The top 3 points you should have paid attention to in the Spotify Engineering Culture videos that aren’t Squads, Chapters, Tribes, Guilds

  1. Aligned autonomy;
  2. Creating trust-at-scale (across boundaries);
  3. Decoupling (to enable autonomy)

Aligned autonomy

Alignment vs autonomy in a 2x2 matrix
Alignment vs Autonomy (picture extracted from part 1, drawn by Henrik Kniberg)
  • Leaders communicate what problem needs to be solved and why;
  • Teams collaborate to find the best solution.
  1. (alignment) A clearly expressed product strategy;
  2. (autonomy) Empowered Product Teams (aka Squads)

Clearly expressed product strategy

  1. A diagnosis based on data and insights;
  2. A guiding policy, that is, a set of beliefs that describe the general approach to overcome the identified problems;
  3. A key set of coherent actions (or more accurately, bets).

Empowered Product Teams (aka Squads)

  • Are multi-disciplinary (Tech, Product, Design, Insights). All skills needed to progress exist on the team;
  • Have a mission;
  • Are expected, and have the authority to, figure out for themselves how to achieve their mission.

Creating trust-at-scale (across boundaries)

  • A strong culture of cross-pollination;
  • A strong culture of mutual respect (aka People > *). This is associated with the shared belief that we’re all in it together and need to help each other to succeed

Cross-pollination encourages trust

  1. Embedding: someone temporarily transfers to another team;
  2. Liaisons: someone acts as the primary point-of-contact to another group. Effective liaisons are deliberately selected based on being well-respected and reliably good at developing relationships;
  3. Internal movement: someone permanently transfers to another team but still has relationships with their previous team.

Mutual respect encourages trust

Trust-at-scale requires acknowledging the humanity of politics and fear

Decoupling (to enable autonomy)

Architecture follows strategy

Stage #1: Market Development; Stage #2: Growth; Stage #3: Maturity; Stage #4: Decline
From “Exploit the Product Life Cycle” by Theodore Leavitt, Harvard Business Review Nov 1965
Product capability dependent on a single technical service (fine); product capability dependent on two technical services (fine); two product capabilities dependent on one technical service (might not be fine)
Don’t couple product capabilities (especially at different life cycle stages)
“Market Development” services can depend on “Growth” or “Mature” services; “Growth” services can depend on “Mature” services
Services should only depend on other services that are as stable or more stable

Spotify Models are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of the wise




Staff Agile Coach at Spotify, ex-ThoughtWorks, ex-CruiseControl

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

11 Essential Mobile SDKs That Will Improve Your App

What product inclusion and Latinx Immigrants can teach WhatsApp

A gif of Joe Biden with quote: “we’ve moved the needle further and further to inclusion, not exclusion”

My product management toolkit (45): Sales Safari

Do Product Managers Make Good CEOs?

Do product managers make good CEOs — Masters’ Union

Decoding Product-Led Growth: Top Tactics To Master the User’s Product Journey from GitLab, Figma &…

Product metrics: Focus on the user

Building ethics and equity into software

From Product Bud to Product Manager

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Jason Yip

Jason Yip

Staff Agile Coach at Spotify, ex-ThoughtWorks, ex-CruiseControl

More from Medium

Jason’s perspective on effective product development culture (circa 2022)

SAFe®’s NPS® Score Is -56

My First 30 days as a Product Manager at the BBC

CBeebies Playtime Island app icon

Most cars only have one steering wheel

Drawing of a freeway overpass sign with Los Angeles on it and palm trees in the background.