Scaling Scrum for Company Wide Benefits.
Poor communication between teams during large web development projects can mean that the continuous delivery of your product or service suffers from unwanted hold-ups.
Web Essentials has therefore implemented an extra solution: Scrum of Scrums.
Although smooth workplace interactions are an ideal that we daily strive for, we experienced that still too often our larger projects' velocity could be improved and development seemed to slow down for periods of time. Even though all our Scrum teams have their daily stand ups, issues between the teams and/or other divisions involved in large projects often took too long to be communicated and resolved.
For faster identification of the issues slowing down team members and sometimes the entire project, we needed a tool to improve communication between everyone involved. That's when we decided to introduce a company-wide Scrum of Scrums.
Scrum of Scrums is a technique to scale the Scrum principles up to large groups (over a dozen people), often consisting of multiple Agile teams of 3-4 members.
Each normal daily scrum meeting within a sub-team ends by designating one member as "ambassador" to participate in a meeting (twice a week) with ambassadors from other teams, called the Scrum of Scrums.
At Web Essentials we expanded the Scrum of Scrums across multiple divisions; Development, Support, IT, QA and even HR.
Depending on the context, ambassadors may be technical contributors, a team's Scrum Master or the PO of a team.
The Scrum of Scrums is a short meeting (<15min), with ambassadors reporting completions, next steps and impediments on behalf of the teams they represent. The meetings are open for everyone who needs support or information.
In each Scrum of Scrums we look at the current status of impediments, and give a short status update on ongoing tasks and a short status round of impediments. The meeting leader will write down new tasks for new impediments and put it into a backlog. That defines who needs to solve the issue.
We also introduced Scrum of Scrums for management attention. As a project manager you want to frequently check for risks, but previously we didn’t have this fast communication which meant that managers often stayed unaware of smaller issues that over time often grow into larger issues and finally lead to unwanted delay in production.
Scrum of Scrums isn’t really a status meeting. It's more a meeting that brings awareness to all parties involved in a large project and makes sure all teams are synced, aware of each other's issues and concerns and concentrating on removing the impediments together.
Before we started using Scrum of Scrums, my expectation was for all the technical impediments raised to be mostly related to an individual’s work or expertise. But after two months we observed that the main concerns are often of a more emotional nature and that's why people often hold their issues for themselves. Over time these small issues grow larger and impediments occur. Sometimes it's as simple as someone feeling overwhelmed with work, hesitance to admit the lack of a skill, suppressed frustrations or just team members who feel the need for more time for their personal development.
Since we started using Scrum of Scrums our teams have been able to:
- Identify and resolve issues or impediments as soon as they occur
- Improve and strengthen communication between teams and/or divisions
- Keep up the velocity and assure on-time delivery
Last week we had a project that was scheduled for 14 days that was delivered in 10. That wasn’t entirely down to Scrum of Scrums, but it definitely helped identify some issues at the beginning of the project so we were able to assign someone to resolve them early. We solved one particular issue in an hour, rather than taking much longer.
Instant Follow Ups
Often in our Scrum of Scrums meetings I see short, highly valuable discussions between developers and IT or other area specialists resulting in instant follow up. This communication would otherwise take far more time, as our area specialists are always busy.
Scrum of Scrums links the teams together more tightly, allows us to communicate better – and helps us to deliver our projects to our clients far more speedily.
Read more about our efforts pushing Scrum in Cambodia: Bringing Scrum certification to Cambodia