What Are Chapters in an Agile Operating Model?

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What Are Chapters in an Agile Operating Model?
Understand what Chapters are within new ways of working, and who the people are that sit within these Chapters.

The Spotify Model? Tribes? Chapters? Squads? – What’s it all mean?   

It’s been six years now since Henrik Kniberg shared the Spotify Model on his blog.   

It was a vision for how Spotify would implement their operating model moving forward, as a work in progress.  Not intended to be set in stone – but a new model that could be adapted with time and experience.

At its heart was the idea of a different type of team structure that differed from established organisations.  That is – a new way people fitted into a business by a new framework.   Importantly, that framework may change from business to business, depending on their needs, weaknesses, products and consumers.  

The Spotify model isn’t only about team structures, but also about agile delivery – experimental culture, frequent releases, etc.

In his excellent article on the Spotify model, Curtis Stainier says, “The shared model was not perfect and each organisation should adapt it as necessary. However, it does provide an excellent blueprint on being a truly agile company.”

For this article we are focusing only on team structure, and specifically what a Chapter is and where does it fit into an agile framework

Chapters are being used successfully to allow old, entrenched organisations reframe how they operate internally, and more specifically accelerate excellence within the business, and ultimately deliver a better product for the customer.

Let’s assume you know a little bit about Agile and the concepts. 

If not, at this link is a quick outline and case studies of how ADAPTOVATE approach the  Agile Operating Model.    To discover more about Agile, we have a variety of articles to help fill in the picture.


The core of developing a new operating model, is to restructure teams into cross-functional teams aligned to an agreed objective and key resultNote, this is done only after all the preliminary work is done to understand the current landscape.

What does a cross-functional team mean?

A team with different specialised capabilities designed to work collectively to deliver autonomously an output that serves a customer’s need.  These teams are often called Squads.   (We’ll call them Squads.)

In a business you would typically have many Squads that form part of a Tribe.   That Tribe would have a distinct mission within the business.  (Large organisations can have many Tribes.)

So, if the Squads have people with specialised capabilities, how do those individuals amp up their own specialised skill in order to bring the best version of themselves to the Squad?  Well here is your answer.   That person also belongs to a Chapter.

A marketing team at a financial institution

Mina Gurgis, a project lead with us, gives this example, “In an operating model for a marketing team in a financial institution, UX designers formed a Chapter – their home team. Although each UX designer is working in a different team, they need to get together (as part of their home team) on a regular basis to ensure consistency in UX design across all the work they do.

This ensures customers’ experience is the same regardless of what product/service they are engaging with. Also, the UX designers were able to upskill each other with the guidance of a Chapter Lead in the latest tools and processes available to make their work more efficient and also grow in their professional career,” Mina explains.


“Chapters are the essential glue that keeps organisations working!”, says Steve Walton, our principal in Melbourne.

In New Ways of Working, you hang out, share, learn, socialise, and develop your specific capability by also belonging to your specific capability Chapter.  

By everyone developing the same skills and capabilities it ensures that when you return to your respective Squads, you are bringing the same capability excellence to your Squad.  Singing from the same songbook so to speak.  Which means there is an alignment across the Squads and Tribes on how things are executed.  Be it tech, finance, marketing, etc.

Sean Woon, Managing Director at ADAPTOVATE explains it like this, “Chapters are a family of specialists (e.g. JAVA developers) who as individuals work within Squads and Tribes across the organisation. They belong in their respective Chapter to help them share knowledge with their “technical peers” to continuously improve their “craft”.

“Your Chapter determines the way you’ll work on the problems within the Squads you work in, for consistency across the team,” adds Caitilin Studdert, our principal in Sydney.

As all great myths