How do we scale scrum?
The scrum framework brings structure and order to a project in a chaotic, fast-paced environment. It delivers a shippable increment of the product after each sprint and allows a business to increase return on investment through prioritisation. As long as the rules are carried out as its creators intended the results are phenomenal and business value is realised. However what happens when the business requires greater output, many related projects to be synchronised to a deadline or a co-ordinated technical solution? This is where the technique comes into its own.
The Scrum of scrums is a method of co-ordinating teams and is used to grow and synchronise the scrum framework within a company to huge scale. As a scrum master I have used this technique to great effect in order to keep complex inter-related projects in sync.
1. The Challenge – Scaling
The challenge in scaling across an organisation lies within the rule that a team should typically have between five and nine members. While this is a guideline and there is no substitute for common sense, teams should definitely be “lean, mean productive machines”.
The challenge gets interesting when the business stakeholders wake up one morning and say “I want to deliver quicker, let’s put another thirty people on the project”. Or if they say “we need this delivered in three months and there are three other dependent teams you need to deliver this with.” Breaking the news that you want to limit the team to nine members would seem to limit the ability of the business to deliver.
This technique helps in these very situations, but before I explain how it works it is important to understand that it relies on all the original rules of scrum being carried out correctly, especially product backlog management and prioritisation. For this reason, the product owner’s role is key to the whole process and this should be discussed with the product owner(s) and stakeholders involved before embarking on a this mission in your organisation. Continue reading and you will see why this is so important.
2. What is Scrum of Scrums?
This is a meeting held to co-ordinate a set of inter-related scrum teams. The power and ability to scale is in the fact that one representative from each related team attends the meeting. By doing this an organisation can co-ordinate hundreds of people on different teams.
From each team, a representative has been picked to attend the meeting. The representatives share knowledge.
Once the number of members in the scrum of scrums becomes to large a representative from that meeting can join another meeting and the process can continue.
In this meeting, the host asks four questions (in the same vein as the daily scrum meeting). The questions are:
1. What have you accomplished since the last meeting
2. What do you aim to accomplish before the next meeting
3. Are there any impediments/blockers in your way
4. Are you about to do anything that could create a blocker/impediment to the project
The first three questions aim to highlight progress, draw attention to targets and surface any issues that need to be addressed to keep the project on track. The last question stems from the fact that related projects can often unknowingly create problems for each other. For example, in the technology world, one team may deploy code that means vastly more testing for another team.
The meetings can be scheduled to be as frequent needed and are usually anywhere from daily to bi-weekly. It purely depends on the needs of the programme.