Agile at Scale: How „The Spotify Model“ came to life and how it can be applied in a remote-work environment

Joakim Sunden
Consultant at Crisp

Joakim Sunden was one of the Agile Coaches at Spotify working together with the CTO to develop a new approach to Agile at scale, aka “The Spotify Model” with Tribes, Squads, Chapters and Guilds. He is also a well-known figure in the agile community, having organized and spoken at many international conferences and community events over the years. In 2016 he held a keynote at Agile Tour Vienna, since then we partner with Joakim and also offer a training course about „The Spotify Model“. For this post, we asked Joakim how „the Spotify Model“ cam to life and how it evolved since then.

How would you explain the Agile at Scale (Spotify Model) to someone who has never heard about it?

There’s no short answer to that so you’ll have to bear with me for some background story. Back in 2011 when I joined Spotify we had fewer than ten teams, or squads as we could come to call them. But we already experienced some growing pains and we knew that we would grow a lot as we had big plans and a lot of VC funding. We wanted to desperately avoid the increased bureaucracy and slow speed many of us had experienced with other big companies so we tried to come up with a new way of organizing ourselves to stay agile even at scale.

At it’s core it’s all about trusting the people you hire to do a great job and support them the best you can without getting in their way. This is why we called the core of our org an “autonomous squad”, a 5-10 people small and empowered product development team who are free to make a lot of more choices than any other team I had ever worked with in the past. Not just how to build things, but also to a large extent what to build. Within bounds of course.

One example of such bounds is the product direction, or goal, of your tribe. Each squad was part of a mission, or product area, called a “tribe”, together with maybe four to ten other squads. The Tribe Trio leadership would set a direction in dialogue with the squad and upper management, within which the squads would have freedom to explore different experiments to push the metrics the right way. Leadership is all about supporting you, making sure you have clarity of direction and everything you need to get there, in terms of skills, resources, decision power, etc.

That’s also true for your closest manager who leads the functional area, or Chapter as our name was, you’re part of together with 5-10 coworkers with similar skill sets. Kind of a matrix model where the manager is a servant leader responsible for your development and success rather than for making decisions and relaying information, and so on.

On a surface level this is what most people understand as “the Spotify Model”; Squads, Chapters, and Tribes. Because that’s the visible most apparent structural parts of it. In practice it’s much more about mindset, culture, leadership, all those things that’s really different and makes it tick, but harder to observe and understand. And that’s what we drill down into in the course. That and the finer mechanics of some of what we learned along the way and from living with this model and evolving it  for several years.

So the first white paper on the Spotify model came out in 2012. What has happened since then?

Wow, a lot really… One of the most concrete things that we abandoned rather quickly after the paper came out was the idea that a Chapter Lead, that is, an engineering manager, should work 50% as a manager and 50% as an individual contributor in a squad. That simply didn’t work, it was too much. Which is not to say that it’s not the right thing for other companies to be doing, but it didn’t work for us with very high expectations on the people development part of the role.

Great experience. Completely realistic view. Down to earth presenter.

– Attendee feedback, Agile at Scale Workshop with Joakim Sunden in 2019

This is by the way a reason I don’t want to talk a lot about changes to Spotify’s way of working, since people seem to perceive it as some kind of evolution and “what Spotify’s doing now must be so much better than the old white paper, so let’s take a short cut and go straight to where they are now”. How Spotify evolved is not necessarily the way your organization needs to evolve. What was working well at some point in one context may not be working well in another context. In an organizations of Spotify’s size there’s now also multiple different solutions to similar problems in different parts of the company. Some held on to the Chapter Lead model while others tried other approaches to solve for other problems, reach other goals.

So rather than talking about the evolution of a specific model we spend a lot of time in the course talking about what we learned from different things, the thinking behind it, how things evolved. All with the goal of course participants being better equipped to solve their own issues themselves when they get back to work. Using Spotify as an inspiration, for different types of solutions, but also the approach to change and problem solving that we applied. And not just Spotify, we drew inspiration from plenty of sources ourselves, and so should you of course.

Can the Spotify model also be applied in a remote work environment?

Absolutely! Spotify was early on a distributed company with product development in Stockholm, Gothenburg, New York and San Francisco. Later we added Boston, where I lived and worked for a few years, and more recently London. So a remote work environment was there pretty much from the start for me.

Working in a remote environment it’s even more important to let go of control and trust your people and teams to work autonomously to solve problems. It’s even more important to have good practices in place for collaborating and communicating, to create clarity of direction and communicate progress when working remotely.

When I left Spotify and started consulting with companies I was shocked to learn how bad most of them were at remote work practices and how many companies just lack the tools to be able to collaborate efficiently in a remote environment. Even though the course is very little about remote work practices per se, indirectly it’s a lot about supporting that way of working. Since we’re also running it remote, participants will be able to learn some really good tools for remote workshops, should they not already be familiar with them.  

Unsere Trainings: Natürlich auch Remote!

Genau wie alle anderen Teile der TechTalk musste auch der Trainingsbereich, dessen Herz natürlich die erst kürzlich neu geschaffenen DC Spaces sind, auf die neue Situation reagieren.

Daher stellen wir unser Trainingsangebot auf Remote-Kurse um, bei denen Sie mit unseren internationalen Speakern virtuell interagieren können. Da wir bei TechTalk sowie unsere Trainer langjährige Erfahrung mit Remote-Arbeit haben, können wir auf dieses Wissen bei der Organisation von unseren neuen Kursformaten zurückgreifen.

Die ersten Trainings die wir vollständig remote durchführen sind:

Agile at Scale, Inspired by Spotify

mit Joakim Sunden, 25.-28. Mai 2020

Agile Development techniques: Approval Testing

mit Emily Bache, 8.-12. Juni 2020

Weitere Remote-Kurse und kostenfreie Meetups/Workshops werden wir in Kürze bekanntgeben. Folgen Sie uns auf LinkedIn oder Twitter, um die Ankündigung nicht zu verpassen.

6 Questions about Intent-Based Leadership with Jenni Jepsen

You have never heard about Intent Based Leadership? Then this post is for you. Jenni Jepsen consults, writes and speaks worldwide about leadership, teams, and how to make transformations work. She will be keynote speaker at Agile Tour Vienna and give an one-day course „Essential Intent Based Leadership“ this September in Vienna.

We reached out to Jenni and asked her six questions about Intent Based Leadership. If you are a manager, director, leader who wants to create environments where people succeed, then read on!

If someone heard never before about Intent Based Leadership, how would you describe it in 150 words?

Intent-Based Leadership™ is fundamentally the language leaders and teams use to communicate at work – the words we use with each other and how we ask questions – in order to give control to people, so people who are closest to the information are the ones making the decisions.With this leadership paradigm, team members come to the leader describing what they see, what they think, and what they intend to do. With Intent-Based Leadership,the culture of the organization shifts from one of permission and waiting, to intent and action. Not only does effectivity increase, people also feel motivated and are happier at work. 

As work becomes more cognitive and less physical, Intent-Based Leadership offers a how-to for organizations to redefine what leadership means in a way that creates a workplace where the passion, motivation, engagement, creativity and intellect of each member is maximized.

Are you as a manager, or head of an agile org. tired of having to always have all the answers? Check out our one-day training course Essential Intent-Based Leadership March 2020 in Vienna.

How/When/Who developed the concept / methodology of Intent Based Leadership?

The concept of Intent-Based Leadership is the direct result of how David Marquet, former U.S. Naval submarine captain turned his ship the USS Santa Fe from worst to first in the U.S. Navy. David wrote an amazing book on how it all came to be: Turn the Ship Around!. It’s a great story, even if you skip the leadership tips! When David took over command of the USS Santa Fe, it was at the last minute. He only had three weeks to learn everything about the ship – an impossible task. When he took command, he quickly found out that if he followed the old ways of working with him giving commands in an environment where he didn’t know everything there was to know about the ship, and people following those commands blindly, people might get killed. This was when he decided to keep quiet and asked others to come to him with what they intended to do.

People implementing Intent-Based Leadership don’t have to have all the answers. When we stop “getting people to do things” and instead give control while increasing competence and clarity, we gain more engaged people who have the competency to make decisions, feel ownership and take responsibility.

Practical outcomes of Intent-Based Leadership

How is Intent Based Leadership related to Agile: Is the methodology based on Agile, can it be applied only in an agile organization?

When I first read Turn the Ship Around! in 2012 after the book was published, my partner and I (in goAgile) thought “This is it! This is a way of leading that supports Agile ways of working.” Because so much of Agile is about team members taking responsibility, about being self-organizing, about being self-directed and having clarity about where we’re headed and why, in order to make better decisions at every level in the organization. David actually did not know about the Agile community when we first contacted him. Since then, things have, obviously, taken off for David and for Intent-Based Leadership. We’re not the only ones who can see the advantages IBL brings around how to give control, and increase organizational clarity and technical competencies. In our experience, organizations that combine Agile transformation with Intent-Based Leadership reach their goals faster. It’s because IBL offers real tools to nudge people into new behaviors, and that is the key to lasting change. 

Attend our one-day training course and learn how to move in an Agile way to a culture where people take initiative and ownership. March 2020 in Vienna.

Can you give an example of how language increases the feeling of empowerment?

There is a lot of talk in organizations about how to empower people. What we know from neuroscience research, is that the only thing we can do is create an environment where people feel empowered. Empowering others is a contradictory statement. It says that I have the power to empower others. That is NOT what we are going for. We want people to have influence and control. And this happens when leaders create an environment where people feel empowered. 

Now, with that said… “I intend to” are the three most amazing, empowering words we can use to increase the feeling of empowerment. Rather than asking permission, just saying “I intend to…” works on both sides. For the person saying it, it is simply informing others about what the person will do. For others, it provides information ahead of time. So there is an opportunity to give more information before the action occurs. Of course, there are lots of other examples of language increasing empowerment, “I intend to” is my favorite. 

What is an example of a leadership tool that can be used to create an environment to adopt Intent-Based Leadership?

So one of the great tools from Intent-Based Leadership is called the Ladder of Leadership. It provides some simple questions leaders can ask based on how their people talk with them. For example, if someone says “Please just tell me what to do.” That person is at the lowest level on the Ladder. The leader wants to move them up the Ladder so that they will be more comfortable taking control. The question the leader asks is: “What do you see?” This is the next step on the Ladder. This allows the person to answer in a psychologically safe environment. The leader is asking for observations. Rather than jumping to “What do you intend to do?”, the leader needs to help people up the Ladder gradually. In that way, people become safe with taking more control, and over what is usually a very short time, you can move people up to the level where they come to you with what they intend to do.

Ladder of Leadership

Reading tips: If I think about attending the training, what should I read or watch, to be prepared best? (blog posts, YT videos etc.)

Of course, reading David’s book, Turn the Ship Around! is a great idea.

Here are a couple of other links to watch and read:

Interested to take a deep-dive on Intent Based Leadership?

Check out our training course offering

Agile at Scale – wie es Spotify gemacht hat

Schon 2016 konnte Joakim Sundén von Spotify mit seiner Keynote die Community auf der Agile Tour Vienna begeistern! Am 25. und 26. Mai 2020 bieten wir  nun einen neuen zweitägigen Trainingskurs mit ihm an: Agile at Scale – inspired by Spotify.

Aus dem Training:

„The Spotify Model“ of agile at scale has had a huge amount of attention in the agile community since it was first shared widely in 2012. Though never originally intended as a framework or model, the case study of Spotify’s approach to agile working has become a hit with a large number of organisations who have opted to imitate the method. This course will help you and your team to understand how and why it was optimized, the challenges that come with the method, and how companies can adapt and continue to evolve while employing this strategy of agile at scale.

Noch nicht überzeugt? Die Keynote gibt einen Überblick über Themen, die bei dem Training behandelt wurden.

Links zu Angular JS von Jonas Bandi

Unser Training Frontend Entwicklung mit Angular JS geht diesen September in die nächste Runde (Details zum Training | Nachbericht zum Training | Jonas Bandi über das Training).

Das haben wir zum Anlass genommen die bisherigen TeilnehmerInnen mit einem Linkpaket zu dem im Training behandelten Themen zu versorgen (zusammengestellt von Jonas Bandi).


Das neue Angular erobert die Welt der Enterprise-Entwicklung, aber was tun wir mit den vielen bestehenden AngularJS Applikationen?

Migration ist eine Option: Dazu empfohlen eine Präsentation von der ngConf 2017 (alle Vorträge der Konferenz auf YouTube). 

Das passende Buch zur AngularJS Migration kommt von Viktor Savkin, einem ehemaligen Entwickler aus dem Angular Team.


Hatten Sie noch nicht die Möglichkeit das neue Angular einzusetzen?

Kein Problem, die meisten Konzepte aus Angular können auch in AngularJS umgesetzt werden. Ein kürzlich veröffentlichtes Buch liefert die Antwort auf die Frage wie moderne Applikationen mit dem „alten“ AngularJS umgesetzt werden können.


Angular 5 erscheint diesen Herbst. Was können wir erwarten? Ein Überblick in diesem Artikel bei Hackernoon.


Das Angular Ökosystem floriert. Hier sind 7 Tools, die Sie sich ansehen sollten.


Haben Sie genug von Angular? Dann werfen Sie einen Blick auf React. Am einfachsten in diesem interaktiven Tutorial.

Unser Development Newsbytes Newsletter geht Ende Juli raus, vollgepackt mit Links zu lesens- und sehenswertem Content für Entwickler.

TechTalk Stories – Product Owner Key Skills Workshop With Gojko Adzic

For many agile teams, the key progress measurement is velocity with story points, but that just shows that people are busy delivering, not that they delivered anything valuable. Story points show that the product is moving around, not that it is moving ahead. This workshop helps product managers and teams get a good idea where they want to go, how to get there, and how to measure achievements instead of just velocity.

Everyone aims to deliver value, but lofty goals are difficult to use short term to understand if we’re going in the right direction, and high-level business objectives rarely result from simple stories. With techniques such as impact mapping and user story mapping, teams can get a great structure in place to engage stakeholders and ensure great outcomes, not just more outputs.


Upcoming Product Owner Key Skills classes:

15-16 May 2017

3-4 October 2017


Watch Gojko talking about the workshop



TechTalk Stories – Scrum Trainings mit Mitch Lacey

Beim letzten Besuch von Mitch Lacey in Wien haben wir ihn vor die Kamera geholt. In der aktuellen Ausgabe von TechTalk Stories gibt er einen Ausblick auf die kommenden Scrum Trainings. Beide Trainings, Scrum Master und Product Owner, können bis 30. Jänner noch zum Early Bird Tarif gebucht werden.

Die Scrum Trainings mit Mitch Lacey sind seit Jahren fixer Bestandteil im TechTalk Trainingskalender. Über 1100 Personen haben bisher die Scrum Trainings mit Mich Lacey besucht.

Mitch Lacey über den Scrum Master Kurs

Mitch über den Scrum Product Owner Kurs

Bericht vom JavaScript Training mit Jonas Bandi


Update Februar 2017: Im TechTalk Stories Video stellt Jonad Bandi das Training vor

Bereits zum zweiten Mal fand das Training „JavaScript für Enterprise-Entwickler“ in den Räumen der TechTalk statt, wobei der dritte und letzte Tag optional gebucht werden konnte. Das Besuchen desselben lohnte sich jedoch allenfalls, da nach dem Erlernen der Tools und benötigten Grundlagen am dritten Tag vor allem praxisnahe Inhalte und Beispiele anhand von AngularJS vermittelt wurden.

Vortragender war wieder Jonas Bandi, Geschäftsführer der IvoryCode GmbH. Seine mittlerweile 15-jährige Expertise in verschiedenen Bereichen der Softwareentwicklung war hier deutlich erkennbar. In nur drei Tagen das JavaScript Wissen der Teilnehmer auf den aktuellsten Stand zu bringen ist jedenfalls eine Herausforderung, der sich Jonas erfolgreich stellte. Außerdem galt es, die vielen Vorurteile gegenüber der Sprache auszuräumen oder zumindest zu entkräften, welche dazu führen, dass diese immer noch von genügend Entwicklern als nicht vollwertige Programmiersprache betrachtet wird.

Die Technologie JavaScript unterscheidet sich von anderen Bereichen der objektorientierten Softwareentwicklung tatsächlich deutlich in einigen Bereichen, wie für alle Teilnehmer schnell erkennbar wurde. Daher wurden am ersten Tag hauptsächlich die aktuellsten theoretischen Grundlagen und der Umgang mit diversen hilfreichen Tools und Frameworks beigebracht, um das Wissen der Teilnehmer möglichst auf denselben Stand zu bringen. Ebenfalls angesprochen wurde, wie JavaScript Code effektiv gebuildet, getestet und debugged werden kann.

Das nächste Training mit Jonas Bandi findet von 20. bis 22. September in Wien statt.

Als praktisch erwiesen sich dabei die stetig steigenden Möglichkeiten und Features, welche direkt in Visual Studio zur Verfügung stehen – der für viele Developer gewohnten und vertrauten Entwicklungsumgebung. Für Staunen sorgte die Tatsache, dass der neue Code-Editor von Microsoft („Visual Studio Code“), welchen ebenfalls manche Teilnehmer im Rahmen des Workshops verwendeten, rein in JavaScript geschrieben wurde.

Am zweiten Tag lag der Fokus bereits deutlich auf der Vertiefung und Anwendung des eben erlernten Wissens anhand von praktischen Beispielen. Bestehender Code wurde so refactored, dass in etwa das MVC-Pattern angewandt werden konnte. Auch das Prinzip der Promises wurde erklärt, mit dem JavaScript – das dadurch bedingt, dass die Anwendungen im Browser ausgeführt werden, eigentlich kein Threading unterstützt – Asynchronität dennoch in Grundzügen beherrschen lässt.

Der dritte und letzte Tag beschäftigte sich abschließend mit einem der derzeit wichtigsten JavaScript-Frameworks: AngularJS. Dies bereichert Webseiten um dynamische Inhalte – Single-Page Applikationen ist das Stichwort und wohl jedem Entwickler mittlerweile ein Begriff. Auch hier stand die praktische Anwendung von Beginn an im Vordergrund, rasch wurden von den Teilnehmern erste Beispiele erfolgreich umgesetzt. Überraschend war, wie mittels wenig JavaScript-Code schnell einfache, funktionsfähige Applikationen entwickelt werden konnten.

Generell war der Workshop sehr zukunftsorientiert gestaltet. Die vielen Fragen, die von den Besuchern des Trainings gestellt wurden, konnten von Jonas detailliert und ausführlich beantwortet werden, so dass gegen Ende des dritten Tages und einem intensiven, praxisorientierten Workshop eine gute persönliche Grundlage für die weitere Entwicklung von JavaScript-basierten Applikationen geschaffen wurde.

Das nächste Training mit Jonas Bandi findet von 20. bis 22. September in Wien statt.

Neues Workshop Angebot: JavaScript

Als “nicht vollwertige Programmmiersprache” abgestempelt, konnten sich klassische Enterprise-Entwickler mit JavaScript lange Zeit nicht anfreunden. Man fürchtete sich vor der browserseitigen Programmierung, weil oft unwartbare ad-hoc Lösungen entstanden.

Die Situation heute ist eine völlig andere. Spätestens seit dem Siegeszug von HTML5 ist Entwicklung mit JavaScript auch für klassische Enterprise-Entwickler nicht mehr zu ignorieren.

Ziele des Workshops

  • Der Workshop zeigt wie mit JavaScript anspruchsvolle Client-Applikationen professionell entwickelt werden.
  • Die Teilnehmer bekommen einen Einblick in die moderne JavaScript-Programmierung und das florierende Ökosystem, das sich um diese Sprache entwickelt hat.
  • Dabei werden moderne Konzepte, Patterns und Tools angewendet und die professionelle Entwicklungsmethodik mit JavaScript aufgezeigt.
  • Nach einer fundierten Einführung in JavaScript geht es um die Anwendung von aktuellen Frameworks, Tools und Techniken wie man sie aus der Enterprise-Entwicklung kennt (Paketmanagement, automatisierte Builds, etc.). Bei den Frameworks wird der Fokus auf AngularJS gelegt.

Der Workshop ist ein idealer Einstiegspunkt um sich ein fundiertes, strukturiertes Knowhow in der JavaScript-Entwicklung anzueignen. Er zeigt wie etablierte Konzepte aus der professionellen Enterprise Entwicklung angewendet werden können um qualitativ hochwertige Applikationen mit JavaScript zu erstellen.


06.-08. Juli 2015       Location: TechTalk Office