2015-05-20

How to: A Great Product Backlog Refinement Workshop

Are your Sprint Planning meetings painful? Are your Sprint outcomes always as great as you want?

Have you ever held a Sprint Retrospective and decided to get your Product Backlog truly Ready?

Here’s an outline of a Product Backlog Refinement Workshop I use with teams I manage and coach:

Goals
The goals of the workshop are:
  • Get the Product Backlog Ready for the next Sprint Planning meeting
  • Get 6 months of Product Backlog Items estimated so the Product Owner (PO) can forecast well
Who: whole Scrum team
The whole Scrum team is invited. The Product Owner is present—he is responsible for the Product Backlog, and he wants the backlog to be great. The Scrum Master is present—he is a good facilitator and can help the team succeed. The Development Team members are present—they are responsible for estimating the size of the Product Backlog Items (PBIs), and they want to be familiar with the PBIs before Sprint Planning.

When & where
  • Same time and place, every week: so everyone knows and everyone can participate
  • 2-hour time box
  • Preferred place is the team’s everyday workspace.
Artifacts
  • Input: The input to the workshop is the Product Backlog in its current state.
  • Output: The output is a Product Backlog that is more Ready
Steps
To conduct the workshop, follow these steps:
  • In 30-minute cycles,
    • The PO presents the next PBIs that aren’t Ready to the team. (up to 5 minutes)
    • The Development Team decomposes into sub-teams of 3-4 people.
    • Each sub-team selects one of the next PBIs and gets it Ready. (15-20 minutes)
      • Use User Stories, 3 Cs, INVEST, your Definition of Ready, etc. to guide you.
      • If Readiness is blocked by an impediment outside the Scrum team, the sub-team makes a concrete plan for what they will do to get the PBI Ready before the next Sprint Planning or Backlog Refinement meeting.
    • Merge back into whole group, the full Scrum team.
    • Sub-teams present their work to the whole group. (5-10 minutes)
    • Take a break (5 minutes)
    • Repeat
  • Celebrate!

This workshop is inspired by “Try… Requirements workshops for Product Backlog refinement" in Practices for Scaling Lean & Agile Development, Craig Larman and Bas Vodde, 2010. Thank you, Craig and Bas! 

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