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Conducting a Backlog Refinement (Grooming)

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During Backlog Refinement (Grooming) the Scrum Master facilitates as the Product Owner and Scrum Team review the user stories at the top of the Product Backlog in order to prepare for the upcoming sprint.

Backlog Refinement (Grooming) provides the first input to Sprint Planning. To start, it assures the Product Owner properly conveys the project / product objectives to the Scrum Team that will inform the sprint goal. Further, it ensures the Product Backlog remains populated with user stories that are relevant and detailed. Finally, it defines the “feature set” for the next Sprint Backlog; user stories that are appropriately refined, estimated, prioritized, and meet the Definition of Ready (DoR).

Create and Refine

In preparation of the Backlog Refinement (Grooming), the Product Owner should remove user stories that are no longer relevant and create new ones based on the Scrum Team’s discoveries from the previous sprint. Grooming can then begin with the goal of refining the set of user stories the Product Owner has initially prioritized at the top of the Product Backlog.

The Scrum Team should ask questions and clarify any requirements so they can better break down larger user stories into more manageable, smaller ones for easier, more accurate story point estimation. This may also lead to the Product Owner and Scrum Team re-assessing and negotiating the relative priority of the user stories as the Team refines them.

Estimate

Once the Scrum Team has refined the feature set, they should begin assigning estimates to the user stories and correcting those for any existing in light of newly discovered information. However, everyone (i.e. the Scrum Team, Product Owner, and Scrum Master) should understand that estimates are not final until those user stories have been accepted into the Sprint Backlog.

Prioritize

Before the Backlog Refinement (Grooming), the Product Owner should conduct some informal backlog refinement with their subject matter experts (SMEs) and stakeholders to affirm they are focusing on the user stories with the most important business value. Thus further ensuring the Product Backlog is prepped with the highest priority user stories for Backlog Refinement (Grooming).

Following the user story refinement and estimation, the Scrum Team and Product Owner should begin prioritizing the user stories that will eventually fill the Sprint Backlog. The Scrum Team should provide feedback that will help determine the best order for accomplishing the sprint goal. However, if during Backlog Refinement (Grooming) additional questions or risks arise, the Scrum Team should assign action items to the Product Owner (or other Team members) to clarify. Additionally, the Scrum Team and Product Owner may negotiate the creation of “spikes” (a time-boxed investigation) to resolve unknowns that hamper user story estimation.

Good Reads

These are good references for conducting a Backlog Refinement (Grooming):