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Why is Backlog Refinement not an event?

Prior to the Scrum Guide 2020, the backlog refinement used to be regarded as a “quasi event” and a lot more was mentioned about it. So, what happened?


As we know the Scrum Guide 2020 was “leaned” and made to reflect that Scrum has been for years being used outside software development so attributes often vary with the domain of work.


Jeff Sutherland teaches Refinement as the “Backlog Ready” pattern, together with other productivity patterns such as the Interrupt Buffer, Impediments List, and others.


Backlog Refinement is when the Product Owner and the Developers meet to order the Product Backlog and to break down the forthcoming large Product Backlog Items into smaller ones. They also estimate for the Product Backlog Items (PBI) that they will eventually work to implement.


PBIs near the top of the Product Backlog, those that will be part of the next 2 Sprints, should be small enough so that no single one will require more work than 10 percent of the Sprint development effort.


I always mention Small Items as they flow faster thru the system!


A Backlog Ready means that the PBI meets, at a minimum, the following Definition of Ready:

  • The work is immediately actionable

  • It has has value

  • The Product Owner and the Developers have discussed it

  • The Developers have PIGS estimated it

  • The Product Owner has specified tests

  • The Team has created it as a small item


Remember that all team members except the Product Owner and Scrum Master are Developers regardless of what their titles outside the team may be.

If you are not familiar with PIGS estimate…


PIGS comes from the following joke from the book Agile Software Development with Scrum by Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle:


A chicken and a pig are together when the chicken says, “Let’s start a restaurant!” The Pig thinks it over and says, “What would we call the restaurant?” The chicken says, “Ham n’ Eggs!” The pig says, “No thanks, I’d be committed, but you’d only be involved!”


PIGS estimation means that only the people who are going to do the work do the estimation.

Save time, refine well

The better refined a PBI is the less time will be spent in Sprint Planning. When a Sprint Planning session runs too long or PBIs are revisited it is a sign that Backlog Refinement is not producing good results.

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