Redefining the Scrum of Scrums
Scrum of Scrums or SoS (not as in … — …) is a scaled agile technique for facilitating the coordination between all the teams working on the same objectives.
If you do Scrum already you can think about that as a large standup for people representing each team, where they do the same – answering the holy questions:
- What has your team done since we last met?
- What will your team do before we meet again?
- Is anything slowing your team down or getting in their way?
- Are you about to put something in another team’s way?
SoS is not a status meeting for the management; it is a meeting for working together as a team of teams to handle dependencies and joint problems.
I will now share how I run that meeting for maximum efficiency.
I intend to keep in short, no more than 45 min. the time is divided and planned:
- First 5 min, the facilitator talks about any critical updates.
- 30 min for risks and dependencies management. We go team by team, and the scrum master talks shortly about the topics.
- The last 10 min we save for Q/A (see below for what exactly)
Keeping track on what we decided and discussed during the Scrum of Scrums
I create a table for every meeting in our wiki for every Sprint, that looks like this:
The team name
Nothing to add here, it should be self-explanatory, but sometimes you could change it to “I wish my team name was…” and leave it to the imagination of the scrum masters.
A link to the Scrum or kanban board. If anyone wants to explore more, they should have a quick way to navigate to the board.
The name of the person that represents the team in that meeting and the point of contact of the team if you need anything from them after the meeting.
The Sprint goal usually is defined as a high-level summary of the target the product owner would like to accomplish during a sprint.
I have added it here because the team needs to know what they are willing to achieve in that Sprint.
How will the team know if they have achieved the Sprint Goal?
On how may epics(as in Jira epics), the team works at the same time. Sometimes the teams work on many items at the same time without considering the impact of that.
Little’s Law—the fundamental Law of queuing theory—tells us that the average wait time for service from a system equals the ratio of the average queue length divided by the average processing rate. (While this might sound complicated, even the line at Starbucks illustrates that.) Therefore, assuming any average processing rate, the longer the queue, the longer the wait. Simply reducing queue length decreases delays, reduces waste, increases flow, and improves the predictability of outcomes.
Again this should be used as a conversation starter, not as a blame mechanism.
As in, how are we progressing towards the goal?
Are there any open risks you would like to call out. It can be 3-rd party dependency that you can’t handle or some people leaving, and you haven’t planned for that or anything that is a risk to the delivery of the goal.
Does your team own any dependencies? We use this as a conversation started. That’s the most important part of the meeting.
Open up the Scrum of Scrums meeting
Usually, the meeting is a closed event – one person from the team is allowed to attend. I have opened that meeting to everyone by sending the invite to every team member that contributes to the product. The condition is that they can listen only, and if they have some questions, we will use the last 10 -15 min from every meeting for such a discussion.
By using this “hack,” I was able to give visibility to everyone to understand what the teams will be working on in the current Sprint. Usually, we have people from the support, field teams, and management listening to what the teams plan to do, without turning this into a status meeting.
I decided to experiment with rotating facilitators of the Scrum of Scrums. Habitually, the RTE is the leading facilitator. I believe in teamwork, and that’s why every week, there will be a different facilitator – one from the Scrum Masters. I think this boosts ownership and supports transparency.
Take that step
If you are willing to use one of my approaches, feel free and then share the results. I am also curious about how you hold your Scrum of Scrum meetings.