Scaling Agile at Spotify and Daniel Pink’s Drive

By March 20, 2013blog

Last November I was really amazed by an article from Henrik Kniberg – I admit, I’m a fan – on how he helped scaling agile at Spotify.

Scaling Agile @ Spotify by TechCrunch

Last February, one of the authors came to Ghent for a Kanban Open Space. Anders Ivarsson talked together with Joakim Sunden about how Spotify’s development is structured, based on squads, tribes and guilds.

Scaling Agile and Dan Pink

What was really interesting for me to hear – next to what I already read in the article – is that their ideas on how an organization should be structured can be linked to Daniel Pink’s book Drive.

In this book Pink examines the three elements of true motivation: mastery, autonomy and purpose.


A golden rule at Spotify is “Hire great people and get out of their way”. They focus on high performance crossfunctional teams, who run as autonomous mini startups, consisting of 5 to 7 people. Within every team there is a product owner and an agile coach. The team is co-located and has a explicit team mission. Every team chooses its own process (scrum, kanban,…) and can choose its own release pace. Every team has the means to deploy to the live environment at (almost) any time.


A chapter is a small family of people having similar skills and working within the same general competency area, within the same tribe, on different squads.

Each chapter meets regularly to discuss their area of expertise and their specific challenges – for example the testing chapter, the web developer chapter or the backend chapter. (source)

By using chapters and guilds (more organic communities of interest) knowledge and practices are shared. Overall quality and mastery of team members becomes the focus of the organization.


Not only the team’s mission is very explicit. Also the company goals are very transparant. Every squad member knows the team mission, the company goal and has his or her own Objective Key Results. On multiple levels purpose is in the Spotify’s DNA.

Another spectacular example is the “Town Hall”. Every two weeks the CEO addresses the whole company and talks about the latest evolutions.


Although Spotify went from 30 to 300 engineers in only three years, they manage to preserve the company’s DNA. By applying strong focus on core values and very transparent and open communication, they are one of those companies definitely worth following. But the greatest thing of all is that they explicitly don’t claim to have found the recipe to success. They constantly evolve and innovate, looking for better ways to coöperate.

Further reading: