Product Grooming FAQ

Product Grooming is easily missed in Scrum. When done poorly it can lead to long Sprint Planning sessions, missing information and unexpected surprises. So how do we make them better? I’ve had quite a few questions on Product Grooming, so here’s my FAQ:

Should we do 1 big grooming session or lots of small ones?

My personal preference is lots of small sessions timeboxed to 1/2 hour. This makes them informal and relaxed. I hate rushed meetings. I also like doing them in an informal area, we have a sofa area that works well for this.

What does everybody do?

The Product Owner should be there to answer questions, not ask questions or run the session. Let the Team run the session. The ScrumMaster could be available to help facilitate if needed.

Definition of ready

I used to like using a token to show that a story is ready; I’ve now decided against this as I had several occurrences where stories that were once ready are no longer ready due to extra information. Using a token subconsciously told me not to consider these stories any more.

How much do we groom?

Based on my professional experience, every story in the backlog should be considered, even if it was recently groomed. This makes sure the team are aware of the entire backlog. If you’re struggling to get through the full backlog in one session, consider spreading one pass over 2 sessions or theming your stories that are lower down the order.

Who needs to see it?

Make it visible! I like to use a Kanban board for the Product Backlog, but whatever you use make sure the team can easily see it.

Agenda

I personally like running down a tick-list style agenda each session. This format helps the team consider all the stories and some of the things they could possibly do with them. It doesn’t need to be formal or exhaustive, it just serves as a reminder of what to consider when grooming;

  • What does our backlog look like at the moment?
  • What’s our current velocity?
  • Are there any new stories?
  • For each (and every) story:
    • Do we still need the story?
    • Does everybody completely understand the story?
    • Is the narrative / acceptance criteria clear?
    • Does the story add value to the customer?
    • Can you demonstrate the story to a customer?
    • Have we had any more information on the story since the last grooming session?
    • Do we need/are we expecting any more information on the story?
    • Does the story need splitting or combining?
    • Should we theme the story with other stories?
    • Is the estimate still relevant?
  • Does the backlog need re-ordering?
  • Do we have enough stories ready for the next sprint, with a few extra just in case?

I’d be interested in hearing any thoughts on missing items, or alternate approaches to grooming.

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