How often should backlog refinement meetings be held? 

Timing of Backlog Refinement 

Today, we’re diving deep into one of the most common questions I get asked – How often should backlog refinement meetings be held?  🕰️ 

So, I want to help dispel some myths and shed light on this topic.

Understanding the No Fixed Rule Principle  

First and foremost, let’s dispel the Ever-present dilemma: there’s no fixed rule regarding how often backlog refinement meetings should be held. 🚫

In the vast world of Agile, it truly is as often as you need to. Although this might sound like a completely useless answer, the fluid nature of Agile processes doesn’t adhere to strict, one-size-fits-all patterns.

Pro Tip: Keep a Weekly Placeholder 

Now, here’s a piece from my Agile playbook – Always put something in the diary maybe once a week. 📅

This isn’t about strict adherence at all.

I use this method because Time (excuse the pun) has taught me that making a fixed date in diaries provides, among many other benefits, three main positives for the team, which are:

  • A set expectation for the team.
  • A predictable touchpoint for customers.
  • Flexibility, as they aren’t always necessary.

Short Meetings, Big Value 

I’m an advocate for concise discussions.

I like short meetings. There’s a kind of magic in keeping things concise and potent.

For me, an hour seems like a bit of a long meeting, but you’re going to have some good conversations. 💬

Whether it’s speaking to the product owner, coder, or anyone else, it’s essential to keep things focused.

But remember, it’s not about filling up time but ensuring every minute counts.

Understanding the Dynamics of Refinement 

Refinement isn’t just a task to check off—it’s a dynamic and evolving dance. Let’s explore how it seamlessly integrates into the ebb and flow of Agile development, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and collaboration.

  • Scheduled meetings – Having a set time for these conversations.
  • Ad-hoc conversations – Embracing serendipity when the right moment appears.
  • Continuous learning – Allowing the method to “morph over time as your team learns what works for it better.
  • Research and Queries – Encouraging the team to ask, explore, and understand the upcoming work.
  • Accepting Variety – Understanding that it doesn’t always have to be a formal meeting.

A Story from the Field 

One of the most adaptable teams I came across, owing to time zones, chose to refine 20 minutes every single day. They managed to cover one, maybe two items on their backlog and then moved on. 🌍

The essence here?

It’s less about the formula and more about what works for your unique dynamics.

Reinvention: The Heart of Agile  

If you’re currently doing refinement, that’s wonderful. But don’t do it because you’ve been doing it that way previously. 💡

Innovation sits at the heart of Agile. So, always look for those improvements.

Could your hour-long meetings be just as effective in 30 minutes?

Or could splitting up topics lead to more in-depth discussions?

Keep iterating because we constantly look for better ways to build a better product.

Let’s build better products and streamline our processes together. 🚀

Explore my Agile and Scrum courses and take your team’s backlog refinement productivity to the next level.

author avatar
John McFadyen Managing Partner
John McFadyen is an Executive and Enterprise Agile Coach with proven experience working on some of the UK and Europe’s largest, most complex Agile Transformations. As a Certified Scrum Trainer, John brings a wealth of experience as an Agile coach, Agile practitioner and software developer into each of the four core courses he provides. The war stories, the insights into successful Agile transformations and everything he has learned from coaching high-performance Agile teams combine to provide course delegates with a unique, compelling training experience that transforms as much as it empowers.

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