What is Large-Scale Scrum?

If you keep up with our blog, you are probably familiar with scrum. With roots dating back more than three decades ago, scrum is an incremental framework used for software and product management. It follows the Agile methodology, promoting evolutionary development, continuous improvement and adaptive planning (among other things).

First described by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka in the New Product Development Game, scrum is an iterative and incremental framework used to manage product development. It emphasizes the use of a flexible strategy in which the development team works together to achieve a common goal.

According to the 2015 State of Scrum Report, 87% of IT professionals say scrum improves their teams' quality of work, and 95% say they will continue to use scrum. Numbers such as this attest to the widespread popularity and use of this developmental framework.

Scrum defines three core roles needed to deliver Potentially Shippable Increment (PSI) products:

  1. The Product Owner – this individual represents the stakeholders while also serving as the voice of the customer. The Product Owner is responsible for guiding the development team towards the end goal of creating a functional ready-to-ship product, often by writing user stories and other items.

  2. The Development Team – typically consisting of 3 to 9 individuals, the Development Team is responsible for delivering potentially shippable increments (PSIs) at the end of a sprint. They develop, test, troubleshoot, update, design, analyze and perform countless other tasks needed to turn the vision of a workable product into a reality.

  3. The Scrum Master – also known as the “team facilitator,” the Scrum Master is responsible assisting the development team in meeting their goals and deliverables. He or she essentially acts as a buffer between the team and distractions, removing impediments that would otherwise restrict the team from meeting their goals.

Enter Large Scale Scrum

But not all scrum frameworks are the same. One of the more popular and widely used scrum frameworks is Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS).

Pioneered by programmer Bas Vodde and computer scientist Craig Larman, LeSS incorporates the techniques and principles of scrum but to a larger degree. Instead of a single development team, as noted in the core roles of scrum listed above, LeSS involves two or more development teams.

The duo created the LeSS framework while working on large-scale product development in the telecommunications and finance industries. Vodde and Larman saw the need for scrum solutions in large-scale product development scenarios, so they built upon the existing scrum framework to create LeSS.

Scaling Scrum starts with understanding and being able to adopt standard real one-team Scrum. Large-scale Scrum requires examining the purpose of single-team Scrum elements and figuring out how to reach the same purpose while staying within the constraints of the standard Scrum rules,” explained Craig Larman.

LeSS Principles

LeSS is based on the following principles:

  • Large-Scale Scrum is Scrum – this principle is self-explanatory; LeSS is essentially a larger and more scalable type of scrum. It's not an entirely different framework that draws inspiration from scrum; it IS scrum, just scaled to accommodate larger development projects.

  • Empirical Process Control and Transparency –the product and process must evolve after inspect-adapt cycles, improving the product's utility. LeSS states that a product is never fixed. Rather, it evolves to become a better, higher quality product.

  • More with LeSS – just because LeSS is scalable doesn't necessarily mean that it requires more work. On the contrary, one of its founding principles is a focus on simplicity. More with LeSS means scaling up a project without adding overhead.

  • Whole-Product Focus – micromanagement is the killer of productivity, and LeSS understands this problem, which his why it focuses on whole products instead of individual components. When development teams work on a project, they may exhaust all of their time and resources on the individual components, turning a blind eye to the bigger picture. This principle states that development teams should focus on the whole product, however.

  • Customer-Centric – the customer's needs and expectations must be met when following LeSS. This allows for a better, more successful product launch.

  • Systems Thinking – this catch-all term is used to describe LeSS' principle of encouraging development teams and their respective members to look at the big picture. The general belief is that by doing so, it allows teams to optimize their product for greater value as opposed to tweaking each individual step.

  • Queue Theory – the final principle of LeSS, Queue Theory, involves identifying and analyzing queues during the development cycle that cause productivity to stop.

LeSS vs LeSS Huge: What's the Difference?

It's important to note that there are two different types of LeSS: LeSS and LeSS Huge. We've already talked about the standard LeSS, which supports up to eight teams, each team of which has eight people. The aptly named LeSS Huge is a second version of the LeSS framework that introduces even greater scaling elements for larger projects.

While scrum supports a single development team, LeSS supports eight teams. LeSS Huge, however, supports up to one thousand people working on a single project.

In Conclusion

LeSS is essentially a larger and more scalable variation of scrum. Not only projects are small, and as such, some organizations need a more robust framework to accommodate their needs. This is where LeSS comes into play: it supports larger groups of development teams, all while following the same methods set forth in scrum.

If you're still skeptical of the benefits of LeSS, check out some of the case studies presented on the official LeSS website. From the Bank of America Merill Lynch and JP Morgan Chase to John Deere, UBS and BWM Group, dozens of companies have reported success using LeSS.

Thanks for reading and feel free to let us know your thoughts in the comments below regarding cloud computing.