Improve your refinement sessions for the benefit of team development

This practice is still often called product backlog grooming. It has been renamed from backlog grooming to backlog refinement quite some time ago now based on the colloquial meaning of “grooming” in some cultures.

Tip 1: Involve the whole team

As you know, the size of an agile scrum team should never be in double digits. The ideal size for a fully cross-functional team is around seven, and each of them should be present for the refinement sessions. Many teams miss this fact and will only have some members present, which leads to lack of contribution and asynchronised awareness of the common goal.

Tip 2: Refine the right amount

Do not assume you know how much refinement time is needed per sprint. Maybe the default time of one hour is enough for your team, but maybe not. You could have any number of the following:

  • 1 hour session per week
  • a 2-hour session over two weeks
  • 4 half-hour sessions dotted around the sprint

To find the best method, start with an hour for every week of the sprint. From there, work out what’s best for your team’s development and product flow. Use the sprint retrospective to look back and decide whether you need more or less time to refine your items.

Tip 3: Know when to move on

During refinement sessions, it’s always good to break bigger items down into manageable pieces. A word of warning; don’t get carried away with a single item as it may be eating into the time of other tickets. Take control and move onto the next item with the aim of either circling back or taking it offline.

I hope the video and tips above help you to transform your refinement sessions into more productive meetings and give you a better grasp of the work at hand. Refer back to this page whenever you need a refresher. If you have any questions or topics you’d like me to cover, leave a comment below or send me a message through my website. Thanks for reading. See you next time!

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About the author 

Georg Fasching

A leadership team development specialist, International Coach Federation - Professional Certified Coach, with global product management experience since 2000, employing Agile & Lean since 2010, Georg Fasching guides leadership teams to delighting their clients, fulfil their people, and improve their prosperity.

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