What is the Difference Between Large Scale Scrum and Scrum of Scrums?


As we’ve discussed in a previous post on Large at Scale Scrum, LeSS is the framework that seeks to apply the principles and ideals of scrum in a large-scale enterprise context as simply as possible through defined rules and guides.

Its simplicity makes Large at Scale (LeSS) earn the label of “barely sufficient” framework, but that’s not meant to cast it in a negative light.

Since this scrum is applicable to a variety of teams in project management, how can we differ Large at Scale Scrum and Scrum of Scrums (SoS), which is another kind of scaling framework?

This article has the mission to show you views of useful tools and there is no right or wrong when we manage one of these tools.

1) What is Scrum of Scrums?

The Scrum of Scrums happens to be the oldest agile scaling framework to integrate the work of multiple scrum teams working on a single project.

It facilitates communication among teams to ensure the delivery outcome of each team is in alignment with the outcomes of other teams even when there is an overlap of the sequencing of events.

The actual coordination among teams is carried out in a meeting where each team is represented by a designated scrum master.

In case the material under discussion is highly technical, then the scrum master along with a technically qualified team member may attend the meeting.

The goal of Scrum of Scrums is to ensure the individual teams meet their sprint goals in alignment with the overall organizational goal.

In one that seeks technical, operational and integration aspects, it is not recommended that the team Scrum Master be the representative. Because it is necessary that the members have the recognition of technical problems.

Also, if there are teams that rely heavily on each other, more than one meeting per week is feasible.

For a Scrum of Scrums focused on tactical and managerial aspects, the Scrum Master figure as the team representative is recommended.

Finally, four questions should be asked when performing the Scrum of Scrums to make the meeting more dynamic and objective and fill in the necessary information for the product to progress. Are they:

  • What has your team done since the last meeting?
  • What will your team do after this meeting?
  • Are there any impediments to carrying out the activities?
  • Is your team failing to do something that will somehow impact other teams?

2) What is Large at Scale Scrum?

Large Scaled Scrum is a multi-team framework that works on a single project. It begins with forming one scrum team and is gradually applied to multiple teams working on the same project.

The LeSS framework allows the application of scrum-based principles and ideals to a large enterprise using proven rules. LeSS deals with creating responsible teams that have greater collaboration among them and better customer focus.

It underlines attributes like learning, transparency, and offering customer-centric values for organizations to remain responsive, agile, and competitive.

Differences of LeSS and SoS

Both SoS and LeSS rely solely on Scrum, applying for its practices and roles at a larger scale.

This makes these approaches ideal for teams that are already using Scrum and want to scale up without having to go through a large reorganization for it.

If you are running a company of a few Scrum teams and need to coordinate the work between them, SoS is a great option.

It does not require much effort, but lets you put everyone on the same track and allows you to overlook the process better. However, if you are looking to scale Agile in a larger organization, LeSS and SAFe are the options to choose from.

LeSS is ideal for a midsized company, where there needs to be a clear structure between the teams and some management level definition.

While SAFe is perfect for defining the structure all the way up to the executive floor and therefore will prove to be the best-scaled approach for large organizations that have a large corporate structure that needs to be maintained.

Definition of company level structure

The framework with the least level structure coverage is SoS. While it does define the team structure and provides some definition of inter-team coordination, there is no cover for the program and portfolio levels.

This makes the approach great for day-to-day operations or small companies, but the long-term vision is lost altogether.

LeSS takes one step further and adds some definition to the program and portfolio levels, allowing for a better understanding of the higher-level structure and maintenance of the overall vision.

However, if you require a full set of rules for the company structure all the way up to the executive floor SAFe is the way to go.

It provides detailed definitions for all company levels and thus creates an environment where Agile can be adopted through and through.

However, with all of the rules and definitions, one has to be prepared to have a longer adjustment period than with the other two.

Routines and Attributes

Both SoS and LeSS keep the original Scrum attributes – meetings, roles, sprints, and adds just a little to make the scaling work.

The Scrum of Scrums meeting (used in SoS and LeSS) is held every day after the daily standups of all teams.

While within LeSS, additional backlog refinement and retrospective meetings are held to manage the shared backlog and to plan for the future.

SAFe also retains iterations and Agile practices on the team level, however, it changes and adapts them a lot more for the 3 higher levels – Program, Value Stream, and Portfolio.

While the teams on each of these levels still operate under the premise of an iteration, new names such as Release Trains, Value Streams, and Epics are assigned to them.

The names of team roles are also changed, as well as new roles are added to accommodate the changed process and its requirements.

Cost of implementation

For the low-cost implementation, teams should be looking at SoS and LeSS. As they are a natural progression of using Scrum, the teams already have the know-how and are simply adding a few more layers and practices to their daily routines.

There is little to no training and restructuring, which means that the implementation costs will be slim.

When talking about SAFe on the other hand, no matter what Agile practice has been used beforehand, there will be a need to restructure and rethink the organization.

This means that the transition will be more costly and most likely will take more time as well.

No matter which scaled Agile approach you want to go for, there needs to be an understanding of what you actually need – a simple and team-focused option found in SoS, a mid-sized company solution with light weighed management of LeSS, or a full-on Agile transformation seen in SAFe.

It is also important to remember what sort of costs come with each of these options and choose the right one not just for now, but for the future as well.

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