How do I run Backlog Refinement

Backlog Refinement is a critical part of good practice in Scrum. Refining the Product Backlog ensures that the Team and Product Owner have sufficiently defined Product Backlog Items so that Sprint Planning runs more smoothly and without surprises. 


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 is likely required to deliver the work.

Scrum Teams often hold several refinement sessions throughout the second half of the Sprint. Typically, the more of the timebox that is used the better prepared everyone is for the next Sprint.

Who attends?

  • The Product Owner.
  • The Agile Team (also known as the Development Team).
  • The Scrum Master.
  • Interested stakeholders and subject matter experts.

What does Backlog Refinement involve?

The Product Owner:

  • Presents the objectives for the upcoming Sprint and how it relates to other Sprints.
  • Provides information regarding changes to budget, stakeholder and user feedback, and other information that clarifies the state of the Product Backlog.

The team:

  • Discusses the Minimal Viable Product(s) inherent of Product Backlog items with the Product Owner.
  • Estimates each of the Product Backlog items in turn using techniques like Planning Poker.
  • Discusses any points of divergence in relation to the estimate of effort for each Product Backlog items.
  • Breaks-down the Product Backlog items into smaller pieces, through collaboration with the Product Owner, to ensure that each item can be committed to for completion within a single Sprint.
  • Communicates to the Product Owner any consequence relating to what is being asked for and its rank-order for delivery, including any technical, design or business debt that may be incurred as a result.
  • Discusses any re-prioritisation of items in the Product Backlog as a result of the refinement activity.

Download the Backlog Refinement Checklist

About the author

Related Posts:

How do I run a Retrospective?

The Retrospective is one of five events in Scrum. It’s purpose is to inspect the whole Scrum Team from the perspective of people, process and tools, and then adapt the way the whole team works (including the Product Owner).


Better together: Agile + Lean UX

How do you make Design Thinking, Lean UX, and Agile work together. Sprint 0? Design Sprints? Upfront design and planning tends to delay the delivery of value, so there must be a better way to use Scrum but also engage in discovery work at the same time without devolving into parallel design work. Integrating design, user research, and experimentation into Sprints is the key.


How do I run a Sprint Review?

The Sprint Review is one of five events in Scrum. It’s purpose is to inspect the Increment of work, get feedback, and then adapt the Product Backlog. And while many people refer to the Sprint Review as the “demo” or “showcase”, this is only one aspect of the Sprint Review.


How do I run a Daily Scrum?

Many people use the Daily Scrum to provide a status report to the Product Owner or Scrum Master, and even to stakeholders, but this event plays a more critical part in ensuring that the team continues to stay focussed on their goal and adapt their work so they improve their chance of achieving it.


How do I run Sprint Planning?

Sprint Planning is one of Scrum’s five events. There’s more to it than just making a plan. Importantly, as an action of empiricism, the team should be inspecting the Product Backlog and adapting, and creating, a Sprint Backlog that makes their plan to achieve the Sprint Goal, and deliver a potentially releasable Increment, transparent.