Scaling Agile with LeSS (Large-Scale Scrum)
Starting in 2005 Bas Vodde and Craig Larman developed the LeSS framework after using Scrum principles and rules on large scale projects. Their goal was to develop large scale projects successfully while staying within the constraints of Scrum.
There are two types of LeSS. Basic LeSS is two to eight teams of eight each working on the same product development. LeSS Huge is up to 2,000 plus people working on the same product development.
LeSS compared to Scrum
Basic LeSS is very similar to a one team Scrum, only extended. In LeSS there is one Product Backlog, one Product Owner, one Definition of Done, one common sprint, and one PSP (Potentially Shippable Product) increment at the end of the sprint. Since all teams are working on implementing the same product, all teams are cross-functional with few, if any, specialty teams. In summary, all teams work to deliver a common, shippable product each sprint.
There are differences in regular Scrum and LeSS. In LeSS, sprint planning is done separately in two meetings. In one meeting the Product Owner meets with representatives from all teams who manage among themselves to decide which product backlog items they will do in the next sprint. Some of the same work may be shared with two or more teams. The second meeting, held in parallel or shortly after the first, is a meeting of all the members of each team. For coordination purposes the team meetings may be held in different sections of the same area, but separately. This set-up is helpful when two teams who are doing work on the same tasks during the next sprint, might have questions or need clarification from the other team.
The Daily Scrum meeting is held independently by each team, but for information sharing purposes, a member of one team may sit-in on the Daily Scrum meeting of another team. For sharing and coordination purposes, LeSS also holds what they call an “open space town hall meeting”. This is equivalent to the Scrum of Scrum meeting attended by ScrumMasters. In LeSS reps from each team will meet on a regular basis for the same coordination purposes.
Product Backlog Refinement
A PRB (Product Backlog Refinement) meeting may also be held with the Product Owner and team reps in attendance. The purpose here is to check on the sequencing of the various team’s outputs.
The Sprint Review meeting is where the Product Owner, team reps, and all relevant customers, users, and stakeholders get together to review the newly released product from the last sprint. For significant accomplishments, many organizations set this up like a boat or auto show where each team has a section of its own in a large area where they can demonstrate and talk about what they created.
Another LeSS meeting is the Overall Retrospective. This is attended by the Product Owner, ScrumMasters, and rotating reps from each team, and is held shortly after a sprint is completed. The focus is on how to improve the entire system and not on how well the teams are doing.
LeSS Huge vs Basic LeSS
LeSS Huge is similar to Basic LeSS, except that due to size there are two or more Area Product Owners. The Area Product Owners and the one overall Product Owner make up the Product Owner team. Depending on size there may also be additional Product Managers.
Each requirement area has ideally four to eight teams. Since work done under Less Huge is usually multiple area teams of four to eight teams, and Basic LeSS is two to eight teams, the basic functioning of teams under Basic LeSS and LeSS Huge, is the same.
With scaling up there is a tendency to add more of everything and thereby increasing overhead and costs. Where possible, LeSS’s goals for scaled agile projects are to do the opposite. The main goal is to solve things as simply as possible with “less roles, less management, less organizational structures”. LeSS does not just stand for Large Scale Scrum. It also stands for “less”.
A late quote from Craig Larman and Bas Vodde -
Since 2005, we’ve worked with clients to apply the LeSS (Large-Scale Scrum) framework for scaling Scrum, lean and agile development to big product groups. We share that experience and knowledge through LeSS so that you too can succeed when scaling