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Scrum of Scrums

by StarAgile

October 31, 2019
Category Agile and Scrum


Working on a project is pride. One can play any role but working towards achieving the end goal provides a lot of involvement. Agile projects work differently and the entire team is empowered to work its way and is the secret for every project success. Especially the most commonly used scrum framework allows team to meet on a daily basis and understand the status. There is no need for a manager to ask for reports but self-reporting has become a habit within these teams. How was this possible? Did this happen overnight? It took years to bring the company and teams to agile mindset. Many organizations have accepted scrum and started embracing it. 

Now, comes the main topic for discussion. Was it just the daily meetings, sprint planning, and the retrospective meetings that helped to meet the objective? Yes, partially, and all happened due to constant development in the model. One such advancement which we will address in this blog is scrum of scrums. For our reference, sometimes we have mentioned Scrum of scrums also. 

Those who know this already pull up your socks to unlock many unknown things and for all those who are fresh to this term understand the origin, basics, and purpose of this model. Advantages and loopholes, who get the most benefit out of this model etc. 

What is a scrum of scrums 

Purpose of Scrum of scrums

First, you must know that it is a scaling mechanism. The primary goal of this mechanism is to limit the communication channels at the same time transfer required information to establish the path for success. You can understand this better when we tell you it is nothing but a daily stand up meeting. Yes, that is what is a daily scrum means which even a layman agrees today. Catch up with team and discuss happenings (what happened and what will happen) on a daily basis is called a daily scrum. So the scrum of scrums meeting agenda is nothing different but it happens with virtual team and every scrum team representative meet to meet up with the product delivery goal.

The Origin

Before we deep dive further about how, and what, we would like to throw some light on when did it all begin? 

  • 1996 – 2000 - Can you imagine 2 decades before it all started and GE the healthcare division which was earlier called as IDX systems kickstarted and implemented this technique to scale the scrum team individually. They had 8 SBU and each had different product lines. Therefore each product line had one or more scrum of scrums. 
  • 2000 – 2008 – Then it further took shape when PatientKeeper used this to support different enterprise releases for every system and partner during each sprint. 

The Approach 

This is one of the scaling approaches used in agile projects. The organization is not looked like one huge team but Scrum of scrums divides them into smaller teams with maximum 10 people in each team. This team allocation happens based on the product feature or the individual’s role. The company thus is able to reduce the crowd and make people individually own their responsibility. Every team will have their daily scrum and in turn a representative from each team will meet for the Scrum of scrums meeting. 

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When do we do this? 

Scrum of scrums in agile is done on a daily basis for 15 minutes to flush out the impediments about any release during each sprint and to know the report at the team level which answers the daily stand up meeting questions. 

The goal 

The primary goal of this scaling technique is to make all teams meet and do away with the barriers. Then to ensure the team productivity is increased and the team is empowered to deliver the results. The iterative goals of this method include the following. 

  • The everyday meeting must be conducted after the daily stand up meeting is completed by the sub-team. This means only the representative of the daily scrum team will meet for Scrum of scrums meeting. 
  • Must be conducted for a minimum of 15 minutes which is similar to the daily scrum. Eliminating the impediments is the purpose of this meeting. 
  • Working closely with the executive team that takes action to permanently remove the barriers and make sure that the best practice is implemented across the enterprise. 
  • Also, this model does not focus on developing backlogs, planning releases and coordinating epics. 

What is the Purpose

With the above-mentioned goals, the main purpose of Scrum of Scrums is to synchronize the cross teams and help resolve problems. Everyday deliverable tracking is achieved with this meeting across all the virtual scrum teams. The main agenda of Scrum of scrums is to understand 

  • Yesterday – What happened yesterday 
  • Today – What is to be done today 
  • Tomorrow – What obstacles will slow down the future process

Who must be part of the meeting 

There is no hard and fast rule here. The team can decide to send only the experts and the number of people to be part of this meeting is not defined. Even more than 9 are allowed to be part of the discussion based on the team size and the need. 

To be specific the following stakeholders can be part of the meeting 

  • Agile coach
  • Scrum master 
  • Product owner 
  • Release team 

Outcome 

With the purpose being eliminating impediments, the outcome of the Scrum of scrums is to ensure smooth movement of the development phase. Work towards accomplishing the sprint goals, improve team productivity, and deliver the product to the end-user. 

Chief features 

1)Team Size 

The team size is restricted between 3 and 10. This will help in achieving goals with a focus. The product owner can discuss with the team personally to understand the bottleneck and clear out issues. 

2)Communication pathway 

Reducing the communication pathway is one of the main features of this model. This will save time and avoid any miscommunication. The communication path is calculated using the formula given below. 

n(n-1)/2 per team

Every team will have 10 people in the maximum then the communication is made clear and not too many people interact. Each team will represent one for the Scrum of scrums and hence there again the communication becomes interactive with limited resources 

3)Scaling 

Scaling is the primary motive of meta scrum by which Scrum of scrums is called as. The work can happen in parallel and this saves time. The large team is divided into sub-team and hence each one focuses on their deliverables. Every team will develop the backlog and the ambassador from every team will attend Scrum of scrums to add or remove more backlogs to the kitty. 

4)Team productivity 

It is easy to identify the drawback among each team and the PO can assign the work to another team. This will ensure a timely delivery. Since the meeting happens on a daily basis with the entire team it is easy to track and reassign. Hence the scrum master for an Scrum of scrums is a senior authority who can make decisions on the spot. 

Role

The role of a scrum master in the Scrum of scrums is very crucial as he/she steers the team towards the delivery. It is important that they understand the concerns of each team representative and make a fool-proof plan to execute the final goal. 

However, we may not call this person as a scrum master as always done in agile projects. This person can be the chief PO, engineering director, coach or any other key person in the project. 

Therefore the important role of this person is to understand the situation explained by the ambassadors and provide them with guidance to resolve conflicts in their respective teams to work towards the goal. It is difficult as they do not talk to all team members directly, thus they must train the representatives to voice the team opinion correctly. This will enable the entire process to be fruitful. 

Overview 

In short scrum of scrums approach when executed correctly will remove the waste created in several implementations. These are in general created by the integration, release, and release management teams. These are created due to the scaling framework that distorts the purpose of the scrum. Therefore, scrum of scrums minimized the communication pathway but made the communication effective to make the process more agile. 

This mechanism is very much useful for teams that work on dissimilar products where there is no integration. It is indeed a coordination technique that allows team meetings to reduce and focus on the outcome. 

On the other hand, this model allows the team member representative to meet outside to discuss and eliminate the operational barriers which are the key to deployment and release processes. One can visualize this more similar to the scrum team working in a sprint. They basically have a mechanism to coordinate and cross-team dependency is dealt with for successful completion of all the epics needs for timely release of the product. 

The chief scrum of scrums agenda is to make the top management accountable for delivery. In one word you can relate this easily when you know that the scrum master for this technique must be the engineering director or up. That is the kind of high-level interaction promised in this model. 

Conclusion 

We know that you are thrilled to know about such a great scaling technique in agile methodology. If you want to master this and take your organization to the next level, then you must not think twice to register for an certified scrum master course. You can gain detailed insight about the main purpose and outcome of all the scaling techniques.

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