Agile Mentors Podcast

Agile Mentors Podcast

Practical advice for making agile work in the real world

The Agile Mentors podcast is for agilists of all levels. Whether you’re new to agile and Scrum or have years of experience, listen in to find answers to your questions and new ways to succeed with agile.

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#25: Scaling with Henrik Kniberg

November 16, 2022     37 minutes

Henrik Kniberg joins Brian to talk about creating the Spotify Model.


There are ways to get things done, and then there are the best ways to get things done. But the only way to arrive at the right way of doing things is to try and fail, to see what works and what doesn't.

Henrik Kniberg is a Certified Scrum Trainer who has worked with teams like Spotify and LEGO to help them implement agile culture in their fast-moving and fast-growing environments. He's also the co-creator of the Spotify Model.

Today on the show, Henrik joins Brian to discuss his accidental introduction to Spotify and how he inspired the company to transition to Scrum. We discuss the leadership model that helped the startup scale while holding its own against behemoths like Apple and Google. Plus, an inside look at his time as a designer with Minecraft.

Listen now to discover:

[01:55] - Brian shares Henrik's Agile Product Ownership in a Nutshell that's become required viewing.
[02:22] - Brian shares some of the places on Henrik's resume, including Lego, Minecraft, and Spotify.
[03:42] - Henrik shares his love for playing accompaniment musical instruments.
[04:08] - Brian shares his professional musical background.
[04:35] - Introducing the Spotify engineering culture videos that have sparked a thousand conversations about scaling challenges.
[05:10] - Henrik shares the story of his accidental introduction to Spotify and how he inspired the startups to transition to Scrum.
[8:26] - Henrik describes how the lack of off-the-shelf scaling frameworks led to his work with Spotify.
[08:45] - Standard Scrum, by the books, works for small teams, but for scaling at larger teams like the one at Spotify, it's hard to find a "one size fits all" approach.
[10:59] - How realizing 'this is what's helping us swim' during their impressive growth got all the technical leaders of Spotify on board with using Agile.
[12:50] - Henrik shares the leadership model that helped Spotify scale up.
[14:58] - How Spotify used the speed of innovation to stand against goliath-like competitors like Apple and Google.
[16:30] - Convincing the investors that being able to iterate quickly (rather than through roadmaps) was the key to winning the game.
[18:09] - Fueling future inspiration—why Spotify instituted the twice-a-year hack weeks for their entire organization.
[21:36] - Henrik shares why leadership is the key to culture and driving change in an Agile organization.
[24:19] - Brian shares why it's wise to make a change where you can benefit a company rather than hanging on to the now-extinct gold watch at retirement.
[25:53] - "Go ahead and copy the Spotify model… and don't worry about someone telling you that you're doing it wrong because that's just you adapting."
[26:44] - How the Spotify culture videos had the opposite outcome from what Henrik had planned.
[29:54] - Brian asks Henrik an important Minecraft question (as posed by his daughter.)
[30:36] - Henrik shares insider information about the guiding principles for designers at Minecraft (and how that led to the creation of Striders).
[32:34] - Brian shares why copy/paste is only sometimes best.
[32:46] - Henrik shares how creating video games differs from life applications.

Listen next time when we'll be discussing…

Getting to Small with Lance Dacy

References and resources mentioned in the show

Agile Product Ownership in a Nutshell
Spotify Engineering Culture - Part 1 (aka the "Spotify Model")
Spotify Engineering Culture - Part 2 (aka the "Spotify Model")
Mountain Goat Software
Agile Mentors Community
Scrum Alliance
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This episode's presenters are:

Brian Milner is SVP of coaching and training at Mountain Goat Software. He's passionate about making a difference in people's day-to-day work, influenced by his own experience of transitioning to Scrum and seeing improvements in work/life balance, honesty, respect, and the quality of work.

Henrik Kniberg is former member of the board of directors of the Agile Alliance and enjoys helping companies succeed with both the technical and human sides of software development. A Certified Scrum Trainer he’s worked with teams like Spotify and LEGO to help them implement agile culture in their fast-moving and fast-growing environments. He’s also the co-creator of the Spotify Model.