Help Needed - Making Chapters work


first time poster here, looking for help and suggestions.

I work for a smallish ( 50-60 people), but growing data company.

We started adopting Agile practices across the enterprise with support from the senior leaders of the organisation, and, to begin with, we started with the Spotify model.

Since then we have iterated on many aspects of the organisational design and functioning and, across the organisation, things seem to be going reasonably well, and we are continuously improving

but, we are left with one Spotify artefact which just isn’t working - Chapters.

Chapters were intended to

  • build capability of individuals and the organisation ( recruitment, training, skills development)
  • Promote collaboration across the organisation
  • Foster innovations and exchange of ideas, creative thinking and so on
  • Help to overcome challenges by bringing people together from across the organisation with different points of view
  • Establish and promote a common set of Best Practices ( or Sensible Defaults if, like me, you hate Best Practices)
  • Provide a point for employees to have an interface with the organisation outside of their squads (some kind of leadership, support and all the things that some people miss in a flat structure)

So, it’s not working very well, and some of the problems are

  • lack of consistency across chapter leaders ( in terms of effort, focus, chapter culture, ideas and so on)
  • to broad a set of skills/roles within a chapter for people to align on areas of interest
  • to narrow a set of skills/roles within a chapter for people to bring anything new and fresh and interesting
  • not enough time away from squad work for leads and members to work towards Chapter goals (or a lack of interest)
  • Chapter leads are to far removed from the day to day of their members to provide effective advice, leadership, assessment of performance and so on

I would like to get some ideas on based on peoples experiences about what they do to achieve what our Chapters were intended to achieve (above), and conversely, so we can avoid pain, what have you tried which hasn’t worked?

We are open to all ideas, from throwing out the Chapters entirely, to, whatever it takes…

I’m open to reading articles and books, and listening to (specific) podcast episodes if you’ve got some relevant suggestions that I should look up.

Thanks in advance.


Start with the question “Why?” and ask it a few times. Look at what Spotify were trying to achieve with their Chapters. Ask “Why does my company need this?” Or even “Does my company need this?”.

If the answer is “yes”, don’t ask “how do I make chapters work?”. Ask the question, “How could we as a smallish company in our context achieve the same goals?”.

Spotify themselves will openly state that they don’t use the Spotify model. They’ve moved on and use pieces of it, but they’ve continued to evolve. They are also pretty damn enormous, not 60 people.

If they can move on, so can you. Start with what your teams need and go from there. Don’t get stuck on a single framework, find what works for you. Come back and post some ideas here that you’re thinking about trying. I’m happy to chime in and others will be as well.

Thanks for this great topic.


Have to Echo what Brad stated above. Really need to drill down into the they why of things. What is the vision? Then you can start to align your goals to that vision then enlist an army and create a sense of urgency. If the focus is the deliver value to the the customer then you should become obsessed with doing that. What is the story you want to tell? How can you create short term wins to start to build momentum?

How do you challenge your truth and not dismiss it? How are you knowledge sharing around success and failure? How do you learn?

When you have a crisis or something deemed “an emergency” how do you get it done with out having to deal with all the other noise?

Crisis – “We come together in crisis well. We do well on short term goals and have a sense of urgency. We don’t to that on the longer projects.” A short interactive session to draw out aspects of Crisis response vs regular day to day rather than me giving them a list.
patterns that occur in a crisis response:
° Focus
° Clear purpose
° Clear priority
° Alignment on goal
° Dedicated team
° Sense of urgency
° Just enough process
° Empowered to make decisions (people involved have the authority needed)
° Right people/right time
° Close collaboration and communication
° Successful outcomes

The Framework won’t solve problems it will expose them and amplify them. That is a good thing since its change. You need to embrace it and keep failing forward.


Thanks @bradstokes and @Leanleff for your responses - they are full of valuable thoughts and ideas which I’m going to need to chew down on and work out what applies to us - you’ve certainly given me lots of thinking guidance, and it’s going to take me a little while to work out where we stand, what we really value, and how to apply that to the goals of what are currently Chapters, if at all.

I’ll try to post a summary of the action plan that results from this, and, of course, if I’ve got further clarifying questions I add them

Best Regards and Thanks


Keep us posted and let us know if you want to bounce any other ideas around. Also just keep in mind that change only happens at the rate people allow it to happen as well as can consume the level of disruption it can create.


I know these as GUILDS within a company . You must stress the common things to pull these chapters together. Also, these will gell given time - so encourage everyone to have fun! Chips and Dips for these internal meetings is my secret formula to make people come and participate. - John Voris