[One] theory of organization is what we might call the theory of spontaneous order: that given a common need, a collection of people will, by trial and error, by improvisation and experiment, evolve order out of chaos — this order being more durable and more closely related to their needs than any kind of externally imposed order.

Anarchism as a Theory of Organization, Colin Ward, 1966.


  • A volunteer, cooperative effort to accomplish a specific goal.
  • Ephemeral by nature, and design. Some may be long-lasting, some may be very short lived.
  • Cross-team, cross-functional, and cross-disciplinary. Anyone is welcome, this is definitely not just for engineers.
  • Co-ops may do the work to accomplish a goal themselves (as time/commitments permit), and/or propose projects to leadership for prioritization.


  • Not hierarchical. At one of my recent startup experiences, it took less than two months for the "architecture guild" to be hijacked and turned into a defacto "architecture review board". And not for healthy reasons.
  • Not guilds. The word guild is overloaded with connotations that contradict the intended pattern. Plus copying Spotify isn't agile, it's cargo-culting. Spotify's "model" works for them because, bear with me, it's modeled after Spotify's unique organizational needs.

Example goals

  • Improve signal-to-noise ratios of our alerting.

Further Reading