Upon reading the blog Relative Size – 4 tips, the Scrum Master (SM) of a team I am working with as coach came to me with a question: Why are you emphasizing more time invested in backlog refinement to prepare for the next sprint instead of spending a lot of time in sprint planning? It is the same amount of time, is it not? What is the difference / benefit?
Here are the benefits of backlog refinement and why it is not the same “type” of time as in sprint planning (apples & oranges):
- In many cases, backlog refinement need not involve the whole team (costly) and not actually required unlike Sprint Planning; primarily, the PO/PM, Tech Lead / Architect, the SM and perhaps the Engineering Manager (EM) are needed
- During backlog refinement, questions may arise to be answered by folks outside the team (such as the PO needing clarifications with the business stakeholders); the time between backlog refinement and sprint planning gives time to resolve such questions, rather than getting stuck during Sprint Planning with the whole team
- The above results in sprint planning more effective – answering queries from the team so that their commitment to sprint goals is more informed
- In backlog refinement sessions, the Product Owner will be able to develop a better sense of how much can be achieved in upcoming sprint(s) and revisit release (or PI) goals
- Regular backlog refinement enables a shared understanding of the backlog, distributed over a period of time instead of spending a big slices of time during Sprint Planning
So, apples and oranges are both fruits, but…