Scrum of Scrums 101: What is it and how do you make it happen?

Scaling a business and its processes can be difficult if not handled correctly. Simply increasing the number of people on a project can lead to a messy, chaotic process, even for the creators of Scrum!

While working on a massive project which required multiple businesses to coordinate and synchronize development teams, Scrum pioneers Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber tried a new way to scale Scrum teams. Enter the Scrum of Scrums.

Scrum of Scrums (also known as “meta scrum” or abbreviated to SoS) is a scaled agile technique that enables multiple teams to collaborate and produce complex solutions. What is the purpose of the Scrum of Scrums?

What is the purpose of the Scrum of Scrums?

Scrum of Scrums unites several individual teams to create a singular “virtual” team. The aim is to increase clarity between teams by reducing available communication paths. Using this framework improves transparency and enables organizations to scale Agile easily.

An SoS team should be near-identical to a regular scrum team and follow the same set of values. They will participate in the same events, and team members will have the same role as they would in a regular Scrum team.

The Scrum of Scrums framework is usually a stepping stone used by organizations looking to scale agile and organize the delivery of bigger or complex projects. Teams using SoS to collaborate can better coordinate a fully integrated product delivery at the end of every sprint.

How do you run a Scrum of Scrums?

A Scrum of Scrums team consists of delegates from each team. Each representative will be a key part of the development team with in-depth knowledge of how the team is working, their process, and great communication skills. The delegate doesn’t need to be the same person throughout the project, but they need to be given the same responsibilities as a product owner.

The delegate role isn’t the only new role in SoS. As you may have guessed, this new style of Scrum requires a new type of Scrum Master: The Scrum of Scrum Master. Whoever receives this role will facilitate prioritization, ensure teams are focused on progress, and work to continuously improve the framework’s effectiveness.

The Scrum of Scrums Master will host daily stand-up meetings that offer the team delegates a chance to align, improve, and address any issues they may be facing. Each delegate will discuss their team’s progress, including any struggles. This helps the overall project because other teams can assist with any issues and remove any risks of falling short of the sprint goal.

During these meetings, each member should look to answer the following questions:

  • What has your team done since we last met?
  • What will your team do before we meet next?
  • Is anything slowing your team down or getting in their way?
  • Are you going to put something in another team’s way?

The final question is crucial for coordination efforts. Teams should not be handing off work to another team without declaring it to the other teams and SoS Master, especially if it gets in the way of their assigned work. Organizations will only feel the benefits of SoS if they openly communicate and work together towards the goal.

These meetings are crucial to maintaining the transparency needed to collaborate effectively. Some believe daily meetings are unnecessary. Instead, they hold two or three meetings throughout the week. The frequency of SoS meetings should ultimately be determined by how much value the team feels they offer. If you find the daily stand-up taking more time than it should, you can reduce the number of meetings until you feel an appropriate ratio of time to value.

Tips to making the most of your Scrum of Scrums

Switching to Scrum of Scrums will be an uphill battle as with any new framework. While many of the principles are the same as regular Scrum, a few differences can easily catch out even the most practiced Scrum experts. Scrum of Scrums is one of the best ways to scale scrum within an organization, so handling the implementation of SoS is crucial to the project and the company as a whole.

If your organization needs to implement SoS, here are some tips to help get the maximum value out of the framework.

Alternate delegates

Each team needs a representative to attend SoS meetings. This person should be well versed in how scrum works and have a strong knowledge of what their team is doing. However, the delegate doesn’t need to be the same person every meeting.

Say the regular delegate struggles with their work and cannot make a meeting. Rather than putting the project on hold, another team member can attend the meeting in their place. This helps maintain productivity and ensures the SoS team stays aligned.

Switching delegates also offers a great representation of the whole team. Everyone on the team will have a slightly different perception of how the project progresses. Having different representatives will provide a deeper, all-encompassing view of the team’s progress.

Set a timebox based on your needs

As with all agile methodologies, SoS teams should avoid setting stringent deadlines and look to set looser timeboxes to complete tasks.

Scheduling these timeboxes will be a little more complex than regular Scrum. You need to consider every team involved in the project, rather than just your team. Assess the needs of each team and set time frames based on the combined needs of every team. This will avoid the negative aspects of deadlines (like burnout) while ensuring the project runs on schedule.

Don’t just identify issues. Solve them

If teams are struggling to work together under Scrum of Scrums, you need to address the issues as soon as possible. The longer the teams struggle to work with the framework, the more problems it can create.

When scheduling SoS meetings, make sure to leave enough time to look at any issues raised. Having representatives of each team involved with this process will allow other groups to understand how their colleagues work. This can help build trust between the teams and help everyone work together.

Be clear about the information teams need to share

Transparency is the key to success with Scrum of Scrums. Multiple teams coordinating can only work well if they stay aligned throughout the project. To do this, refer back to the four questions we mentioned earlier. Each question is designed to explain where each team is, what they need to do next, and any issues they’re facing.

As a Scrum of Scrums Master, you are responsible for ensuring each delegate knows these questions and can prepare their responses appropriately. Any decisions made by a team should be communicated to the other teams as soon as possible to avoid confusion.

Scrum of Scrums meetings are not status meetings

Those familiar with traditional Waterfall methodology will be well aware of status meetings. Everyone involved in development must attend and report their progress to the project manager. These are incredibly tedious meetings that offer little value to the project and detract from productivity.

Imagine that meeting, but it involves multiple teams focusing on individual task completion. Sounds terrible, doesn’t it?

SoS meetings are not supposed to be status meetings. They are a discussion that focuses on the overall project goal and how teams can achieve it together.

Create a comfortable environment that facilitates conversation

Regular meetings can quickly turn from interesting to dull, time-wasting affairs. As time goes on, a disdain for meetings can lead to less conversation, as everyone just waits for the meeting to end. This inevitably leads to poor communication and a lack of transparency that hinders the project.

Avoid falling into a productivity-sucking hole by making meetings more engaging. Start with a quick ice-breaker game or use fun props as a physical identifier of who’s turn it is to speak. Pick a room with an open feel and comfortable seating. This can help participants relax.

Use software that helps keep teams aligned

Collaboration has never been easier thanks to the recent advances in technology. Cloud-based software, like EasyRetro, allows every team member to work together, share progress updates, and seek assistance without constant emails or USB drives.

EasyRetro offers cloud-based Scrum boards, burndown charts, brainstorming tools, and anything else you could possibly need to collaborate while working with the Scrum of Scrums framework. Get started for FREE today.

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