How to Manage Product Goals with Multiple Teams?

As I mentioned recently I’ve been studying scaled scrum and recently passed the scrum.org SPS exam. One of the key aspects to this is how to manage work between teams so it’s a topic I want to discuss in this post.

The Nexus Guide provides a really good introduction to scaling scrum (other frameworks are available). There are two aspectcs which I see as key. These are for every team to focus on a single Product Goal and to minimise dependencies between teams. I’m going to focus onthe former.

In scrum we build incrementally towards a Product Goal, we review our progress in the Sprint Review and share progress with stakeholders then discuss what we should do next. It’s this level of transparency which makes scrum so powerful, it minimises risk and ensures we’re building the right thing.

However, when you have multiple teams all working on a product things can get complicated, you often see different teams with different project delivery dates and things get very very messy.

How should a business share work between teams in a scrum environment? Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

Generally a product should have a single backlog and a single active product goal. This makes sense. After all a product should have one list of improvements and should be moving towards a single known state, however it’s surprising how many organisations have a backlog per team, rather than per product.

Next, all teams should work together to create an integrated increment of all their work each sprint. This may sound controversial or even impossible but let me explain.

If your two scrum teams are creating increments each sprint they can do this in isolation (in which case they’re creating to diverging versions of the product) or they can integrate into the same master version of the product as they go. The former is no better than the vast feature branches we all remember with nightmares. Instead the Definition of Done should including integrating their increments with all other teams before marking work as completed.

So why can’t two teams focus on two different Product Goals? The question is why should they? A Product Goal represents a future vision of the product which the team is working to create. Surely we can’t have two visions?

Instead we should have a roadmap of upcoming goals. What we expect the product to look like after phase 1, phase 2, phase 3 or whatever. Scrum teams don’t pursue two Product Goals at the same time in regular scrum so why would they have any more success with multiple teams? To ensure the best chance of delivering effectively all teams on the product should focus on turning the active Product Goal into reality before moving onto the next. They can do this by breaking down the work in to individual pieces of work with the fewest dependencies between them, delivering them and integrating before the end of each sprint.

Fewest dependencies… that seems like a future post!

Seriously though, Scrum.org has some great articles on this stuff. If you’ve not already I highly recommend reading The Nexus Guide if you are trying to use scrum to deliver a product with any more than one team.

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