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How does Scrum work with a big team?

When we teach people about Scrum and working as teams, the question that inevitably comes up is “What is a team?”, and in particular “How big a team should be?”. Our answer is 4 to 6 people plus a Scrum Master and Product Owner. If you read other agile literature you’ll see everything from 3 to 9 people. This post isn’t going to talk about why we recommend that number, instead it’s going to look at what you can do if your team size is bigger.

Let’s say you have a team of 8 people, plus a Scrum Master and Product Owner. Our advice is to split into 2 smaller teams, that work closely together on a single backlog. You can probably still make do with a single ScrumMaster and Product Owner, but having 4 – 6 people at a stand up is much more productive than 8 – 10 people. You are less likely to have passengers, and the communication overheads are reduced. However since you are working on one backlog you might combine some of the meetings.

Here is our recommendation for how to scale the meetings. This works well for between 2 and 4 teams (of 4 – 6 people) working on a single product backlog.

The general principle is that if the meeting is relevant to all teams, have a joint meeting with everyone there. However if the numbers would get too large for good conversation, consider using representatives from the teams. Representatives should NOT be the Scrum Master or the Team Lead, and they should vary over time, so that each team member gets a chance to attend. If someone is very junior they can attend with someone more experienced until they are comfortable handling the meeting on their own and reporting back to the team.

Please also pay attention to the facilitation of these meetings, it is possible to have very good, rich grooming session with 4 teams if you use large group facilitation techniques.


Meeting Description Type Who
Backlog Grooming Understanding requirements, splitting stories, sizing Joint for all teams SM, PO and representatives from each team or all teams. You will need to use the same reference point for sizing across all teams.
Sprint Planning Part 1 Committing to work for the sprint, deciding which team will do what Joint for all teams SM, PO and representatives from each team or all teams
Sprint Planning Part 2 Deciding how the team will do the work in the sprint Separate teams Each team do this individually. SM and PO move between groups. It is helpful if everyone is in the same large room, but a different corner.
Daily Scrum Seeing if the team is on track for their sprint commitment Separate teams Each team do this individually, ideally staggered so SM and PO can attend them all if desired
Sprint Review Getting feedback on what was delivered and assessing what the state of the Product is Joint or seperate teams SM, PO and representatives from each team or all teams
Sprint Retrospective Inspecting and adapting how to work as a team. Alternate joint and separate teams each sprint For the joint, everyone should be present. Its important for the entire large team to decide on actions together.

2 thoughts on “How does Scrum work with a big team?”

  1. This is great advice. I have been part of larger teams and smaller teams. The meetings with the larger teams drag on too long and seem to drift to random discussions that are unproductive. Smaller is usually better from what have experienced. Thanks for sharing!

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