When and how can Scaled Professional Scrum help you spread agility throughout the enterprise?

sps-small-6Suppose you’re satisfied with the results and flow a single Scrum team is showing. How to scale up, re-use the lessons learned and process setup? In the past years, many frameworks and approaches to support you popped up. This time I will highlight Scaled Professional Scrum.

An important tenet is scaled your product, not your Scrum. Cesario Ramos wrote an excellent white paper on scrum.org about this principle. The Scaled Professional Scrum framework builds on the corner stones of Scrum, i.e. bottom-up knowledge creation, self-organization, empiricism. It is a foundational framework upon which a systematic, emergent, managed initiative to scale can grow. Scaled Professional Scrum is the rationale behind Nexus, another scaling framework, maintained at Scrum.org. Before dealing with Nexus it is good to explore its background, the Scaled Professional Scrum (SPS). The main reference is the white paper former Capgemini colleague Günther Verheyen published on SPS.

It ain’t no Scrum if….

Scaled Scrum is not ‘Scrum’ if not all of the attributes of the smallest element, i.e. a singular Scrum Team employing Scrum in a professional manner, are found in the sum of all of the elements. All of the basic values, principles, artifacts, roles, and meetings of Scrum apply, whether Scrum is singular or scaled. In other words: if a single team doesn’t adhere to Scrum, then please don’t call it Scrum, let alone scale that practice and call it Scrum at scale.

The Scrum framework is meant to control risk, generate creativity, and create transparency while developing complex products. Working software or other useful products remain the core purpose. Can it be released, shipped without unresolved dependencies?

Interdependencies

Scaling is about increasing in size. What I see lots of organizations do is a copy-paste approach, just like fire departments do. Simply add development teams, product owners and scrum masters to the IT department and off you go. Not exactly. Communication and coordination needs will increase as the product development is spread among teams. A scrum of scrums, roles like feature owners, senior product owners, understand business analysts, release managers, program managers, project managers are back in town or invented on the spot. Additional concepts like release trains, value stream management, and integration test phases are introduced. Velocity and time to market will slow down rather than speed up.

That approach leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy of many practitioners around me saying that within 2-5 years we’re back at sequential systems development. Instead of increasing capacity only, first focus on improving the engineering practices and the understanding of the Scrum principles and values.

What does Scaled Professional Scrum offer?

The Scaled Professional Scrum framework provides a sinew from which scaling can grow, in a way that the unique challenges of unique organizations and situations can be addressed. Techniques for organizing and selecting Product Backlog items, resolving dependencies and integrating work, and creating “Done” increments are included. The enterprise re-uses and augments the investments made in training staff, management and teams in Scrum.

Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland worked on Scaled Professional Scrum as an exoskeleton for 3-9 Scrum Teams working on a single Product Backlog to build an integrated increment that meets a goal. It is recognizable Scrum. The founding fathers of Scrum are still devoted to their principles and earlier efforts. 40 practices were reformulated and added to the Scaled Professional Scrum framework. Each of these practices, if chosen and used in the right context, augments the operation of the Nexus.

Next up: Nexus

To further explore the results, a next blog post will delve into the Nexus framework. If you can’t wait, read the Introduction to Nexus white paper (June 2016) on scrum.org.