Moreover, the success of the company’s work directly depends on how competently resources are distributed, including human resources, which is natural in any business. Therefore, the need to take urgent steps to address the difficulties is an essential task for Spotify.
To move Spotify forward and address the aforementioned issues that hinder its development in the target market, some changes in the management process can be made. One of the potentially effective initiatives could be the introduction of a knowledge-sharing strategy, which, as Saffar and Obeidat (2020) note, is an aspect of the total quality management process. The authors remark that promoting a work mode in which employees professionally interact with each other and share experiences transforms organizational culture and expands the range of staff skills (Saffar & Obeidat, 2020). With respect to Spotify, this initiative may be relevant because segmenting employees into small groups is associated with poor communication, which, although due to a specifically created design where outsourcing is promoted, cannot be considered a rational approach to management and role distribution. By facilitating the sharing of knowledge through the convergence of the company’s individual teams, leaders can achieve more successful monitoring because the professionalism of subordinates will grow, and more accurate subtotals will be obtained. As a result, role distribution can be strengthened through the practice of knowledge sharing.
Addressing the problem related to the excessive spans of control in Spotify can also be performed through an appropriate model. In their study, Driskell et al. (2017) cite the TRIAD framework, which is based on the assessment of such crucial criteria of teamwork as dominance, sociability, and task orientation. These three axes can be the basis for transforming leadership because, by evaluating the aforementioned workflow criteria, leaders can improve the performance of the team while taking into account both individual factors, for instance, the cultural characteristics of subordinates and general performance parameters that affect productivity. The proposed TRIAD framework may expose specific barriers that prevent normal control over team activities. Moreover, this model can stimulate the optimization of related aspects, such as communication, engagement, and other significant nuances that largely affect the sustainability of organizational work. Thus, this framework can be valuable to Spotify executives not only as a tool to identify gaps in performance control but also as an algorithm to optimize various operational characteristics.
Creating conditions for productive work of staff and effective control is a significant initiative for the management of Spotify. This is due to not only considerations of profit but also to elementary Christian norms; as one of the biblical principles states, “We ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth” (“3 John 1:8,” n.d.). This statement is based on the idea that help from those who are able to give it is a righteous step. According to Merida (2015), God supports people by distributing responsibilities among those who deserve it. Therefore, by creating favorable conditions for the work of subordinates, leaders fulfill their immediate tasks.
Control over staff performance and role distribution in the team are topical issues for Spotify’s business. The reasons for them lie in the special structure of the company that, while operating in the digital market, organizes the work of employees in small groups. This entails poor communication and difficulties in monitoring subtotals, thereby causing poor planning. Relevant theories confirm the significance of changes to implement to address the problems presented. Promoting a knowledge-sharing strategy and implementing the TRIAD model are potentially effective steps to solve the issues related to the excessive spans of control and weak role distribution in Spotify.
3 John 1:8. (n.d.). English Standard Version Bible. Web.
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