Henrik Kniberg

Henrik Kniberg

I debug, refactor, and optimize IT companies. And jam alot too.

Scaling Agile @ LEGO and Spotify – my talk at EA träff

Here are my slides from today’s talk “Scaling Agile @ LEGO and Spotify” at EA träff in Stockholm (EA = enterprise architecture). Fun to hang out with enterprise architects and learn what that’s all about 🙂

Some sample slides from my talk:

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Is train a feasible alternative to flying?

As I write this I’m sitting on a train headed back to Sweden, pondering the result of a year’s experimentation with travelling by train instead of flying. Is this an effective way to reduce my carbon footprint? The jury is in! Read on.

One common rallying cry among climate advocates is to fly less (or ideally not at all). I consider myself a climate advocate (here’s my entry ticket), but I’m also a pragmatist. I’ve worked enough with behavioural change to know that it’s unrealistic to expect many people to change their habits unless there is a convenient and compelling alternative. For example, Spotify killed music pirating, not by attacking pirate sites, but by providing a better and more convenient alternative.

So what are the alternatives to flying, if you want to get from A to B?

  • Option A: Don’t go. Stay at A. This option won’t fly (pun intended) with most people. There’s a reason why they want to go from A to B, and only a small number of people will be willing to sacrifice that (kudos to those people though!).
  • Option B: Walk or bicycle. Not feasible. A distance that is long enough to take a flight is usually waaay too long for a walk or bicycle ride, unless you are an enthusiast with LOTS of time on your hands.
  • Option C: Car. This makes sense only if you travel in a group, or if you drive an electric car. If you drive alone in a fuel car, the climate impact is about the same as flying, just takes longer and is more dangerous and clogs up the road.
  • Option D: Bus. I haven’t found any long-distance bus options  to the places I go. Might be more feasible in other countries than mine.
  • Option E: Train. Is train a feasible alternative? Definitely climate friendly, but what about price, convenience, reliability, and time? Read on!

Is train a feasible alternative to flying


Agile – where are we at? My slides from USI conference, Paris.

Here are the slides for my talk “Agile, where are we at?” from USI conference in Paris (USI = “unexpected sources of inspiration”) in June. One of the coolest conferences I’ve ever attended!

My talk was an attempt to take a step back and look at the big picture, and also speculate about the future of agile. I was also interviewed a couple of times, and the talk was also recorded. Here are links:

2 of my kids tagged along on the trip, we took the train to make it extra adventurous (and also to mind the climate). It’s a long way (24 hours each way), but we made good use of the time!

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The Ship – who will you be?

The Ship

For years I was hearing an increasing murmur and rumours about some kind of problem with the ship. Finally I decided to take a closer look, went up to deck, leaned out and looked down, and…. oh sh*t…. this ship is sinking! It’s tilting, some cabins are already flooded, with people frantically crowding the hallways and staircases trying to get to higher deck. It’s happening slowly, very slowly. In fact, the ship won’t be completely sunk during my lifetime probably. But my kids, and grandkids…. Darn!

So what’s going on here? I start roaming around, talking to people. read more »

Friendly Guide to Climate Change (and what you can do about it)

I’ve spent ALOT of time the past few months trying to understand climate change and global warming, and how to effectively contribute. I’ve dug through 1000-page scientific reports, talked to experts, and basically tried to digest as much information as possible. I was surprised by how little I knew before. I’m convinced that, the more people who really understand the problem, the more effectively we’ll be able to solve it (or at least mitigate it).

So here’s a short animated video summarizing the whole issue. The problem, the consequence, the root cause, the solutions, and what you can do to help. All packaged in a fun and easy-to-digest way, same style as my other videos about Spotify Engineering Culture and Agile Product Ownership. The video is all based on solid scientific references, not speculation or rumours.

Please help spread it as widely as possible! Link to this blog post, or the youtube link: https://youtu.be/3CM_KkDuzGQ

I hope this video will inspire many people to make small changes, and a few people to make big changes. Who knows, maybe the next young Elon Musk is out there somewhere, just waiting for the spark of inspiration 🙂

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Effective carbon offsetting – what we’ve learned and what we’re doing

Flying causes global warming. That sucks. But neverthless, we fly sometimes. Conferences, vacations, business trips. So what can we do? Well, here’s a simple rule of thumb:

  1. Fly as little as possible. Reduce the frequency & distance. Consider train for shorter trips.
  2. When you do fly, make sure you carbon offset. From wikipedia: “A carbon offset is a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases made in order to compensate for or to offset an emission made elsewhere.”

The obvious question then is – HOW do you carbon offset? I was surprised when I dug into it.  “Traditional” carbon offsetting (buying emission credits and things like that) seems pretty useless! I couldn’t find any credible evidence that it makes a real difference! Almost like a scam.

So is there another way to carbon offset? Yes! This chart summarizes some of what I’ve learned so far. Read on for details. Got any more suggestions? Add comments. But please quantify.

(see this spreadsheet for the underlying numbers) read more »

10 years of Agile @ Crisp. Next challenge: Global Warming!

10 years ago, 2007, me and a few Crisp colleagues embarked on a mission: be best in Sweden at helping companies become agile. We had experienced first-hand the power of agile development, and wanted to use this newfound super-power to help both Crisp and our clients improve. Others joined us and – tadaa!  – Agile Crisplet was born (and the concept of crisplets)! That was the year I taught my first Certified ScrumMaster course together with Jeff Sutherland, co-creator of Scrum. Since then we’ve co-trained almost 30 courses! About 2-3 times per year. In fact, May 22-23 is our 10 year anniversary (join us at the course in Stockholm!).

Now 10 years has passed since our Agile Crisplet was formed, and I’m happy to see we have achieved more than we ever could have dreamed!

Dispensing with false humility here, we’ve somehow managed to become one of the world leaders in this field! Famous agile and lean experts partner with us. Super well-known product companies, large telecoms and banks, even government organizations, turn to us as first choice for agile guidance and training. Our videos and articles and books have racked up millions of hits, and we are basically overwhelmed with requests to do coaching, write book forewords, do conference talks and workshops, and run training courses. I’ve done almost 30 keynotes in 20+ countries. I’m amazed (and overwhelmed) every time I look at my inbox, I’ve had to hire an assistant just to turn down the 95% of all requests that we simply don’t have capacity to handle.

OK, so now what?

10 years is a long time, and now it’s time for a new focus! At least for me (Crisp is a no-CEO company where people are free to do whatever they want).

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Global warming – simplified summary

OK, here’s a (very) simplified summary of what I’ve learned about global warming after digging deep the past few weeks.

  1. Global warming is a major threat to life as we know it. It’s ALOT worse than most people realize.
  2. Global warming is caused (mostly) by increasing CO2 in the atmosphere.
  3. The CO2 increase comes (mostly) from us burning oil & coal (“fossil fuels”). Adds about 20-30 billion tons of CO2 per year.
  4. So we need to (mostly) stop burning oil & coal.
  5. We burn oil & coal (mostly) for electricity and transport. Coal power plants, car/plane/ship fuel, etc.
  6. We want to keep electricity and transport, but we also want to stop global warming, therefore we need to get electricity and transport without burning oil & coal.
  7. We know how to do that (solar, wind, electric cars, etc). The technology has been figured out, and the prices are at the tipping point where oil & coal can’t compete economically.
  8. So now we just need to hurry up and roll out those solutions! Every single reduced ton of CO2 counts.
  9. Unfortunately shit is going to hit the fan either way (because it’s already launched so to speak), but at least we can slow it down, reduce the impact, and buy us some time.

So pull whatever strings you can to help out – technology, policy, economy, communication, etc. Inform yourselves & each other. People have varying degrees of discretionary time, money, knowledge, voting power, contacts, influence, and motivation. But the more people try to help in one way or another, the more difference it will make as a whole.

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Planning as a social event – scaling agile at LEGO

The past couple of years I’ve been travelling back and forth to LEGO’s HQ in Billund Denmark, helping out with their agile journey. Super interesting! Learned more than we could ever fit in an article, but here’s an attempt to capture at least some of it, written together with LEGO colleague and co-instigator Eik Thyrsted Brandsgård. Enjoy!

Planning as a social event – scaling agile @ LEGO

Agile @ Lego


Did the math on my contribution to global warming

I was curious about how many tons of carbon dioxide that my family pumps into the atmosphere (= global warming). Looked at the most direct variables: flying, driving, and home electricity. There are obviously more variables to look at (like beef!), but I’m starting with these three, as the data is readily available and I gotta start somewhere.

Result (updated):

  • Flying = 14.6 tons per year
  • Driving = 4.1 tons per year
  • Electricity = 0.5 tons per year

So, 19 tons of CO2 per year. Damn! Sorry about that, earth and future generations. Good news is that I now know how to reduce it by ALOT (like 5 times less)!

CO2e emission before and after

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Agile Everywhere – slides from my keynote at Agile Tour, Montreal

Here are the slides from my keynote Agile Everywhere at Agile Tour Montreal. In the keynote I shared my experiences from applying agile in lots of different non-software contexts.

Enjoyed the trip! After the conference I spent a day at Ubisoft Quebec to discuss REALLY large-scale agile (like 1000-person video game projects). I see more and more companies applying agile at really large scale and my key takeaway is that, the larger the project is, the more important the agile principles are. For tiny projects any process can pretty much work. Also interesting to see how different types of organizations – such as video game development, banking, and aerospace – arrive at very similar patterns for how to deal with dozens or hundreds of agile teams building a product together. Just keep in mind that big projects are super-risky with or without agile, so your first priority should be to de-scale.

Anyway here are some sample pictures from the keynote.


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Focus – my keynote at AgileByExample, Warsaw

Here is my slide (yes, it’s just one slide) from my keynote at AgileByExample in Warsaw. And a video of the talk. Scroll down for a written summary.


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What is an unconference?

Curious about unconferences? Perhaps you’re thinking of running one? Or maybe you are invited to an unconference or open space, and the organizer sent you this link to describe how it works? If so you’re in the right place! 

This doc is a high-level summary. For more details and facilitation instructions, see the ebook How to run an internal unconference.

What is an unconference?

An unconference is basically a conference without predefined topics. There is a high level structure and theme, but actual topics are generated by the participants on the spot, and breakout groups are formed dynamically based on interest and relevance.

If you know what an Open Space is, an unconference is really just an Open Space event with some added structure at the end to make it fit for company-internal events.

This is a pretty awesome format for cases where you want a super-flexible and participant-driven agenda and structure. I’ve been using it for years at Crisp, Spotify, Lego, and other clients, and it tends to spread virally within organizations. I’ve done it mostly with groups of 20-80 people, and people often say things like “all conferences should be like this” or “best conference I’ve ever been to!”

Facilitators opening the circle and introducing the format

Facilitators opening the circle and introducing the format

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Alignment at Scale – slides from my Agile Africa keynote

Here are the slides from my Agile Africa keynote Alignment at Scale (or How to Not become Totally Unagile when you have Lots of Teams). Thanks for a great conference!

And thanks everyone for the Emma greeting, that sure made an 8 year girl very happy 🙂

(Emma was supposed to join me on this trip, but couldn’t make it because I had missed some required paperwork for travelling with minors to South Africa).

Agile Alignment at Scale

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Spotify Rhythm – how we get aligned (slides from my talk at Agile Sverige)

Here are the slides from my talk about Spotify Rhythm at Agila Sverige.

The talk is about Spotify’s current approach to getting aligned as a company. It covers:

  • what problem we’re trying to solve, and how we’ve gone through two other models (OKR and Priorities & Achievements) before arriving at our current model
  • how we define “Bets” using the DIBB framework (Data-Insight-Belief-Bet)
  • how we prioritize bets using stack-ranking based on company beliefs and north star goals
  • how we visualize bets on a kanban-like company level board, and group them into Now – Next – Later columns
  • how different parts of the company visualize their own bets and align with higher level bets, using interlinked bet boards.
  • how we synchronize and prioritize our work using different cadences at different levels of the company.
  • how this model is used to support squad autonomy
  • our challenges and learnings with this so far

Holy crap how did I manage to cover all that in 10 minutes?! Guess I talked fast 🙂

Some sample slides below.


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Agile @ Lego – our slides from Passion for Projects

UPDATE Dec 2016: Wrote an article about LEGO’s agile journey, see here. Includes all of the material below, plus explanations and updates.

Here are the slides for our talk Agile @ Lego at Passion for Projects in Uppsala. Enjoyed discussing this stuff with project managers and the like from all sorts of industries. A common theme from the conference was the power of self-organization, and the role of leadership in creating the right context for self-organization to happen. Our talk provided a real-life large scale example of this.

2016-03-15 Agile @ Lego Henrik Kniberg Eik Thyrsted Brandsgård



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Making sense of MVP (Minimum Viable Product) – and why I prefer Earliest Testable/Usable/Lovable

(French translation)

A couple of years ago I drew this picture and started using it in various presentations about agile and lean development:

Since then the drawing has gone viral! Shows up all over the place, in articles and presentations, even in a book (Jeff Patton’s “User Story Mapping”  – an excellent read by the way). Many tell me the drawing really captures the essence of iterative & incremental development, lean startup, MVP (minimum viable product), and what not. However, some misinterpret it, which is quite natural when you take a picture out of it’s original context. Some criticize it for oversimplifying things, which is true. The picture is a metaphor. It is not about actual car development, it is about product development in general, using a car as a metaphor.

Anyway, with all this buzz, I figured it’s time to explain the thinking behind it.

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Real-life Agile Scaling – slides from keynote @ Agile Tour Bangkok

Here are the slides from my keynote “Real-life agile scaling” at Agile Tour Bangkok. Enjoyed hanging out with everyone!

Key points:

  • Scaling hurts. Keep things as small as possible.
  • Agile is a means, not a goal. Don’t go Agile Jihad. Don’t dump old practices that work.
  • There is no “right” or “wrong” way. Just tradeoffs.
  • There is no one-size-fits-all. But plenty of good practices.
  • Build feedback loops at all levels. Gives you better products and a self-improving organization.

Here is an InfoQ article with a nice summary of the keynote.

Sample slides:

Henrik Kniberg
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What is an Agile Leader?

Agile product development has become the norm in many industries (especially software). That means products are developed by small, self-organizing, cross-functional teams, and delivered in small increments and continuously improved based on real customer feedback. Pretty much as described in the Agile Manifesto – but replace the word “software” with “product” (because it really isn’t software-specific).

That’s all fine and dandy. However when things get bigger, with dozens of teams collaborating over organizational boundaries, things obviously get more complex and painful. Even if the entire organization is neatly organized into scrum teams, you can still end up with an unaligned mess! Here’s a picture that might feel familiar:

Misaligned teams

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What is an Agile Project Leader?

I wrote this article because of two observations:

  1. Many organizations use a “project model” when they shouldn’t.
  2. There is a lot of confusion and debate in the agile community about projects and project leadership.

I don’t claim to have “the answer”, but I’ve thought about this a lot and also experimented on my clients (don’t tell them… sshhhh). So, here is my take on project leadership in an agile context.

Oh, and by the way, this article is a Bait & Switch. I’m trying to get you to read What is an Agile Leader. You might save time by just skipping this and going there right away 🙂

Beware of “projects”

The word “project” is controversial in agile circles. Some companies use the “project model” as some kind of universal approach to organizing work, even for product development. However, a surprising number of projects fail, some dramatically. I see more and more people (especially within the software industry) conclude that the project model itself is the culprit, that it’s kind of like rigging the game for failure.

A “project” is traditionally defined as a temporary effort with a temporary group of people and a fixed budget. Product development, on the contrary, is usually a long term effort that doesn’t “end” with the first release – successful products start iterating way before the first release, and keep iterating and releasing long after. And teams work best if kept together over the long term, not formed and disbanded with each new project. Also, the traditional approach to planning and funding projects often leads us to big-bang waterfall-style execution, and hence a huge risk of failure because of the long and slow feedback loop. The project model just doesn’t seem to fit for product development.

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Scaling Agile @ Lego – our journey so far (slides from LeanTribe keynote)

UPDATE Dec 2016: Wrote an article about LEGO’s agile journey, see here. Includes all of the material below, plus explanations and updates.

Here are the slides for my Lean Tribe keynote Scaling Agile @ Lego – our journey so far.

Here’s also a more detailed version from a talk that Lars Roost and I did at GOTO conference in Copenhagen: is SAFe Evil (that talk was also recorded).

This is just a brief snapshot of a journey in progress, not a journey completed 🙂

Sample slides below.

This doesn't scale read more »

How a team of 2 kids + adult rookies won a Robot Sumo competition

Last night our Lego Mindstorms robot “Robit” somehow managed to win the Robot Sumo competition at the GOTO conference in Copenhagen! (here’s also an article in Mälarö Tidning)


Pretty frickin’ amazing considering that this was a big software development conference with lots of super-experienced developers competing, and our robot was mostly built by two kids – David and Jenny Kniberg (11yrs and 10yrs old) – the only kids at the conference.  Their robot didn’t just win once – it outmaneuvered and outwrestled the competing robots in every match!

Here’s the final, Robit to the left:

So how could a newbie team win the competition so decisively?

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2nd edition of Scrum & XP from the Trenches – “Director’s Cut”

Guess what – I’ve updated Scrum and XP from the Trenches!

Scrum and XP from the Trenches 2nd edition

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No, I didn’t invent the Spotify model

You know the saying “don’t shoot the messenger”? Well, that goes both ways – “don’t praise the messenger”. Well, OK, you can shoot or praise the messenger for the quality of the delivery – but not for the message content!

I’ve spent a few years working with Spotify and published a few things that have gained a surprizing amount of attention – especially the scaling agile article and spotify engineering culture video. This has come to be known as the “Spotify Model” in the agile world, although it wasn’t actually intended to be a generic framework or “model” at all. it’s just an example of how one company works. The reason why I shared this material is because my Spotify colleagues encouraged me to, and because, well, that’s what I do – help companies improve, by learning stuff and spreading knowledge.

Spotify engineering culture

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Programming with kids & co-speaking with my son :)

Yesterday me and Dave (11 yrs) spoke together for the first time! We did a public talk at Spotify about how to help kids learn to program. We’ve been experimenting a lot with that in my family (4 kids to experiment with… muahahaha), and wanted to share some learnings. Worked out better than we could have hoped, considering all the risky tech demos and live coding involved 🙂

Shared the stage with teacher Frida Monsén who talked about how to get this kind of stuff into schools. Thanks Helena Hjertén for organizing this, and Spotify for hosting & sponsoring. Here’s an article in Computer Sweden about this event and our little “mod club”.

Here are the slides! They are in Swedish though. Might do an English version of this talk some day 🙂

Dave on Stage

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A3 problem solving template – now in Google Doc!

I’ve finally gotten around to porting the A3 template to Google Doc. Who wants to send around MS Word docs and PDFs? Bah. Put the doc in the cloud instead, where everyone can see and edit together. Or print the template and do it by hand.

Curious about A3 problem solving? See the FAQ.

Here’s a direct link to the template.

A3 template


Programming with kids using LearnToMod and Minecraft

I’ve spent years experimenting with how to teach kids programming, mostly using Scratch. But now we’ve found a new favorite: LearnToMod! Kids love Minecraft, and LearnToMod is entirely based on Minecraft, so it’s a perfect match!

We now do a Mod Club every Saturday evening, my older kids (9 & 11 years old) and some of their friends. It’s basically a programming school based on LearnToMod and Minecraft programming. Reeeeaaaally fun, the kids go wild (OK, me too)! AND they learn lots while doing it. To them it’s “magic powers”, not “programming skills”.

I made a 5 minute video showing how it works:

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Crisp DNA is now open source!

Crisp DNA screenshot

Crisp DNA screenshot

We get a lot of questions about how Crisp works and why, especially from other consultants looking to create something similar. After many years of experimenting we’ve converged on a model that works well, basically the sweet spot between being an independent consultant and being an employee. So we decided to open source it.

In January 2015, at Crisp Hack Summit 10, Mats Henricsson, Henrik Kniberg and Max Wenzin huddled up and created the first version of the open-sourced Crisp DNA. It is published at http://dna.crisp.se/

The Crisp DNA is version controlled using Git and both Crisp DNA repository and Crisp DNA web site is hosted at GitHub using GitHub Pages. The web site is a bunch of static web pages and images that is generated from Markdown and Textile files using Jekyll. This is the same setup that GitHub themselves use.

By using open, version-control friendly formats such as Markdown and Textile, we hope to benefit from the open source community which can fork our model, make changes and perhaps suggest improvements. This can actually change how Crisp works!

Focus. Slides from my keynote at BrewingAgile, Gothenburg

Here are the slides from my keynote “Focus” at BrewingAgile Gotheburg. It was about how to achieve more by working less.

Feel free to reuse 🙂

PS – here is a video of the entire talk.