Scrum@Scale

A holistic and pragmatic way to scaling agile

Scrum@Scale (or Scrum at Scale) is one of the newer Agile frameworks, introduced in 2014 by Jeff Sutherland, creator of the Scrum methodology and one of the signatories of the Agile Manifesto. It addresses complexities and impediments of multiple Scrum teams working with the Scrum guide to deliver value to their customers, and is designed to scale across the entire organization.

Key Purpose
& Core Principles

Scrum@Scale

A simple and lightweight framework

The purpose of Scrum@Scale is to offer a simple and lightweight framework to scale Scrum with as little bureaucracy as possible. It is one of the least prescriptive of the scaled Agile methodologies, emphasizing the typical challenges related to scaling, as well as suggestions for how to address these.

Scrum@Scale seeks to ‘radically simplify scaling by using Scrum to scale Scrum’. The core principle of Scrum@Scale is the known and clear responsibility split between the Product Owner and the Scrum Master. The Product Owner is responsible for the content (the ‘what’), while the Scrum Master is responsible for facilitating the process (the ‘how’). By highlighting this jurisdiction, Scrum@Scale seeks to eliminate conflict and waste.

An Introduction to Key Elements

Roles

Scrum@Scale places significant emphasis on the separate jurisdictions of the Product Owner and the Scrum Master. Therefore, the framework introduces to separate cycles for the roles, with two touchpoints: Product Release Feedback and Team Level Process.

Product Owner Cycle

The Product Owner Cycle revolves around what product or solution will be created and the activities needed to support and promote this. The further responsibilities of the role correspond to the standard Scrum definitions. Scrum@Scale groups Product Owners into Product Owner Teams that map to the Scrum of Scrum teams. These Product Owner Teams meet at a daily Meta Scrum ceremony, led by a Chief Product Owner, in order to coordinate as needed and discuss high-level strategy.

The Scrum Master Cycle

The Scrum Master Cycle revolves around building the products or solutions that have been identified by the Product Owner. Like with the Product Owner role, the individual Scrum teams have the same roles, activities, ceremonies and artefacts as in traditional scrum. Scrum@Scale groups scrum teams into Scrum of Scrums (SoS) which carry a joint responsibility for producing a common product increment. They participate in joint agile ceremonies such as backlog refinement, retrospectives, and a Scaled Daily Scrum with the objective of coordinating teams and removing impediments.

Scaling the cycles

If further scaling is needed, the overall responsible leader is the Executive Action Team (EAT). The Scrum of Scrum teams gather in a Scrum of Scrum of Scrums (SoSoS), and so on. Likewise, the Product Owners scale in a similar way depending on the context. The highest level of Product Owner scaling is the Executive Meta Scrum (EMT), prioritizing in a company-wide setting.

Get Started With Scrum@Scale

When implementing Scrum@Scale, the first activity is to install an Executive Action Team (EAT), a small set of teams using scrum at a small scale, in order to, at an early stage, start resolving any organizational bureaucracy or existing development practices that hinders agile. This model is then used as reference for scaling scrum to other teams and departments. The EAT must therefore have political and financial support throughout the organization, with capability of changing organizational policies and practices.

In doubt which agile framework to choose?​

Large Scale Scrum (LeSS)

Applying Scrum in a large-scale context

Large Scale Scrum (LeSS) focuses on how to apply principles and elements of Scrum in a large-scale context without overcomplicating processes or installing unnecessary bureaucracy. It is a ‘barely sufficient methodology’, revolving around many cross-functional, full-stack teams working together on their common goal and shared responsibility of delivering one shippable product – a complete end-to-end solution intended for real customers.

Key Purpose
& Core Principles

Large Scale Scrum
(LeSS)

Less is more

The key purpose of LeSS is to have many Scrum teams working together with as few processes and procedures as possible. As the name implies, the goal is to make the way of working and scaling as simple as possible.

Like SAFe, LeSS has defined a number of principles to guide the work within the framework:

  1. Large-Scale Scrum is Scrum
  2. Empirical process control
  3. Transparency
  4. More with less
  5. Whole-product focus
  6. Customer-centric
  7. Continuous improvement towards perfection
  8. Systems thinking
  9. Lean thinking
  10. Queuing theory

An Introduction to Key Elements

Roles

Keeping it simple, LeSS revolves around two main roles – Product Owner working with 2-8 teams and Scrum Masters working with 1-3 teams – with role descriptions stemming from standard scrum. The exception is that LeSS prefers to move the responsibility of refining the product backlog items from the Product Owner to the teams, which must be cross-functional and contain a combination of business domain knowledge and technical excellence. This means that a key prerequisite for success is that the teams are empowered to be able to directly interact with the customers.

All teams share a unified product backlog which they work on in synchronized sprints lasting 1-4 weeks. At the end of the sprint, the teams jointly deliver a product increment.

Ceremonies

In terms of ceremonies, LeSS places key emphasis on planning, product backlog refinement, and the sprint review and retrospective.

Planning is split into two parts; the first part where selected team representatives meet with the Product Owner and commit to selected product backlog items as well as discuss cross-team collaboration during the coming sprint. In the second part, the teams gather separately to plan the sprint and refine the sprint backlog.

Product Backlog Refinement is continuously done throughout the sprint in order to ensure that the product backlog items are ready for sprint planning, e.g. by splitting big items, detailing items, and estimating effort.

The end of sprint focuses on 3 activities: 1) The sprint review, where the team and customers review the sprint outcome together, 2) the retrospective, where improvement areas are identified and successes are celebrated in each team, and 3) the overall retrospective, where all teams, Product Owners, and Scrum Masters get together to inspect and adapt practices to gain improved efficiency. 

In doubt which agile framework to choose?​

Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)

A comprehensive & popular framework

Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is the most comprehensive framework for adopting Agile development practices and principles at enterprise scale. It is continuously updated with new and different components, resembling a software product with versioning and backward compatibility.

The framework is used by 29% of the respondents in the Annual State of Agile Report, making it the most popular framework for Agile today.

The newest version of SAFe, version 5.0, places significant emphasis on the concept of Business Agility, engaging the entire organization. In earlier versions focus was on technical development, but it became clear that in order to deliver business solutions fast and frequently, all aspects of the organizations need involvement.

Key Purpose
& Core Principles

Scaled Agile Framework
(SAFe)

Fast, frequent & sustainable value

SAFe facilitates the creation and continuous improvement of a Lean Enterprise that delivers value fast, frequently, and sustainably. Their platform, scaledagileframework.com, provides an extensive knowledge base of best practices, competencies, and proven principles.

The SAFe framework revolves around 10 SAFe Principles, which in nature are similar to other Lean and Agile Principles:

  1. Take an economic view
  2. Apply systems thinking
  3. Assume variability; preserve options
  4. Build incrementally with fast, integrated learning cycles
  5. Base milestones on an objective evaluation of working systems
  6. Visualize and limit WIP, reduce batch sizes, and manage queue lengths
  7. Apply cadence, synchronize with cross-domain planning
  8. Unlock the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers
  9. Decentralize decision-making
  10. Organize around value

An Introduction to Key Elements

Core Values

A set of Core Values serves as guidance of the Agile transformation:

  1. Alignment is about continually communicating the mission, portfolio strategy, and solution vision.
  2. Transparency is about openly visualizing all relevant work.
  3. Built-in quality is about delivering through practices that ensures quality throughout the life cycle, e.g. by reducing technical debt and investing in maintenance work.
  4. Program execution: Participate as business owners in PI execution and establish business value. Ensure that the scope is aligned with demand and capacity. Aggressively remove impediments and demotivators.

The Big Picture

To visualize the framework’s different components a “Big Picture” graphic, showing how work flows from product management through governance, program and development teams, out to customers. The “Big Picture” shows the two levels of SAFe 5.0: Essential, including Agile teams and team of teams, and portfolio.

Essential level

On the essential level, multiple teams are part of an Agile Release Train (ART) working towards delivering a Product Increment. Teams are working in iterations and applying the roles of Scrum Master, Product Owner, and team members, supported by the program level roles like the Release Train Engineer, System Architect, and Product Management.

Portfolio level

On the portfolio level, the execution of deliverables is aligned with the strategy of a specific business area, organizing development around a number of value streams in an organizational unit. The key focus is to deliver budgeting and governance to ensure the right things are built in order to meet strategic business objectives.

Core Competencies

Finally, SAFe defines seven core competencies of the Lean Enterprise, each of which represents a set of related behaviours, skills and knowledge, enabling organizations to grow:

  1. Lean-Agile Leadership is the leadership style of Lean-Agile Leaders, who continuously apply the Lean-Agile mindset, values, and practices, while being change sponsors and supporting the people in the organization.
  2. Lean Portfolio Management is about applying a lean approach to strategic funding on senior management level in order to align execution and strategy.
  3. Organizational Agility is about adopting an organization-wide and cross-functional Lean-Agile mindset, driving optimization of business processes and strategies, and a truly flexible and agile organization.
  4. Enterprise Solution Delivery is about applying Lean-Agile principles and practices on a large scale; to develop and operate complex solutions in an ever-changing market.
  5. Agile Product Delivery is a way for teams to continuously and flexibly deliver value to the end-users of their products by taking a customer-centric approach.
  6. Team and Technical Agility is about adopting the critical skills, principles, and practices for the high-performing teams, in order to deliver value to their end-users.
  7. Continuous Learning Culture is about encouraging the people of the organization to learn and innovate by committing to continuous improvement practices and promoting a culture where failures are considered valuable lessons.

In doubt which agile framework to choose?​