of the Meta-Scrum. Short meeting intervals also help prevent the need for back-channel or side-channel decisions that are more appropriately contained in the Meta-Scrum. A Big Visible Chart or handouts of the Roadmap should always be available along with Agile release plans. Discussions are centered around changes to the release plans. Obstacles and impediments are raised and action plans captured. Decisions are documented and notes published. It is useful when attendees include team representatives as observers to increase transparency.
In summary, unlike the Scrum of Scrums (where teams synchronize and coordinate with the purpose of executing on the Backlog), the Meta-Scrum focuses on executing on the roadmap and the strategy while eliminating side channel conversations about the releases and the roadmap. It is a gap reduction exercise. It is owned by the Chief Product Owner, who owns the plan. Successful Meta-Scrums provide consistent answers to the question: "Does a Chief Product Owner's Product Backlog have consent of all the Stakeholders?" The Chief Product Owner comes in to in the Meta-Scrum with the plan, discussing what is meant by plan, roadmap, product backlog, and other terms. Whatever you use, have it clearly defined.
Indicators for when a Meta-Scrum is needed include when you:
- Need to reduce chaos in the organization.
- Need consent at highest level of the organization.
- Are balancing multiple projects.
- Require alignment in multiple organizational areas.
- Are in an environment where change happens (there are surprises) [viii]
Scrum implementations are expected to resolve extraordinary issues in complex environments. Scrum is not a silver bullet; if you expect it to be, you are in danger of calling it the "flavor of the day" in your organization. It takes courage and a willingness to inspect and adapt to unexpected realities not previously revealed. There is quite a bit of industry experience and information available for people to establish and run a Scrum team successfully. There is also experience helping multiple teams coordinate and execute together. The Meta-Scrum meeting has helped me balance forces that create tension when trying to release products successfully. I hope this proves to be a useful tool in your toolkit.
About the Author
As chief technology officer, Brent Barton plays a key leadership role in implementing the strategic vision of SolutionsIQ as an agile organization, building SolutionsIQ's premium Agile development services and initiatives, while addressing such key issues as delivering greater value to customers. Brent is a Certified Scrum Trainer, Agile coach, and an international leader in Agile consulting. He brings more than 15 years of technical experience as a consultant and mentor to his role as CTO. Through Agile methodologies he helps companies successfully build software better, and faster. Graduating from San Jose State with a degree in Mathematics and a focus on Computer Science, Brent became a Certified Scrum Trainer in 2005 and has trained over 500 people in Scrum. He presented at the Agile 2007 conference in Washington, DC. on the topic of "Incubating Innovative Products Using Agile Methods."
[iii] These represent "success" ranges in typical SDLC phases in several companies I have worked with. These percentages usually reflect schedules and dates against approved business or technical requirements.
[iv] Boehm Barry, Software Engineering Economics, Prentice-Hall, 1981
[v] For more on roadmaps, see http://www.pragmaticmarketing.com/resources/scaling-agile-processes-five-levels-of-planning
[vi] Highsmith, Jim, Agile Project Management: Creating Innovative Products, Addison-Wesley Professional, 2004.
[vii] The modifications of RACI when applied to Agile in this case is revealed in the shared accountability of teams in the Sprint Backlog and shared responsibility for removing impediments