The Scrum of Scrums is not Agile Programme Management

Today I bumped into an article Bryan Zarnett wrote for the Scrum Alliance. I read the article mainly because the title caught my eye in Google – Running the Scrum of Scrums: Agile Program Management.

This leapt out at me because of the claim that the Scrum of Scrums is the same as Agile Programme Management. It isn’t.

If you read Bryan’s article you’ll find some more-or-less reasonable advice about running Agile projects alongside non-Agile projects.

But, from my perspective, there are two problems with the article:

  • It completely redefines the Scum-of-Scrums practice (to the annoyance of at least one Scrum practitioner)
  • It uses the term Programme Management for what in the UK is considered Portfolio Management

The Scrum of Scrums

In the comments following the article Bob Schatz correctly points out how the article has mis-used the term Scrum of Scrums. The Scrum of Scrums is a specific technique from Scrum. In fact pretty much the only technique that Scrum advocates for scaling up to larger teams. The Scrum of Scrums is a kind of synchronisation meeting and is used to discuss areas of overlap and integration between related Scrum teams. This meeting occurs at most daily but can be less frequent. A team-selected representative from each team attends the Scrum of Scrums on behalf of the rest of their team. The representative is usually a technical team member and not the Scrum Master. (If you want to know more then check out Mike Cohn’s advice on conducting the Scrum of Scrums.)

This well defined meeting isn’t what the article refers to as “Scrum of Scrums”.

Portfolio Management versus Programme Management

Despite the mention of Scrum of Scrums in the title of the article, Bryan is really describing his view on Agile Programme Manager responsibilities. He includes:

  • Track and coordinate the program portfolio and its dependencies
  • Ensure that each project has a direct responsible individual
  • Manage collective activities, issues, and risks
  • Keep everyone informed
  • Advocate the process and protocols

I find all of that very sensible and sound. (Worth mentioning that Bob Schatz objects to much of the articles’s suggestions because they deviate from Scrum orthodoxy).

However for me this is about Portfolio Management not Programme Management. I’ve described my view, based on terminology in use in the UK, on the differences between Programme and Portfolio Management before. Essentially a portfolio is a collection of more-or-less related projects whereas the purpose of a programme is to deliver business benefit. A programme usually includes a portfolio of projects but the aim of the programme is the transform the organisation not just to deliver the objectives of the sub-ordinate projects.

And delivering benefits has very little to do with a synchronisation meeting such as the Scrum of Scrums. A Scrum of Scrums might facilitate communications within the context of a portfolio or programme but there is much more to both portfolio management and programme management than this specific practice.

Wrap up

So to wrap up, despite Google’s best attempts to convince me, the Scrum of Scrums is not the sum total of Agile Programme Management. Actually it is not even a very large part.

If you want to know more about my view of Agile Programme Management then have a look at my previous post: Three Threads within Agile Programme Management.


Cohn, M. (2007, 7 May). . Scrum Alliance.

Zarnett, B. (2012, 16 March). Running the Scrum of Scrum: Agile Program Management. Scrum Alliance.