Scrum of Scrums was first coined by IDX Systems (now GE Healthcare). It was first implemented by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber in 1996. They needed to coordinate 8 business modules with multiple product lines per each business module. So they implemented the system of the Scrum of Scrums to effectively execute this process of coordination.
Before we learn about Scrum of Scrums, let’s see what Scrum is. A Scrum is a framework designed to help multiple teams work together. It is often regarded as an Agile methodology that describes a set of tools, meetings, and roles that work in coordination to help structure teams and manage their work effectively.
Importantly, Scrum of Scrums is NOT part of the Scrum Framework. This concept is suggested by Ken Schwaber to connect multiple Scrum teams to scale up the organization goals effectively with the right coordination among teams.
What is Scrum of Scrums?
Scrum of Scrums is a scaled version of Scrum which is an efficient way of connecting multiple teams and helping them work in coordination to deliver complex solutions.
There are multiple Scrums within an organization and these individual Scrums have their own Daily Scrum meeting. In the Scrum of Scrums, one or more people from each Scrum meet and form a higher level Scrum.
Unlike Scrum meetings, the Scrum of Scrums meeting is not necessarily held every day. The Scrum of Scrums meeting might happen 2 times a week in most cases.
As simple it sounds, it’s not that simple. An organization needs to balance the number of members in each Scrum and the number of individual Scrums that exist. Scrum of Scrums helps reach the desired outcome through transparency, inspection, and adaptation. Therefore, splitting a very large team into multiple smaller ones helps develop personal relationships, maintain transparency, and reach the desired goal. It is especially effective when the team members are working together towards a common goal, establish trust, respect and are aligned towards the common goal.
There is common wisdom about the number of people in a Scrum or Scrum of Scrums meeting which doesn’t exceed 9 members. This might become a limitation if the organization is too huge. The number of Scrums might be much more in which case, the number of Scrum of Scrums members will be bigger. In that case, you might need a Scrum of Scrums.
Who attends the Scrum of Scrums meetings?
The members of Scrum who attend the Scrum of Scrums are not set in stone. Depending on the work and the theme, teams can send an expert or someone who might be better in communication or an expert.
The number of people from each Scrum who goes to Scrum to Scrums is also not set. It is usually one from each team but a situation may call for more. The general condition is that the number of members in the Scrum of Scrums do not exceed nine just like in Scrums.
What is the frequency of the Scrum of Scrums meeting?
The frequency for the Scrum of Scrums meetings should be set by teams. Ken Schwaber suggests that the meeting should be timed for no more than 15 minutes and be held daily like daily Scrum meetings.
But, it is not the only way it can be done. Many organizations prefer the meeting for the Scrum of Scrums at a much lower frequency like 2 or 3 times a week. As Schwaber suggests, the Scrum of Scrums meeting can be finished in 15 minutes, but it is more suitable to give it thirty to sixty minutes since, the meetings are held less frequently. While the daily Scrum meeting agenda addresses and identifies the problem, the problem is not solved. The agenda of problem-solving can be taken up in the Scrum of Scrums meeting.
The problem that reaches the level of Scrum of Scrums is potentially a big problem that might affect up to a hundred people. Hence, a problem is identified, it should be solved at this level given that the right members are together and are able to complete the task.
Scrum of Scrums meeting Agenda
A Scrum of Scrums agenda is similar to that of the standard agenda of a daily Scrum (or Scrum). In a Scrum daily meeting, the members frequently address the following:
1. What did I do yesterday?
2. What will I do today?
3. Am I facing any obstacles or something is slowing me down?
Because the Scrum of Scrums isn’t necessarily held every day and each of the members is representing a team, the Scrum of Scrums meeting agenda can be modified to:
1. What has my team done so far? (or from the last time we met)
2. What will my team do until we meet again?
3. Is there anything slowing down my team?
4. Are you about to put something in my team’s way?
The last question which may seem like an extra compared to the Daily Scrum agenda is extremely helpful as the Scrum of Scrums agenda. At this level, there are multiple Scrum teams, each one of them carrying out their own tasks. The chances are that one team might knowingly or unknowingly hinder another team’s work. It is better to have prior knowledge of where there might be friction among teams.
Ken Schwaber suggests that the Scrum of Scrums meeting must be held daily, fast-paced, and short (about fifteen minutes). But, we have established that the Scrum of Scrums can be anywhere between thirty to sixty minutes. While the fact that the Scrum of Scrums meeting should be fast-paced is true, the agenda with the four questions can be completed in the first fifteen minutes, and then the rest of the time can be used to solve the problems that have surfaced.
The purpose of Scrum of Scrums
Like explained earlier, the Scrum of Scrums is a framework to connect multiple teams and make them work in coordination to deliver complex solutions. Compared to the typical organizational hierarchies or project-based teams, the structure of Scrum of Scrums reduces the communication pathways.
The Scrum of Scrums purpose is to coordinate and synchronize independent and smaller teams to ensure an integrated product or solution delivery at the end of every Sprint.
The purpose of the Scrum of Scrums is also related to its agenda. The purpose is to create a simple list of outstanding issues or problems
The features of Scrum of Scrums
Scrum of Scrums has a number of profound features. Some of the most valuable features of Scrum of Scrums are listed below.
Provides better quality of final product or service
Products exist to reach an end goal and Scrum of Scrums provides an excellent framework to achieve continuous development of the team, tools, and products.
It also allows defining and elaborating on requirements in advance or just in time so that all the teams across the board are updated with the most relevant product features.
Compared to hierarchical systems, the Scrum of Scrums allows the team members to have more control and say over the overall decisions made. This method of self-management allows the members to be more creative, innovative, and are acknowledged.
Being in an environment where they are acknowledged, they work more efficiently and happily which boosts the team morale significantly.
Collaboration and ownership
When the members are working closely with each other, it gives them a sense of collaboration and they tend to take ownership of the work they are carrying out. This often leads to the members putting out their best work and produce commendable results.
Better progress visibility and exposure
As Scrum of Scrums depends on transparency, every member (including the stakeholders) can know the progress of the overall product at any given point in time. This also allows the team to effectively identify the problems and later root them out effectively.
Reduced risk and increased product control
The framework of Scrums allows much-needed flexibility which gives the team members and stakeholders an amazing amount of product control. The priorities can be adjusted at each Sprint interval rather than at major milestones.
The fact that this framework has flexibility in its approach, the risk is reduced considerably. It helps curb the risk of absolute product failure.
Best practices to follow for Scrum of Scrums
Now that you are clear on what Scrums and the Scrum of Scrums framework are all about, here are a few Scrum of Scrums best practices you can employ effectively in your product management.
1. Make it clear what information has to be shared
This is really important because oftentimes, the meeting tends to go off track without the right direction. Go back to the Scrum of Scrums agenda and remember the four questions that have to be asked. Ask the team members to answer the “agenda questions” first and foremost.
2. Send the right people to the Scrum of Scrums
This is a practice that dictates how effective the Scrum of Scrums meeting will be. It is necessarily not the best communicator or an expert who has to go on to the Scrum of Scrums. Take a call depending on the situation and the need of the hour.
3. Establish a clear time box
As established earlier, there is no set frequency and time box. Depending on the product, decide the frequency and time limit for the Scrum of Scrums meetings.
4. Transparency and communication
Make sure that the participants in the Scrum of Scrums meeting share all the decisions and information with the Scrum teams to avoid a communication gap.
5. Creating an atmosphere where members feel okay to share
Communication is the cornerstone of the Scrum of Scrums. If you feel that communication is not happening, maybe due to the absence of trust or confidence, make an environment where members can easily share concerns and information.
Scrum of Scrums is an amazing framework that works great for big products with multiple units. It allows an effective flow of information and effectively synchronizes multiple teams across the organization. Adapting the right practices, following set agendas will definitely allow the product members to deliver the final product or solution.