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Scrum of Scrums – Yes or No???

I was collaborating with another Agile Coach as we were helping several teams get started in using Agile ways of working. Since we are both SPC’s (SAFe Program Consultants), we blitzed through all of the standard events and agreed on a lot of things – until we got to the Scrum of Scrums and ART sync.

“I don’t think it makes sense in this case,” he argued, “since the teams are mostly self-sufficient teams delivering work that is only slightly related with no real dependencies. Adding another meeting is probably just waste.” He has a good point. The Scrum of Scrums meeting is usually recommended to address dependencies. But for some reason I thought there still might be value in the SoS meeting, so I recommended it to the client despite my peer’s concern over adding yet another meeting to the mix. I recommended that this meeting actually work more as an ART Sync, so it included Scrum Masters, Product Owners, and Product Managers (essentially the Sr. Directors who are providing high level prioritization).

As I prepped the sponsor who was going to lead the meeting (the sponsor is functioning as the RTE in SAFe terms), I let her know that this was an experiment. There was a good chance her folks wouldn’t really be that interested in what anyone else had to say, so it might feel like a status update to management instead of a time for collaboration. With that in mind, we settled on an agenda along the lines of:

  • Have any stories finished yet in this sprint? (2 minutes per team)

  • What’s in progress, and are there any blockers? (2-3 minutes per team)

  • What have you learned so far either in terms of your work or in following the Agile process? (3-5 minutes per team)

  • Open discussion (10-25 minutes)

  • Coaching time (5-10 minutes)

The meeting turned out to be a smashing success. Each Team provided their updates in turn. The fact that they were sharing was good but not unexpected. But when we got to the learnings things got very interesting. They all started asking each other questions and sharing what was working for them. And it turned out that there was more overlap than anyone had predicted which meant that the teams were able to offer recommendations and key contacts for accomplishing each other’s goals. One SM asked a tactical question about how each team work working, and she got an answer she could immediately take back to her team. We closed out with me offering some recognition of their success to date while offering up some useful tips that may have been glossed over before they started working together (working agreements, DSU update vs meet after, continue to minimize WIP). And then as the meeting was winding down one person asked a question out of the blue that turned out to be a significant blocker, but the right Sr. Director was on the call to address it and give him the key information he needed to get moving without wasting time searching for the same information.

Needless to say, the sponsor was thrilled.

So now when I look at a meeting like a Scrum of Scrums or an ART Sync, I know that it’s more than just a time for dealing with dependencies. Instead it can be a combination of the following:

  • Celebration of completed work (which is psychologically important, especially early on)

  • Opportunity for collaboration with peers (essentially a mini-Community of Practice)

  • Venue for quick resolution of larger blockers (yes, there’s no need to wait for the meeting, but sometimes the ah-ha moment only arises in conversation)

  • Common coaching time with peers which reduces the coaching work and locks in the learning due to conversations with others

And all of this is on top of the other benefits and purposes of ART Syncs as SAFe describes them.

So now I have a very strong bias. When given the choice of starting “small” and then layering the SAFe events on top of a Scrum team as the needs explicitly arise or stating “big” with “all” of SAFe’s events (tailored to the context, of course), I’m going to continue to start big and then cut rather than small and add on later.


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