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What is LeSS?
Large Scaled Scrum, abbreviated as LeSS, is one of the leading frameworks of agile software development. It is a multi-team scrum framework that can be applied to an agile team consisting of twelve, hundreds, or even thousands of individuals, all of whom are working together on one specific shared product. In LeSS you can create large or small-sized products.
In contrast to other popular scaling agile frameworks, it is a simple and minimalistic framework where there is less enforcement of rules, processes, roles, or artifacts. There are only conventional scrum roles such as the product owner, scrum master, and the team.
LeSS is very customer-centric as teams get to interact directly with the customer while the product owner focuses on setting the roadmap, priorities, and long-term vision of the product.
The Structure in LeSS
It starts off with cross-functional agile teams. These teams range from having 8-12 members which are experienced and seasoned in coding, testing, design, architecture and business domain knowledge. There can be multiple teams depending on your company’s structure.
There are two types of LeSS:
- Basic LeSS for 2-8 Teams
- LeSS Huge for more than 8 teams
These teams work to produce high-quality software while coordinating and collaborating with other teams. A scrum master may facilitate 1-3 teams. A scrum master guides and teaches the teams how to work in LeSS. Then there is the product owner who manages the product backlog which consists of the list of features. There is also an Undone Department which is a list of tasks that were not done in a sprint. These incomplete tasks can be shifted in the next sprint. And lastly, there is a team of product owners that report to the head Product owner.
In LeSS Huge, there are multiple Basic LeSS implemented at the same time. It is meant for large organizations where there are more than eight teams. There are Area Product Owners who are responsible for their respective product backlog. Up to three teams work under an area product owner. A chief product owner leads the area product owners and focuses on the entire product.
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Planning in LeSS
Sprints are planned in which the teams create a deliverable product in every sprint. These sprints may last for 1-4 weeks. The development is iterative and incremental.
There are two stages of planning in LeSS.
- The first stage of the sprint planning involves the selection of items from the product backlog. Two members of each team, meet with their product owner to make the selection from high priority items of the backlog.
- In the second stage of planning, the team discusses selected items. Once a team has chosen its items from the product backlog, planning is done to achieve the sprint goals.
For planning, whiteboards and wall charts are used.
There is also a product backlog refinement session. The customer and the teams discuss how the existing requirements can be improved or if new requirements should be added. This session is also essential in talking about what work needs to be done in the upcoming sprints.
Teams regularly have their own retrospectives, reviewing what is done to continuously improve. There is also a retrospective where all the teams, product owners, scrum masters and the management work to understand any impediments that affect the delivery of the product.
LeSS in a nutshell
- LeSS provides the entire product view which guarantees transparency in the work you do.
- The teams are in direct contact with the customer which enables the teams to grasp the actual idea of what the customer really needs.
- With lean thinking, there is minimal waste, thus ensuring focus on what really needs to be done. There is ample room for the team to learn and grow consistently.
- Teams are feature-oriented, customer-centric and their approach is multi-component.
- Dependencies are handled at the integration level by sharing code base with other teams. More frequent code integration is recommended to avoid complexities.
- The role of management is focused on defining the vision and nurturing of the team members. Product Owner defines and prioritizes the high-level requirements for the teams.
- Teams coordinate with each other frequently and share the codebase.
- There are design and architecture workshops to align synergy across all the teams and focus on the end product.
- One big room backlog refinement session is kept for each sprint where each team works on their own backlog and has the opportunity to contact the other team at the same time.
- DevOps and Continuous Integration are key for smooth delivery to the customer. A team should deliver a shippable increment at the end of each sprint.
- Frequent retrospectives and inspect and adapt sessions are helpful in ensuring continuous improvement.
Takeaways from LeSS
LeSS emphasizes learning by doing, hence giving freedom to the teams to adapt at their own pace. Relying on the team’s capability and their experience is critical. Coordination among teams and customers may need some discipline and transparency when there are multiple teams.
“LeSS is incomplete. It has the space for the vast situational learning.” - from the Book: Large Scale Scrum, More with LeSS by Craig Larman and Bas Vode
You may need to abandon your current organizational structure and change your present development techniques drastically in order to embrace LeSS completely. The organizational structure is completely different from traditional program management. It is recommended by LeSS to start applying the principles of LeSS with one scrum team and adapt the change step by step.
We've documented a couple of success stories of transformation in companies that adopted LeSS. If interested, you can find it here.
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