The Passion Tour: workshopping values the Spotify way

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Company values – why bother?

In late 2013, the Spotify HR crew embarked on a journey to revisit the company’s values. We recognised that the Spotify culture was (and still is) one of our great strengths and that our core values should be an integral part of this.

So in 2014, with a solid plan beneath our belt, beautifully designed materials, and a team of motivated facilitators and a slight wink of the eye, we asked Spotifiers around the world if they were “ready to feel the love” and set off on our values journey: The Spotify Passion Tour.

The Spotify Passion Tour – the set up

Many of us joined the band because of our passion for the company and its mission. This united all of us, regardless of whether one of us is ‘all about the tech’, ‘all about the music’, or just wanted to be in an exciting, fast-growing company that was making a difference. So we were keen to do this ‘The Spotify way’. We knew we had to show that we genuinely wanted all the Spotifiers’ input. That this would not be a dictatorship with the lead team telling us what to be passionate about, how to behave and what to believe in.

We had (have) a strong employer brand (even if it was a little less defined at that time) and we saw the opportunity to capitalise on that by branding and designing this project like a tour. We created posters with tour dates, a tour website, pre-tour videos, T-shirts and merch and even had the employees get tickets which they handed in to enter the workshop.

The ticket stubs actually doubled as an entry to a raffle. We knew many Spotifiers would want to take part, but asking busy people to spend a whole day discussing more the more fluffy aspect of their day-to-day work, would be a challenge. So we chose to incentivise Spotifers to take part by entering all those who took part into a raffle. Even this was done in the Spotify way. Winners would get the chance to attend 2015’s SxSW – a place where we had defined our branding at festivals, and something we should give the ‘winning’ Spotifiers a chance to experience.

But perhaps one of the most important aspects of the planning was that (maybe to the annoyance of some people in our larger offices) we knew that it was about time to recognise those more remote and far-flung Spotifiers first. In our larger offices like Stockholm and New York, where most Spotifiers are closer to the lead team, it’s much easier to grasp the company vision and mission and the reasoning behind strategic decisions and direction. But at that time, we had 27 offices around the globe and many of those (especially those in the more remote locations) had asked for a clearer direction, for one vision, one mission, one company and one culture. So we started the tour from the smallest office in the furthest corners of the world, and worked our way inwards.

Setting the scene

We kicked the day off with hearing from our customers. We asked them to share their views on the Spotify brand. This reasoning for this start was two-fold.

Firstly, this would make sure we did just the right amount of navel-gazing: that we still remembered to think about our external brand perception and make sure our values were aligned.

And secondly, it put us in the right mindset for the next stage, where we heard from the lead team on our newly constructed vision and mission.

The values should come from each of us but the vision and mission must be set by the lead team. Although we are all an important part of it, essentially Spotify is Daniel’s company. It’s Daniel and Martin’s vision and direction that founded the company. And it’s the lead team’s job to continue to give us that direction, to tell us where we’re headed and lead us through the strategy. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be able to reflect on, discuss and debate each of our individual understanding of the statements. We did this in groups by focussing on the future and the impact that achieving this mission would have on our various stakeholder groups. Conversations on this were endless! We were truly passionate about what Daniel and Martin had set out to achieve, and we all still wanted to be a part of it.

Finding our values

So now we’d set the scene. The next stage was to reflect on our successes, sharing stories and anecdotes from the past. We’d decided the values must be from the heart and genuine to Spotify. And what better place to draw inspiration than from than our past.

We asked smaller teams to tell stories about when we were at our best. Both from a team perspective and from a company-wide perspective. So many stories were shared. So many new band members heard about what it was like in the ‘good old days’. This is the aspect that received the most positive feedback following the Passion Tour. We really cherished spending time with each other talking about how the brand affected us all, how we came into the company and the things that have fired us up the most!

From there we discussed and debated the behaviours that we thought connected all of this. Each group was set the challenge to identify the behaviours behind the successes. And from that we drew up a shortlist of values.

And then, in the style of true democracy, we debated even more by joining another small group, comparing notes. Our task at this stage was to shorten and prioritise a final list of values. And the final decision had to be unanimous.

And with that the workshop was done, but the work with the values was far from over!