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How do I run Backlog Refinement

Backlog Refinement is a critical part of good practice in Scrum. Refining the Product Backlog ensures that the Scrum Team has sufficiently defined Product Backlog Items so that Sprint Planning runs more smoothly and the Sprint proceeds with few surprises. Importantly, refinement isn’t an event or once off meeting. Product Backlog refinement is an ongoing activity.

Empiricism

Backlog Refinement doesn’t serve empiricism directly, but makes the Product Backlog (one of the three artefacts in Scrum) more transparent in terms of:

  • What work is likely needed to deliver an item to the Definition of Done.
  • The items that are most valuable in their contribution to the Product Goal.
  • What it will take in terms of effort to make steps toward the Product Goal next Sprint.

Scrum Teams often hold several refinement sessions throughout their Sprint. Typically, the more tme that is spent refining items the better prepared everyone is for the next Sprint. The Scrum Team decides how and when refinement is done. A good rule of thumb is for refinement to consume no more than about 10% of the capacity of the Scrum Team [1].

Who attends?

Scrum Teams do refinement both collectively and as individuals. Sometimes, they will hold a workshop and other times people will run experiments and do research by themselves and bring back the results to the team in a subsequent session. 

Stakeholders and technical subject matter experts are important collaborators and advisors for refinement activities.

What does Backlog Refinement involve?

  • Breaking down Product Backlog items into smaller more precise items.
  • Further defining the scope boundaries and adding acceptance criteria.
  • Adding details, such as a description, order, and size.
  • User research to understand existing and future product needs.

Download the Backlog Refinement Checklist

Footnotes

1. As per Scrum Guide, versions 2017 and earlier.

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