Scrum of Scrums — everything you need to know
There are times when a work project may require more than five people, so your typical daily Scrum team meeting won’t fully accommodate your needs. So what can you do in these situations?
An efficient solution to this challenge is a Scrum of Scrums, a meeting that can involve more people and different departments to support your teams’ agility and enhance productivity, collaboration, and coordination.
In this guide, you’ll learn:
- What a Scrum of Scrums is
- The history of Scrum of Scrums
- The purpose of Scrum of Scrums
- The benefits of Scrum of Scrums
- Who is involved in a Scrum of Scrums
- How often to do a Scrum of Scrums
- A Scrum of Scrums agenda
- Scrum of Scrums best practices
- Getting started with a Scrum of Scrums
What is Scrum of Scrums?
Scrum of Scrums (also called a Scrum of Scrums meeting) is a way to scale Scrum methodologyso that several different Scrum teams on a large project can meet and work efficiently together.
Scrum teams are designed to be nimble. Small teams communicate better, adjust to change more easily, and are more productive. That’s why the Scrum Guide recommends Scrum teams have no more than 10 team members. If a project is so large that a small team can’t handle it, then it’s better to have multiple small teams.
With any large project with lots of people involved, meetings can be problematic. Even more so in Scrum — where the main goal is to break down large projects into sprints of one month or less. The Scrum of Scrums meeting enables each of the multiple small Scrum teams on a large project to send ambassadors to meet together as a unified, collaborative Scrum team and still be true to the values in the Agile Manifesto.
During the Scrum of Scrums, representatives of each team (who also rotate over time) will convene to discuss different aspects in relation to a project. These discussions may cover topics such as recent achievements, future goals, current challenges, and implemented solutions in progress. Though the frequency of Scrum of Scrums meetings is ultimately the team’s decision, these meetings typically take place weekly or biweekly.
The history of Scrum of Scrums
Product managers Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber pioneered the Scrum of Scrums approach in 1996. This new methodology’s goal was created to improve coordination among eight units, each with multiple product lines.
Sutherland and Schwaber realized that operating separate Scrum teams for each unit was disrupting the workflow between units. To solve this problem, they unified all eight product teams to facilitate a better alignment of their individual efforts. This is what ended up resulting in an innovative approach to scaling Scrum teams.
Satisfied with the experiment’s success, Sutherland published an article in 2001 titled Agile can scale: inventing and reinventing Scrum in five companies. This article introduced the term Scrum of Scrums to the public for the first time.
After the article was released, the Scrum of Scrums methodology gained recognition and ultimately became a key method in team management.
The purpose of Scrum of Scrums
The Scrum of Scrums primarily aims to scale Scrum practices by syncing the efforts of smaller, individual teams around a joint project. Other purposes of the Scrum of Scrums meeting include:
- Communicating activities and progress of smaller teams to the larger group, keeping everyone updated
- Resolving issues promptly by identifying and addressing urgent issues
- Managing team coordination by overseeing the interplay among the smaller Scrum teams
- Making collective decisions that have a bearing on all teams
The benefits of Scrum of Scrums
If you’re considering adopting the Scrum of Scrums method in your organization, it’s beneficial to understand the potential advantages this meeting strategy can offer to you and your teams:
- Facilitates scaling of Scrum. Given that the optimal Scrum team is made up of four to five individuals, the Scrum of Scrums enables these teams to maintain this ideal size. At the same time, the larger group can ensure comprehensive synchronization as they collaborate on larger projects.
- Enhances coordination for complex projects. With multiple teams working on complex projects, the Scrum of Scrums methodology increases coordination. It helps align individual team objectives with the broader project goals.
- Improves problem-solving. At times, agile teams may encounter problems they struggle to solve independently. The Scrum of Scrums can provide an opportunity for teams to garner new perspectives and creative solutions from their counterparts. This facilitates collaborative problem-solving.
- Fosters team consensus. By promoting open communication and collective decision-making, the Scrum of Scrums methodology encourages agreement across all teams that are engaged in the project.
Who is involved in a Scrum of Scrums?
The participants in the Scrum of Scrums are flexible, but it is important to keep in mind that the meeting itself should mirror the structure and roles of a traditional Scrum meeting — only at a larger scale.
- Product owner — The product owner contributes valuable input to these meetings. Their knowledge of the product backlog can be helpful when wanting to prevent duplicate tasks and establish a consistent definition of “done” across various teams.
- Scrum of Scrums Master — This individual is typically responsible for maintaining an overview of the team’s progress and trajectory. Therefore, they are optimally positioned to relay information regarding each team’s situation.
- Scrum of Scrums team members — These representatives from each team can offer distinctive insights and raise specific concerns that might otherwise go unnoticed.
While these roles are conventional in Scrum of Scrums meetings, other roles might be necessary depending on the project’s needs, such as a quality assurance professional.
How often to do a Scrum of Scrums
The team will decide the scheduling of the Scrum of Scrums meeting. These meetings could be daily or weekly, but they should not exceed 15 minutes in duration. Yet, a team may realize over time that the frequency of the meetings can be reduced. In addition, Scrum of Scrums meetings should adhere to a similar structure and duration as regular Scrum meetings.
Another crucial aspect to consider is that if a project issue surfaces and it requires immediate attention and discussion, the Scrum team should convene as soon as possible. This means that even though a Scrum of Scrums meeting is usually expected to be a maximum of 15 minutes, teams should allocate extra time to address any other potential issues that may arise.
A Scrum of Scrums agenda
To ensure the productivity of your Scrum of Scrums meetings, you need to maintain a structured agenda. This agenda should keep track of those topics and questions that need to be addressed, and team representatives should be ready to answer them. Some examples of typical questions to ask during a Scrum of Scrums meeting are:
- What achievements can your team report on since the previous meeting?
- What obstacles have emerged for your team members since we last met?
- What objectives does your team aim to achieve by the time of the next meeting?
- Is your team’s work likely to be affected by the activities of any other teams?
Scrum of Scrums best practices
Here are some best practices and strategies you can implement in your Scrum of Scrums to get the best and most optimized result out of your meeting.
- Choose capable team representatives. Each Agile team should pick representatives who can proficiently and effectively communicate their team’s progress and obstacles, as well as represent their interests.
- Establish meeting schedules and topics. Determine the duration and frequency of meetings well in advance. Make sure that you meet no more than twice a week. It can also be beneficial to reach an agreement on the questions you may want to discuss during the meetings.
- Promote open communication. Ensure that each team representative is ready to present their progress updates during the meeting. You can also foster a culture of transparency and a supportive environment that encourages members to share their progress and challenges freely.
- Resolve issues promptly. If the team members are in attendance, aim to address any concerns during the meeting. If not, make plans to resolve the issues as soon as possible when the meeting is over.
- Monitor project and task durations. Keep track of the number of days taken to address any obstacles and the time left until the project’s completion.
Getting started with a Scrum of Scrums
Making sure your teams are able to have collaborative, productive conversations is a key part of increasing efficiency in your workflow.
When you’re ready to get started, decide on which team members will represent their Scrum team in the Scrum of Scrums and plan your first meeting.
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