Scrum of Scrums

Scrum of Scrums are often spoken about… but what are they?

The daily standup is often carried out by agile teams.. It’s a short, typically 15 minute time-boxed planning session held at the start of the day for the team. One of the outputs from the daily stand-up may be a list of blockers which are preventing the team from completing work. Often these blockers can be resolved within the team or with conversations with other teams.

However with large programmes of work where many teams with different disciplines are working ‘together’ blockers and dependancies become more of an issue and resolution more complex and lengthy.

A common attempt to resolve this is to include more and more teams into the stand-up - The thinking being that if everyone on the critical path to delivery is in attendance it will enable prompt resolutions. The reality however can be very long stand-ups that lack any direction and results in teams becoming disengaged and dreading this daily event… It’s no longer a planning meeting for the benefit of team but a laborious management meeting which fails to deliver and becomes irrelevant to those who attend.

Implementing a Scrum of Scrums is a pragmatic way of trying to resolve some of the complexities thrown up by large product development without this odours overhead!

The SoS (Scrum of Scrums) operates at different levels…

At the team level each team continues with a 15minute standup - it’s their planning meeting.. What are they trying to achieve today and what issues or blockers do they have?

A second standup is then held, sometimes daily… But I find running these twice a week (Tuesday and Thursday) is usually sufficient and a lighter overhead.. The 2nd stand-up is held a few minutes after the team stand-ups but only attended by one or two representatives from each team (ideally not or at least not just the scrum masters from each team) in additional to project and product managers. This is more of a project or programme stand-up. Where blockers exists between teams they can be discussed and hopefully resolved.

A 3rd standup is then held after this.. This is at the portfolio level and usually attended by enterprise architects, PMO, stakeholders and senior management/directors……. As before a number of representatives from the 2nd stand-up will attend this event but not everyone! those who still have unresolved issues and blockers should be attendance.

Example Scrum of Scrums

Example Scrum of Scrums

Running meetings on a regular cadence as described is an efficient and usually more prompt approach then attempting to arrange meetings on demand when issues are raised.

It enables issues which could potentially delay delivery to be escalated from team level to portfolio in only 2 meetings. The regular cadence means there’s never more than a 2 day delay in the issue being discussed at the top levels of the organisation.

Christian Miles