Backlog refinement techniques

It never ceases to amaze me that teams can come up with more and more inventive ways of improvement. Just yesterday, I was in a backlog refinement meeting where we resized / refined the entire backlog in 15 minutes. Below I outline this new backlog refinement technique.

An innovative new backlog refinement technique…

Part One

The technique starts with a free jira plugin called Cards. This allows you to format the stories for printing in anyway you like. Someone had created a template which printed each story out, with the title on one side and the description on the other. Each card was around the size of the traditional index card.

These were quickly printed out in the meeting. Then they were cut out using the scissors in the big box of agile gear. The big box includes post-its, coloured pens, scissors, sharpies, poker cards etc..

The pile of about 25 cards (this team keeps their backlog well refined and not too deep), were given to a random developer. Each person has a go, and the pile of cards is passed around from one developer to another. Each go, consists of either placing a card on the table or moving an existing card on the table to another location.

The cards begin to form a long line, in relative size order. No story points are allocated at all. Only whether the story is larger or smaller than the one next to it.

Part Two

Once all the cards are on the table and everyone is happy that the stories are in relative size order, then we go onto the second part of the game. (No story can be considered the same size as another). This took about 7-8 mins for a backlog of about 25.

Then the team takes a single range of poker cards and going around the circle again, each person can place a poker card at the point they think that size story starts, or they can move a poker card that is down already along the line to the point they feel the story matches the size.

Once everyone has agreed, the line is now in size order with cards marking the regions which fit that size.

The team does the same thing for the sprint backlog, with the additional step of taking any story which is a 13 or higher and breaking it down into smaller stories with the help of the attending PO.

This is an extremely efficient way of prioritising the entire backlog and creating a sprint backlog all of which tool the team less than 30 mins.

Im sure this is probably documented elsewhere, but I hadn’t seen this before and hope it will be useful for you too.

A visual backlog refinement technique

Francesco Bianchi has developed an awesome visual backlog refinement technique., which he shared with us during a webinar. Watch the recording on demand here.

Here are the key takeaways:

  • Human language is not as clear as we believe it to be. This is because we all understand things differently.
  • Drawing can help us align our understanding and works brilliantly for backlog refinement.
  • Bonus – it’s fun and engaging!
  • Coaches can use visual storytelling to help teams find clarity together.

2 thoughts on “Backlog refinement techniques”

  1. Pingback: Backlog refinement versus Sprint planning - Adventures with Agile

  2. Pingback: Road map for 2016 – Have you made yours yet? - Adventures with Agile

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *