LeSS before Scrum?

The discussion in this article assumes that we apply Scrum in large-scale (i.e. multi-team) product development, which is probably 90% of cases.

Scrum adoption

Scrum implies the change in organization design. The star model by Jay Galbraith defines five aspects of organization design.

Scrum education - star model.jpg

Let's put Scrum in the context of organization design.

  • In "strategy", Scrum is designed to achieve speed and flexibility.
  • In "structure", cross-functional team able to deliver customer value from end to end is the basic organization unit.
  • In "processes", value is delivered in sprints, which defines the planning, review and retrospective cycle.
  • In "rewards", team is jointly accountable for the result.
  • In "people", team members learn to become multi-specialists.

While the change may be trivial in one-team organization, it is significant in large-scale organization.

When there is lack of proper organization design, Scrum adoption falters. Richard Hackman in his classical book "Leading Teams" showed how team design and coaching jointly affected team performance.

Scrum education - team design vs coaching.jpg

When team is poorly designed, the coaching only has limited effect. On the other hand, when team is well designed, its performance would not be too bad, even with ineffective coaching. This provides room to gradually improve coaching effectiveness.

LeSS provides the guide on the necessary organization design to enable Scrum in large-scale organization. LeSS is the Scrum enabler. Therefore, first adopt LeSS to design the organization, then coaching for those well-designed teams. This is the organization-first approach.

Even LeSS without Scrum provides benefit, actually more than Scrum without LeSS, in large-scale organization. See more insights from LeSS without Scrum experience report.

Therefore, here is an experiment for Scrum/LeSS adoption: LeSS before Scrum (rather than first Scrum, then LeSS).

Scrum education

CSM is probably the most popular Scrum course, and many people learn about Scrum from it. The CSM focuses on one-team context, and treats scaling as more advanced topic. This leads to various educational paths.

Before Scrum Alliance introduced A-CSM, I had my own version of Advanced SM course. It consisted of two days, day one on organization design and day two on coaching. The course design was targeted for large-scale context, and built on Richard Hackman's work - team design and coaching jointly affect team performance. In large-scale context, organization design becomes the first-order factor, thus it is essential for SM to learn about it. Later, Scrum Alliance introduced A-CSM and scaling is part of its content.

The more scaling-focused educational option would be attending CLB or CLP after CSM. CLB is 1-day overview on LeSS, while CLP is 3-day deep-dive on LeSS. For people working in large-scale organization to learn about Scrum, it is also recommended to attend the 2-day CSM plus 1-day CLB. Regardless, the underlying thinking behind those options is all the same, first learn about Scrum then scaling.

Scrum education - csm before clp.jpg

However, there is a potentially fundamental flaw. For people working in large-scale organization, only learning about Scrum in one-team context is simply not sufficient. They get confused and fail miserably after going back to apply Scrum in their organization, because the existing organization design is not supportive for Scrum. Therefore, we need better approach on Scrum education in large-scale context.

A while ago, Michael James started to offer 3-day CSM/CLB mixed together. The mixed CSM/CLB does not separate CSM and CLB. Scrum is not something you learn first, while LeSS not as more advanced topic. In order to do one-team Scrum well in large-scale context, the organization design in LeSS is a necessary enabler, thus, must be taught and learned as an essential part. In fact, after teaching CSM for 10+ years, I have stopped doing it, and put my focus on doing CLP. However, I would seriously consider trying the mixed CSM/CLB course.

How about CLP before CSM? LeSS is Scrum, thus it seems illogical to learn in this sequence. However, if we could teach LeSS without Scrum, i.e. extract the part of organization design from LeSS, it isn't that illogical, is it?

Scrum education - clp before csm.jpg

Therefore, here is an experiment for Scrum/LeSS education: LeSS before Scrum (rather than first Scrum, then LeSS).

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