Working in Scrum with big teams

Computer systems can become so big, that a huge number of software developers are involved. You might imagine that writing a operating like Linux, Microsoft Windows or Apple’s Mac OS can’t be written by a scrum team which has the size of 6 members. To have an efficient team, you don’t want to have a bigger team. Bigger teams leads to less efficient communication. In organisations which come from the more traditional waterfall method, you see most of the times they have problems obeying this amount of people. You get stand-ups with 15 people or more, which take ages. People can’t keep focused for so long, leading in a ineffective stand-up. It even gets worse when the Scrum Master decides that only one person will represent a story and speak up for three other persons which also help within this user story. In this case, you do the stand-up for the Scrum Master and not for the scrum team (which is all members of the team including the Scrum Master and the product owner).

One technique of scaling up teams within scrum is by dividing the group of people into a couple of groups with maximum 6 to 7 members, which is often said to be the ideal scrum team size. Each team assigns one member who will represent the team to participate in a meeting with all other assigned members of the other teams. This meeting is called the “Scrum of Scrums”. Within this meeting, they also discuss what has been completed, what will be the next steps and the impediments. By discussing the impediments, the focus will be on how other teams can help to solve these impediments. Also the Scrum of Scrums has it’s own backlog, which contains items the Scrum of Scrums team has to deal with. A Scrum of Scrums meeting hasn’t to be held each day. It’s up to the team, but make sure it’s time-boxed.
Scrum of scrum teams are scaled in a recursive manner: if you have 7 Scrum of Scrums teams, each of these groups will have a member that will join that Scrum of Scrums teams. One of the major discussions that occur during dividing people among the groups is who will join which group. In an ideal situation, all persons in each of the groups should be able to pick-up an item of the back-log and start implementing it. However, in large systems, this is not really an ideal situation. Teams can be divided in a certain sub-system of the whole system. The teams will pick-up the back-log items, which affect the sub-systems. When problems arise that affect also other teams, this will be discussed in the scrum-of-scrum meetings.
Posted in Agile, Scrum by Bruno at September 14th, 2015.

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