Scrum of Scrums, also called Meta Scrum, is a technique to scale Scrum to the enterprise. While Scrum is known to work very well at the team level, scaling it is another story and needs to be done with the right processes in place. Scaling Scrum is of the essence, if organizations want to make it into the next decade. Adaptability and flexibility should be shown not just by teams handling Agile projects but by the entire organization. In this blog, we will help you understand about Scrum of Scrums and how it helps organizations.
A technique to scale Scrum up to large groups (over a dozen people), consisting of dividing the groups into Agile teams of 5-10. Each daily scrum within a sub-team ends by designating one member as “ambassador” to participate in a daily meeting with ambassadors from other teams, called the Scrum of Scrums—Agile Alliance
While you may be aware of Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber being the pioneers of Scrum, did you also know that they were the first to implement Scrum of Scrums?
In the Scrum Guide, Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber do not provide any guidance for scaling Scrum. But in 1996, Sutherland and Schwaber, when working at IDX, had to apply Scrum to large scale development. The goal then was to convert individual Scrum units into one large interlocking system in order to streamline and manage the quality of the entire development organization. Eight business units had to be coordinated with multiple product lines per business unit and individual teams had to be synchronized with each other.
This was the first time they used the technique of Scrum of Scrums successfully to scale Scrum. The concept of Scrum of Scrums was first mentioned by Sutherland in a 2001 article titled “Agile Can Scale: Inventing and Reinventing SCRUM in Five Companies.”
Imagine a scenario where a number of Agile teams are involved in a project. How then will you ensure co-ordination between teams, and ensure that the quality of Scrum is being upheld across all teams and departments? In small scale Scrum, we have a daily scrum when team members meet and ensure that Scrum practices are being used and work is proceeding as scheduled. It works because of the high level of collaboration and transparency that is present in the team.
Similarly, even when multiple teams are involved, there has to be a high degree of collaboration and transparency. But it’s not easy, and may even be impossible, for all members of all teams to meet every day. Which is why, as the definition of Scrum of Scrums mentioned above suggests, each sub-team has a designated member called ‘ambassador’.
The Scrum of Scrums is conducted as an everyday meeting with ambassadors of each sub-team presenting the progress, impediments, or future work of their respective teams. So, every team has a representation, and every team gets a chance to put forth its ideas and challenges. The focus is then on resolution of impediments which may include lack of co-ordination between teams, or lack of knowledge of responsibilities of each team etc.
Let’s take an example of implementing Scrum of Scrums in an organization that has Agile based teams in all departments. While each individual team meets daily, there can be a weekly scrum of scrums where the ambassadors of each team will meet to discuss issues and challenges.
When multiple teams are involved in the same project, coordination may become difficult. There may be some areas of overlap which need to be well established. Scrum of Scrums as a framework allows multiple teams to communicate with each other. Effective communication helps to ensure that the output of each team integrates well with the output of the other teams, and especially in areas where responsibilities are overlapping or events have to be sequenced.
Scrum of Scrums are held pretty much the same way as Daily Scrum. Ambassadors or team leaders of each sub-team can meet daily, twice a week, or at a minimum, once a week but unlike the daily scrum, the SOS meetings are not timeboxed.
The team representative or ambassador typically has to answer these questions.
Agile transformation can be challenging. Which is why close to 47% of all transformations fail. But Agile adoption is a must, if organizations want to become nimble and more receptive to change.
So, what should organizations do to ensure that their Scrum of Scrums does not fail? It is possible to ensure that Scrum of Scrum is carried out successfully with multiple teams on a project.
The trick here is to ensure that co-ordination and communication between multiple teams is effective and on track. Impediments should be addressed on time. The Scrum of Scrums should not be treated as a status report to be given to the management but rather as a tool to make sure that individual teams make their sprint goals, and that the overall project goal of all the teams is met.
As Agile organizations get larger and work with multiple teams, they have to adopt a way of working which will ensure that Agile quality is maintained and work between teams is seamless in order to achieve the final objective. Scrum of Scrum ensures this by allowing multiple teams to communicate with one another to tie up loose ends and remove roadblocks that might impede progress.