I'm not a 100% certain that this is the best place for this question as it's a little more development methodology related than directly project management related.

I work at a company where the development methodology has lost it's way somewhat, and seems to use elements from multiple methodologies and practices (e.g. some Waterfall, some Agile, some Spiral) and then doesn't necessarily stick to any of those elements either (it seems to change from project to project). This makes it incredibly difficult for us to project manage efficiently.

I've been tasked with sorting it out in short, and the best fit for us as a team would be the practices outlined in Scrum.

However, the Development Team itself consists of 3 actual Developers (the other team members are 2 Report Writers and DBA - not all of which are involved in the main development process of a project), and Scrum is targeted at larger development teams of 7 or more people.

My question is, is Scrum useable in smaller teams or is there a 'Diet' Scrum method that still holds a core of the Scrum practices that would be a better fit for smaller teams?

  • Scrum evolved from the productivity inherent in small teams – El Toro Bauldo Oct 4 '15 at 8:02
up vote 21 down vote accepted

Scrum works most effectively with small teams, up to around 6 or 8 people (including developers, project manager, and others). After this, you start getting "scalability" issues. I was on a scrum team with 43 people; our daily scrum took an hour and a half. This is not the intention of Scrum.

Typically, once you reach around eight people, and what Kent Beck himself recommended (from a training course he gave one company I worked at) was to split up into teams of 4-6 developers. This keeps your team light and agile, and keeps the process time down to a reasonable level.

Coordinating multiple teams is a bigger issue and a harder one (and one not addressed in your question).

Edit: With multiple teams, you might want to have a "scrum of scrums," or a scrum with all the scrum-masters. That, and I would suggest not forcing teams to synchronize sprints, but make sure the release is synchronized at certain points across all teams.

  • I was going to ask about the multiple teams in a separate question :-) as effectively, what we have is 2 teams inside one as our Report Writers and Developers rarely work on the same project. Though that more or less answers my question. Now to work on implmenting it. – LiamGu Feb 8 '11 at 15:46
  • No worries! I've added a few points to think about. :o) – ashes999 Feb 8 '11 at 15:51
  • There are only three roles in the Scrum framework. – Alan Larimer Jan 25 at 15:22

I would not say that Scrum teams need to be 7+ people. In my current company, we worked with a team of 3-4, depending on the workload from some other projects, and going a "pragmatic" Scrum way worked out quite well for us.

As already discusses in the question Strict or pragmatic Scrum?, there is not much sense in trying to bend your team and environment to be able to apply pure Scrum. there is a lot into it that even fits if you're only 2 people, and I agree with ashes999 that the optimal size for a Scrum team is around 6-8 people.

I also would try to engage the non-programmer members into the process. Scrum is also a good way to let people focus on their tasks and try helping them keeping their tasks predictable and transparent, so the whole team can benefit from the engagement of the report writers and the DBA.

I would encourage you to develop processes that work in your organization and try not to get hung up on applying a particular process method strictly. There is plenty of precedent for using Scrum on a team of one. Even 1 programmer can benefit from the discipline and communication offered by having a list of features they prioritize into sprints and then delivering on those promises at regular intervals. The additional visibility / communication offered can be a real boon to very small teams that often get overlooked by management.

Does a scrum of one need a daily standup meeting? Obviously no, but that is not the only practice scrum provides and it doesn't mean there's nothing to gain from using it.

Again, the idea behind agile is to be pragmatic - do what makes sense for your organization.

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