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?​