Agile Archive

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Cheat Sheet for Backlog Refinement

Backlog Refinement Meeting

What is it?

The purpose of backlog refinement (grooming) is to make improvements to the product backlog.  Though there is no official ceremony detailed in the Scrum Guide, the activity of refining the Backlog is.

Who does it?

Backlog Refinement is a collaborative effort involving:

  • (Optional) facilitator – (like a ScrumMaster) keeps the session moving toward its intended goal
  • (Optional) representative(s) from the Management Team – clarify the high level priorities
  • (Mandatory) representative(s) from the Product Owner Team – clarify the details of the product backlog items
  • (Mandatory) representatives from the Agile Delivery Team – define the work and effort necessary to fulfill the completion of agreed upon product backlog items.  It is recommended to have at least one developer and one tester when refining the backlog, to ensure alternate viewpoints of the system are present.

When is it?

Before development of a user story in the current sprint (iteration), generally sometime during the previous 1 or 2 sprints, the team sits down to discuss the upcoming work. Do not wait too late to add details, because the delay will slow the team down. Do not refine your stories too far in advance, because the details might get stale. Depending on the delivery rate of your teams, you should be meeting once or twice a week to review the backlog.

Before You Begin

We need to ensure:

  • The product backlog is top-ordered to reflect the greatest needs of Management Team and the Product Owner Team
  • Candidates for grooming include stories identified as not ready to complete within the next sprint or will require multiple days of research
  • Epics, features or other items on the Management Team roadmap are reviewed periodically

The Backlog

The product backlog can address anything deemed valuable by the Product Owner Team. For the purpose of sprint planning, when using Scrum as the delivery framework, product backlog items must be small enough to be completed and accepted during the sprint and can be verified that they were implemented to the satisfaction of the Product Owner team. 

Estimate

Backlog items must be completed in a single sprint or split into multiple user stories. While refining, give stories an initial estimate to see if they are small enough. If not, split them. The best way to split product backlog items is by value and not by process.

Acceptance Criteria

All stories require acceptance criteria. Without it, you can not define the boundaries of a user story and confirm when a story is done and working as intended. Ensure acceptance criteria is testable.   This is what your testers should be writing tests against.

Rewrite Written Stories

Ensure the user story format is consistent, INVEST criteria is being met, and is written from a business not technical perspective.  Know who the customer is. It may not be an end user. Rather, the story may be for something like a service, to be consumed by another team.

Image Credit: Pictofigo

Originally Posted at LeadingAgile

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Brain Teaser With a Hidden Lesson

parking lot

What is the number of the parking space containing the car?

I was on Google+ last night when I came across a brain teaser.  It took me about 20 seconds to figure it out.  On average, I’m finding others taking about 2 minutes. Others just gave up, getting angry with me for asking the question.

I have a theory for how long it will take you to figure it out.  The more empathetic you are, the less time it will take you. Counter to that, if you are more apathetic toward others, it will take you longer.

The question:

What is the number of the parking space containing the car?

So, how long did it take you?


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A Lack of a Shared Understanding

I am so glad we all agreeEarlier this week, I facilitated a backlog refinement meeting.  In the past, the team was used to all of the requirements being completed (in advance) by the analysts. The delivery team would then execute on those requirements. The problem, of course, was no shared understanding.

We came into the meeting with everyone agreeing they were on the same page.  That was true for about 15 minutes. The more we talked, the more they realized they were looking at things from individual perspectives.

At the beginning of the meeting, we had less than 10 user stories, from an analyst’s perspective. By the end of the meeting, we had a prioritized backlog with over 100 user stories at different levels of granularity.  It’s not perfect and it’s never done.  But, it’s a start.  For the first time, developers and testers were engaged at the beginning.  At LeadingAgile, we call this the Product Owner team.  When the highest priority stories get to a “ready” state, they will be pulled into a delivery team’s queue.  Until then, we need to answer some of the more complicated questions, mitigate risk, and achieve that shared understanding.

Image Source: Based on hand drawn image from Pictofigo

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How to be Successful with Agile at Scale

Ever asked yourself how you could be successful with Agile at scale? Let me show you how we’ve done it at LeadingAgile.

In this one hour session that I presented to the PM Symposium in Washington DC, I explained how we’ve been successful by focusing on culture last and predictability first.


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New Agile Training Classes Announced

ICAgile Accredited CourseThough I’ve been doing Enterprise Agile Coaching with LeadingAgile for over a year now, I haven’t been doing a lot of training (or blogging).  I’ve been sticking to agile transformation work and the occasional private class.

Well, it’s time for an update.  Dennis Stevens and myself co-authored the International Consortium for Agile (ICAgile) Agile Project Manager learning objectives back in February.  The result was a solid certification even a PMP could respect.

New Classes and Locations

LeadingAgile has decided to offer more public training.  We’re offering classes in Atlanta, Denver, Orlando, and Washington DC.

Scrum

Certified ScrumMaster certification class

Certified Scrum Product Owner certification class

PMI

PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) certification prep class

ICAgile

Fundamentals of Agile (CIP certification awarded)

Agile Project Management (to be announced)


Are in interested in some public training?

Send me an email and I’ll get you a special discount code.