How do I coordinate multiple Scrum Teams on the same project?
In a Scrum team there are multiple roles and personas that work together to complete the set of work items that they have committed to accomplish within the sprint. These Scrum team members develop the feeling of togetherness and collective ownership towards the sprint goal. A typical scrum team consists of 7 people plus or minus 2, including Scrum Master. Often, complex projects with multiple dependencies scale through having Scrum teams of teams. These roles created required for top down monitoring and integration of product increments. There are some projects which can scale up to 500 people using number of multiple scrum teams to achieve one common bigger goal.
In this article, I would like to present 3 different frameworks that are popularly used to coordinate between multiple scrum teams on the same project.
Scrum of Scrums (SoS)
It is an important and well known technique in scaling Scrum to large project teams. It is also known as Meta Scrum. These meetings allow teams to discuss their work, focusing on areas of overlap and integration. In this approach, each team identifies one person or two persons to represent their team to attend Scrum of Scrums meeting. The representatives from each team coordinate the work with multiple scrum teams. These meetings are much like daily standups, but they may happen less frequently as the project execution proceeds in a smooth manner. Everyone answers the following three questions:
- What changes did my team just make that will affect you?
- What changes will my team make next that will affect you?
- What blockers do we have or foresee for you?
In some project teams, this meeting happens 2-3 times in a week. It may start with a 30 minute time box initially and later reduce as the release progress. It is important to note that it is not a status meeting; in fact it is differences only meeting to understand the other team’s progress. The members who take part in this meeting are self-organizing and self-managing. Managers are welcome to this meeting and they may offer their helping hand in removing bigger impediments. This meeting is a working session to resolve the issues. Use simple spread sheet or any other tool to track issues, owners and due dates. This meeting focuses on inter-team dependencies that effect process and people.
Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)
It is one framework that focuses on adapting Lean-Agile framework that is built on the top of Scrum teams. The framework could be successfully applied for projects with 50-125 people at a stretch and supports large enterprise scaling of Scrum. The big picture graphic of SAFe highlights individual roles, teams, activities and artifacts that are applies the framework at team level, Program level and Portfolio level. The core values of SAFe are Program Execution, Code Quality, Alignment and Transparency. SAFe uses Agile Release Train (ART) to coordinate between multiple Scrum teams, which advocate the concept of “Develop on Cadence and Release on Demand”. SAFe supports agile frameworks like Scrum, XP and Kanban. It supports more centralized top down large enterprises that highly resonates with Process and Product evolution. It also proposes an architectural runway that multiple scrum teams need to build to have high quality product increment.
Large Scale Scrum (Less):
This framework is into existence by Craig Larman and Vodde. LESS proposes 2 frameworks for coordinating with multiple Scrum Teams. Framework 1 almost works similar to operation of Scrum of Scrums meeting for 10 teams. The number 10 being not a magic number, but it is the tipping point beyond which a Product Owner no longer can have a big picture view and have no time to spend with multiple teams. Apart from Scrum of Scrum style, the team representatives from all Scrum teams will do all the scrum ceremonies together.
Beyond 10 teams, the framework 2 which comes into being that states that the Product Owner role needs to be more top down to have holistic big picture view. The Product backlogs are split into area backlogs and the Product Owner role is divided into Area product Owner (APO) and the Product Owner Team.
These two frameworks actively support Scrum teams in large enterprises. They have systems thinking view in Agile and scale the PO structure.