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How does a Scrum Master manage multiple Scrum teams in terms of timings of ceremonies and releases?

Last post 09:52 pm February 23, 2023 by Geo Joseph
4 replies
12:23 pm February 23, 2021

Hi guys,

Most Scrum Master positions require that you manage multiple small development teams. I am currently a scrum master looking after a team of 6. I'm wondering if I were to take one or more additional teams of similar size when would I perform ceremonies such as sprint planning? Assuming I don't make them synchronous by performing back to back ceremonies.

I understand the theory indicates that the teams should be self organising and create the meetings themselves, but realistically most jobs require 1 Scrum Master across multiple teams and they would be appointed to organise the ceremonies. Theoretically what would my calendar look like if we had 2 seperate scrum teams pulling from the 1 Product Backlog, where both teams were managed by the same Scrum Master and the business releases monthly?


07:03 pm February 23, 2021

If you are now the constraint, what does that tell you about how "realistic" it is for you to be a member of 6+ teams?

07:29 pm February 23, 2021

In my experience, the limit for a Scrum Master is 4 teams, where each of the teams are working on the same product and are reasonably familiar with Scrum practices and are self-organizing and self-managing. In this type of setting, the Scrum Master isn't necessarily actively participating in every event. Instead, the Scrum Master can come and go, observing events and facilitating as requested.

In my opinion, the only event that the Scrum Master should routinely facilitate is the Sprint Retrospective. I've found it difficult to facilitate a retrospective if you also have things to say about the Sprint. The Product Owner and the Developers who are executing the work probably have a lot of opinions about how things went, and that makes it more challenging to facilitate. The other events should routinely be scheduled and led by others, with the Scrum Master teaching effective techniques for achieving the objectives.

If you start to scale, it may be interesting to look at LeSS and older (pre-2021) Nexus guidance to see how to structure events. Although these frameworks are designed for 3+ teams, there may be some good ideas that you can use with 2 teams, but some practices may add unnecessary overhead until you get to 3 or 4 teams.

I'm more concerned with how the Scrum Master role is understood, especially if words like "manage" are used. The Scrum Master doesn't manage teams or their events. The Scrum Master coaches teams and facilitates events. Teaching, advising, and helping are also associated with the Scrum Master role.

04:44 pm February 24, 2021

Most Scrum Master positions require that you manage multiple small development teams. 

...when would I perform ceremonies such as sprint planning?

For me those two statements are the root of your problem.  As @Thomas Owens points out there is no requirement that a Scrum Master be involved in any of the events.  In fact, as a Scrum Master I purposely avoid attending every event on a regular basis.  I have been Scrum Master for 5 teams at the same time.  They were all at different levels of maturity and their needs of me varied.  But remember that I make concerted attempts to not be a necessary part of the team.  I work to make teams self-managing and self-organizing. I don't schedule any of the events, the teams do that.  I do not "lead" any of the events.  And I certainly don't manage any of the teams. 

Any Scrum Team should be able to function without their Scrum Master since the work that a Scrum Master does has nothing to do with the actual product being delivered.  We are there to educate and facilitate Scrum and agile practices.  Many people misinterpret the word facilitate.  Here is one of the Merriam-Webster definitions. 

Legal Definition of facilitate

to make easier help bring about

Facilitating an event does not mean you have to schedule it or even attend.  Facilitating the removal of impediments does not mean you have to do all of the work. Facilitating a process improvement does not mean you have to be involved in the process.  A lot of facilitating can be done by just helping people become aware of an opportunity, helping people be open to new ideas and change, and helping people be receptive of doing something, inspecting the outcome and adapting. 

11:52 am February 23, 2023

In the case of the SAFe framework. While the PI planning is ongoing and if a scrum master is maintaining multiple scrum teams at a time. How can the scrum master join/facilitate the breakout rooms created for different scrum teams at the same time .? How could they manage the scrum events.?

For ex: if "Person A" is the scrum master for "Team B" and "Team C". During the PI planning all scrum teams including Team B and Team C is having the Breakout session at the same time to avoid timezone restrictions to join the SOS call, Sync with PO, Sync with Architect, Sync with other team's Scrum master to manage dependencies etc.. How can Person A join the breakout rooms and facilitate the events.?

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