Following a series of blog posts on metrics, I couldn’t decide which of my other ideas should form the basis my next post. I thought that I would try something different, which turned out to be both a success and failure.

I decided that I would create a poll on my Twitter account and get my followers (numbering around 70) to select the subject of my next blog post. The options included Jackanory, Sir Mo Farah, Yahtzee and Formula 1. I posted the tweet and within a few hours someone voted. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting many responses (if any), but soon there was a second vote. This is where both success and failure kick in.

I had feared that there would be no votes at all, but luckily that fear had been put to bed quite quickly – success. However, given that the two people that voted had selected different options, I was faced with a quandary. If there were no further votes I would have a draw, and even if there were more votes, I could still end up without a clear winner.

In the end there were only two votes – failure. As Jackanory received the first vote, this post will follow that idea, with Formula 1 forming the basis of my next blog post. Sir Mo Farah and Yahtzee will just have to wait their turn.

One of the things that I wanted to improve with my team this year was refining the Product Backlog. The Scrum Guide notes that refinement of the Product Backlog is an ongoing process and that a team could spend up to 10% of it’s time in refinement activities. This subject formed the basis of my first Scrum Alliance article which was published back in 2014, before being re-published on this blog last year.

In the article I discussed the process that I had been following for refining the Product Backlog and created some FAQs to help those new to Scrum understand a possible process that could be followed. The addition of a mid-Sprint Product Backlog refinement session is something that has worked for me, but I am always looking to see where improvements could be made.

The one downside of this session is that it is an additional meeting that the team need to attend, and I know how much teams generally detest meetings. So I set myself a challenge – was there a way to continually refine the Product Backlog, without the need for long meetings?

I believe that the most effective Product Backlog refinement sessions occur when they are led by the Product Owner. The Product Owner has that vision of what they want and can providing context to the team as to why there is value in undertaking that development activity. The Product Owner can provide examples of how the feature may be used and/or what it could look like. In a roundabout way the Product Owner is telling a short ‘story’ in order to stimulate interest and ideas.

This sparked a memory from my childhood. Jackanory was a BBC television series, which aspired to stimulate children’s interest in reading. There was little variation in the format of the show during it run of 3,500 episodes from 1965 to 1996. Normally one book would be read across five 15 minute episode (Monday to Friday).

I wondered, could this format then be used for refining the Product Backlog?

Every day a Scrum Team will get together and hold a Daily Scrum. After the completion of this ceremony, is there an opportunity for a Product Owner to keep the team together for another 15 minutes and tell them a short ‘story’? Would a change of ‘story-telling’ format help to stimulate interest in the upcoming development activities? Could the Product Owner utilise a short daily meeting to continually refine the Product Backlog without needing to impede the team with a longer mid-Sprint session?

At this time I do not have the answer to these questions, but do hope to experiment with this format in the coming weeks.

I would be interested to hear what you think about this alternative Product Backlog refinement format as well as any other tools and/or techniques you use to continually refine the Product Backlog.

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