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What Is Large Scale Scrum (LeSS)?

Agile LeSS is the brainchild of Craig Larman and Bas Vodde, authors of Large-Scale Scrum: More with LeSS (Addison-Wesley Signature Series (Cohn). In 2005 they teamed up to develop a scalable version of Scrum that could underpin large projects they were working on for companies such as Cisco, UBS, and Nokia Networks. Making the point that LeSS isn’t a new or improved version of Scrum but “Scrum applied to many teams working together on one product.”

Scrum is one of the most widely used methodologies in Agile and primarily used in software development where its lean, fast, and flexible approach allows small teams to iterate and ship products quickly.

It has also been adapted for a larger-scale application where multiple teams work together across an organization following the same Agile principles. Large Scale Scrum also referred to as LeSS scrum or Less framework, is one of these.

10 principles for doing more with LeSS

This is the framework’s tagline and a key idea expressed in their ten principles:

  • Large-Scale Scrum is Scrum
  • Empirical process control
  • Transparency
  • More with less
  • Whole-product focus
  • Customer-centric
  • Continuous improvement towards perfection
  • Systems thinking
  • Lean thinking
  • Queuing theory

You’ll notice that some of these are not dissimilar from Agile’s own principles, but with a bias towards ideas applicable to multiple teams working together.

For example, the "more with less" principle anticipates and addresses challenges typical of large scale projects:

More with less—(1) In empirical process control: more learning with less defined processes. (2) In lean thinking: more value with less waste and overhead. (3) In scaling, more ownership, purpose, and joy with less roles, artifacts, and special groups.

Source: Principles Overview, LeSS Framework

This is similar to the minimum viable bureaucracy concept in Scrum At Scale, another Scrum-based framework developed for larger organizations.

Getting started with LeSS

LeSS comes in two flavors depending on the number of people participating:

  • Basic LeSS - For 2 to 8 teams
  • LeSS Huge - For more than 8 teams

Basic LeSS is also the starting point for LeSS Huge. The idea is to experiment, get processes running smoothly and earn management buy-in before scaling. LeSS Huge introduces a key role too: the Area Product Owner (APO).

In the first iterations of the framework, there was a big focus on experimentation and a culture of learning, questioning, and engagement. However, more structure was added once it became clear that more references and guidance were needed.

  • Rules, that are the definition of the LeSS framework
  • Guides to help you adopt them
  • Experiments, that remain a key tactic
  • Principles, inspiring and informing the methodology
Further reading

Introduction To LeSS


Project Management Methodologies


What Is Scrum in Project Management?

blog post

Fundamentals of the Scrum Methodology