Lessons from a Critique | Spotify’s Failed Squad Model

Lessons from a critique | Spotify’s Failed Squad Model

You know the one, the one that was so eagerly adopted or admired by almost everyone else – including possibly a company near you…? This critique of ‘Spotify’s Failed Squad Model’ is interesting for two reasons:

  • It’s a great way of adapting a planned conference talk into something else that may have impact.
  • It’s a warning that critical thinking should never go out of fashion.


We salute anyone taking innovative and creative approaches to the challenge of delivering content at conferences – something we have been giving a lot of thought to.

Jeremiah Lee Spotifys Failed SquadGoals


The critique of the Spotify Squad Model…

The ‘Spotify Squad Model’ became widely promoted – a major part of the recruitment strategy for the company – as well as being very widely adopted and adapted by other organizations wishing to emulate model. The essence of the article is that while it might have been much admired, it simply didn’t work.

In brief, Spotify was growing rapidly and introduced some new ways of working incorporating team groups they called squads and tribes that acted as autonomous mini-startups with a range of skillsets and mini-CEOs. the intent was that no team would have to rely on other teams for their success. Squad product managers and designers reported to department heads. Software engineers were managed outside of the team structure.

This is covered in much more detail in the article and the rest of the internet.

Jeremiah’s conclusion…

“The Spotify model is revealed as a collection of cross-functional teams with too much autonomy and a poor management structure. Don’t fall for it. Had Spotify referred to these ideas by their original names, perhaps it could have evaluated them more fairly when they failed instead of having to confront changing its cultural identity simply to find internal processes that worked well.” Jeremiah Lee

In his view, what became a much talked about and copied way of working was really just an old way of working that didn’t work properly with some added new words.

Of course, others argue different points, I particularly like this thread from Mikael Olenfalk who came up with the name ‘Squads’!

Mikael Olenfalk Squads

Lessons from a critique ‘Spotify’s Failed Squad Model:

We’re all looking for ideas that make our lives easier and better. New ideas, names, concepts spring up all the time, some take off, some don’t.

Most of them are not radically new ideas or ways of working, they are adaptations of existing ones. It is very tempting as human beings, to grasp onto new concepts. Sometimes the most dangerous ideas are the ones that do take off in a big way. They are by their nature viral. As we all know viruses have two critical characteristics – they are easily spread and they mutate rapidly. In many cases, the Lean Startup for example, the mutated versions are almost unrecognizable from the original.

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