Scrum is one of the most popular frameworks for agile teams. Over the past few decades, it has become a go-to template for incremental, meaningful growth.

This method prioritizes alignment regarding roles, processes, and responsibilities. Teams work in sprints — time periods focused on smaller tasks that contribute to larger project goals — to complete work more efficiently.

While scrum provides a structure for individual teams, larger organizations often grapple with coordinating multiple scrum teams working on interconnected projects. In this situation, Scrum at Scale proves helpful.

Scrum at Scale extends scrum’s foundational principles to provide a working framework for cross-functional teams. This approach helps mid to large-sized companies harness the agility of scrum across their entire organizations, ensuring consistent product quality and streamlined collaboration.

What’s Scrum at Scale?

Scrum at Scale, also known as SaS or Scrum@Scale, is an agile framework for integrating scrum into large enterprises. Dr. Jeff Sutherland, a co-creator of scrum, developed this concept, working with dozens of businesses to fine-tune and apply it to teams ranging from startups to enterprises.

Scaled scrum promotes cross-team collaboration by expanding on standard scrum practices to create a simple yet scalable framework. The familiar elements of scrum remain intact, such as sprint planning, retrospectives, and daily standups, but this approach alters them for larger teams.

Scrum at Scale versus SAFe: What’s the difference?

Both Scrum at Scale and the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) help organizations accomplish Agile at Scale. But the table below illuminates important differences between these popular frameworks.

Scrum at Scale (SaS) Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)
Origins Developed to be a lightweight framework that expands scrum’s core principles to the organizational level. Developed to incorporate principles from multiple concepts, including agile, lean product development, and strategic project management.
Structure A modular approach based on two primary cycles: scrum master and product owner. A four-level structure, each with specific responsibilities: team, program, large solution, and portfolio.
Roles Expands on the roles of scrum, like introducing a chief product owner to coordinate multiple product owners. Introduces new roles that don’t appear in traditional scrum, such as the release train engineer and solution architect.
Implementation Offers a flexible and modular approach, allowing organizations to adopt parts of the framework that fit their needs. Provides structured guidance for scaling agile, ensuring consistency and alignment across multiple teams.
Focus Focused on expanding traditional scrum practices across multiple teams in a large or complex organization. Uses some scrum practices but also heavily incorporates lean principles and product management strategies.

Core concepts: Why use Scrum at Scale?

Scrum at Scale facilitates multiple scrum teams working independently or together to deliver value while coordinating their efforts. Core concepts include:

  • Two cycles: The SaS framework revolves around two primary cycles: the scrum master cycle, which focuses on continuous improvement, and the product owner cycle, which focuses on delivering value.
  • Scaled roles: While Scrum at Scale doesn’t introduce many new roles, it does expand existing roles to operate at the organizational level.
  • Decentralized decision-making: The decision-making process is distributed to those with the most knowledge, promoting speed and adaptability.
  • Scaled events: Similar to the core scrum framework, Scrum at Scale uses events like a Scaled Daily Scrum (similar to a daily standup) and MetaScrum (a regular meeting involving the product owner team and stakeholders) to help teams synchronize their efforts.

These core concepts enable large teams to work together faster and more efficiently. Teams reap many benefits from implementing this framework, including:

  • Improved collaboration: With regular sync-ups, teams effectively collaborate on well-understood goals and stick to clear shared timelines.
  • Faster development: By breaking down silos and optimizing workflows, employees deliver products and services more efficiently.
  • Consistent alignment with business goals: Regular check-ins, feedback loops, and collaborative meetings ensure that all teams are aligned with overarching business objectives.
  • Regular improvement: The Scrum at Scale framework focuses on continuous feedback to encourage steady progress and higher-quality output.

Scrum at Scale roles

Scrum at Scale incorporates many traditional scrum roles, but it also introduces additional functions to address the unique challenges of implementing this framework. Some of the primary roles include:

  • Scrum of Scrums Master (SoSM): This role functions similarly to a Scrum Master but for multiple teams. The SoSM ensures that teams collaborate effectively during the Scrum of Scrums (more on this below).
  • Product owner team: This includes all the product owners managing and prioritizing a unified product backlog.
  • Executive action team: This leadership team supports Scrum at Scale implementation across the organization. They address impediments, allocate resources, and ensure strategic alignment across groups.

Scrum at Scale events

Among the various events in Scrum at Scale, these four are essential for keeping everyone in line with the framework:

  1. Scaled Daily Scrum: This meeting promotes cross-collaboration each day by bringing multiple teams together to create alignment. Teams use this check-in to identify blockers and update leaders on progress.
  2. Scrum of Scrums: The Scrum of Scrums gathers representatives from each team to coordinate, share progress, and address challenges. This meeting is essential for maintaining a coherent plan across all groups during large-scale projects.
  3. MetaScrum: A large sprint backlog is challenging to prioritize. To ease this process, product owners and other leadership stakeholders regularly meet during the MetaScrum to prioritize the product backlog across multiple teams and assign the most pressing issues.
  4. Retrospective of Retrospectives: Continuous improvement is a cornerstone of scrum, and the Retrospective of Retrospective scales this principle to the enterprise level. By reflecting on team processes across the organization, leaders can identify patterns, systemic challenges, and opportunities for improvement.

How to scale scrum: 5 steps

To start scaling scrum, set a clear rationale for change and keep the adjustments simple, as a purposeless and overly complex approach can lead to confusion and discontent.

Keeping that in mind, follow this five-step guide to successfully scale scrum.

1. Start small

Before scaling scrum, ensure your teams function well and adhere to agile practices. Address any existing challenges with your current scrum system before attempting to scale it across the organization.

2. Establish clear communication channels

As you scale, effective communication across teams makes or breaks the transformation. Implement Scrum of Scrums and Scaled Daily Scrums early to bring groups together often. Make sure those who run these meetings continuously ask for team input to spot roadblocks early and keep employees well-informed and satisfied.

3. Synchronize sprint cycles

If possible, keep sprint cycles synchronized across the organization to create further cross-functional alignment. This also makes broader employee-wide updates and scaling efforts easier, as you know where every team sits within a sprint and the Scrum at Scale implementation process.

4. Align product backlogs

Cross-functional teamwork can make prioritizing backlogs complex and time-consuming. Ensure each team’s product and project managers work together to identify and prioritize the most critical issues in the backlog.

5. Implement feedback and retrospection at scale

A central aspect of any scrum framework is retrospection to foster a culture of continuous improvement. After each sprint, have project managers determine what went well and where problems occurred. They can then use this information to prioritize and plan for future sprints. And check in with the leadership team frequently to determine how the Scrum at Scale implementation is going.

Use Tempo’s tools for streamlined scaling

While scaling scrum can bring the benefits of agile to larger teams, implementation isn’t simple, and fostering clarity throughout this process is critical to gain stakeholder buy-in and notice and mitigate roadblocks. And roadmaps offer this clarity.

A roadmap visually represents an initiative’s direction, objectives, and priorities to help teams implement and maintain it. Use Roadmunk by Tempo to create a flexible and comprehensive roadmap that aligns your team on this journey. Whether you’re discussing objectives with stakeholders or spring planning with your team, there’s a Roadmunk template that meets your needs. Sign up today.