Scrum Rules: The Scrum Team Is Made Up of Five to Eleven People

June 17, 2020
4 minute read

A very effective learning that has come out of many fields of research is that we function well in small groups, specifically groups that range from five to seven people in total – Scrum teams are not exempt from this.

Scrum allows for a slight expansion of that range up to eleven people. This allows for enough people to be together to discuss issues and solve complex software problems with a diversity of skills and experience. As well as avoiding the problem of having too many people that the lines of communication become overwhelming.

If the Scrum Team is only four people, then that means that you only have two people doing the tasks in the Sprint Backlog (since the others are the Scrum Master and the Product Owner). If the team is twelve or more people then trying to discuss issues, having a focused Daily Scrum meeting, and even building an effective Scrum Team becomes that much harder. The larger the team, the longer it takes to get to a high-performance state.

Scrum suggests the size of the Development Team (the Scrum Team members who perform the work of the Sprint Backlog) be between three (3) and nine (9) people. (The Scrum Master and Product Owner are not included in that count unless they are also executing the work of the Sprint Backlog.) To maximize cohesion and minimize complexity, it is important larger groups be split into smaller units or downsized.

Considerations for re-organizing into multiple Scrum Teams:

  1. People executing the work may be best suited to decide optimal team size and composition. Adjustments to team composition will be most effective if the team members are trusted (and supported) to re-organize around their own work.
  2. Groups larger than eleven people often naturally subdivide into smaller, cross-functional sub-groups; therefore it may be possible to carefully observe which team members interact regularly while getting work done and simply acknowledge those informal arrangements.
  3. In order to minimize dependencies between teams, Scrum Teams whose mandates are to own discreet Products or systems are preferable to groups whose mandates are to support “components” of larger systems.
  4. Organizations which currently employ Project Management methods ought to consider changing budgeting and staffing practices to align around Product delivery rather than Project Management. Doing so will make value streams transparent and bring clarity to product-centric team mandates.

Fewer than three Development Team members decrease interaction and results in smaller productivity gains…. Having more than nine members requires too much coordination…. The Product Owner and Scrum Master roles are not included in this count unless they are also executing the work of the Sprint Backlog. — The Scrum Guide

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Bruce Power
Capital One
Equitable Life of Canada
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