Scrum-Of-Scrums

“Alan: Now, how to play the flute. (picking up a flute) Well, you blow in one end and move your fingers up and down the outside.”

 – Monty Python

Over the weekend I read at least a dozen articles online on the topic of Scrum-Of-Scrums, and I must say I felt like I had been watching that old Monty Python sketch – How to Do It.  Light on detail, little consistency, and more philosophical than pragmatic. There are times when being a little prescriptive helps, and I think given the stakes, this could be one practice area that could benefit.

Purpose: Scrum-of-scrums is a part of the program-level PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Adjust) cycle. That is, its a regular opportunity for the program team to check on the progress of the program and to make adjustments in response  to any emerging problems, opportunities or changing business priorities.

Inputs: Sufficient data to confirm program is on- or off-track for achieving its objectives. At minimum, the program board constructed during PI planning:

Program Wall Board
Program Wall Board

Mechanics: Regularly scheduled meeting, facilitated by a program scrum master (RTE in SAFe) with representatives (‘ambassadors’) from each team contributing to the program. Discuss what features are planned for delivery this sprint, any related dependencies, and any problems or impediments that need to be addressed. Whereas team-level standups are focused on sprint goals, the scrum-of-scrums should be about PI goals. Let’s remember that one of the outputs of the PI planning event is a ranked list of program objectives – things can and do change on a program mid-flight, and the scrum-of-scrums needs to be monitoring the overall health of the program and making adjustments for the purpose of ensuring maximum value delivery, even if any one objective fails to be realized – the goal is the overall success of the train – not any one individual team.

One way to operate the meeting is to cycle through each team asking program-level versions of the 3 questions:

  • What has my team accomplished towards its PI objectives since the last time we met
  • Which PI goal is my team working on completing next, and
  • What impediments does my team currently have.

Outputs:

  • Aligned program team
  • Actions or plan adjustments to address problems or other required changes
  • Updated program radiator (program wall board, and release burn-up chart) that reflects the current realities and any adjustments to the plan.
Program Burnup Chart
Program Burnup Chart