Based on the experiences with clients adopting Large-Scale Scrum, from 2007 to 2009 Bas Vodde and I wrote the first two books on LeSS:
- Scaling Lean & Agile Development: Thinking and Organizational Tools for Large-Scale Scrum
- Practices for Scaling Lean & Agile Development: Large, Multisite, and Offshore Product Development with Large-Scale Scrum
These are a collection of experiments related to Large-Scale Scrum, organized into three major sections: experiments in thinking tools, organizational tools, and action (practice or technique) tools.
And now, almost a decade after starting our first book on scaling agile development, comes our third book: Large-Scale Scrum: More with LeSS.
Why a third book?
The answer starts with understanding why Bas and I emphasized the theme of experiments in the prior ones. Both of us are keen proponents of people owning, not renting, their own processes and frameworks, and not having complex or prescriptive processes pushed on to people. And we’re also keen advocates of helping people to develop their thinking tools to more skillfully create their own processes—it’s not hard to “think” your way to a sequential or waterfall-like lifecycle! Therefore the first LeSS book emphasizes thinking tools such as systems thinking and queueing theory. And therefore the first two books share a compendium of experiences expressed as experiments. Why is that? To quote the preface of the first LeSS book:
Scrum emphasizes empirical process control; there is too much complexity and variability for a cookbook approach to processes for development. Therefore, the tools in both books are presented as a series of tips that start with Try… or Avoid… to suggest experiments, nothing more. They certainly may not work in your circumstance. The approach both in Scrum and in the lean thinking practice of kaizen is to first inspect and grasp the existing situation. Then, second, to adapt with new improvement experiments. The attitude of endless experimentation is vigorously encouraged in lean thinking; perhaps the only bad process-improvement experiment is the one not tried.
And we still encourage this open message and emphasis in LeSS. But it has a disadvantage: For groups that are new to Large-Scale Scrum and deep reorganizational design, they naturally have difficulty answering this question: Where do we start? A list of experiments, and the suggestion to “develop thinking skills” doesn’t offer much concrete guidance for a group that wants to get going.
Building on almost a decade more experience with clients adopting LeSS we reflected on how to better organize and communicate guidance when adopting LeSS, aimed especially at a group new to this. And we reflected on what are the minimum essentials for scaling, while still maintaining whole-product focus. The result? Large-Scale Scrum: More with LeSS.
A key important underlying idea that we’ve tried to summarize in the third book is simplicity or descaling. Although from one perspective LeSS can be viewed as a framework for ‘scaling’ agile development, perhaps a better way to understand it as a framework for descaling or simplifying complex organizations. LeSS is not about taking an existing complicated organizational structure and pasting agile labels and practices on top so that it can “do agile.” Rather, LeSS is about simplifying the organizational system, to be agile.
The book is organized into four major sections:
- Stories of groups going through a Sprint with LeSS, to illustrate the structure and practices during a Sprint.
- Structural aspects: Guidance on how to adopt LeSS, the hows, whats, and whys of organizing by customer value, and the role of management and Scrum Masters in LeSS.
- Product aspects: How to define the product (which may be different than your current scope), the role of Product Owner when scaling, and some implications in large-scale development on the Product Backlog and Definition of Done.
- Sprint aspects: How to do a Sprint in LeSS when there are many teams working together to ship a common product, from Sprint Planning to Retrospective, and from coordination and integration guidance to technical excellence guidance.
Finally and perhaps paradoxically, although the third book is a guide for groups beginning their LeSS adoptions, we hope that readers and product groups that study and apply this guidance experience more learning with less following, and more owning their processes, and less renting their processes.
Wanna learn more about LeSS? You have the opportunity to hear it directly from the horse’s mouth.