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Who should attend backlog refinement meetings? 

Who Should Be at the Backlog Refinement Table?  

Now, when it comes to backlog refinement meetings, the ever-elusive question arises: Who should attend backlog refinement meetings? 🤝 

Should we get everybody in?

It’s an aspect of Agile development often under-discussed yet critically important. Let’s dive in with the insights I’ve gleaned from years in the trenches.

The Power of Inclusivity   

Backlog refinement, in its purest form, hinges on sharing and understanding upcoming tasks with the entire team and here’s why:

– Broad Representation: Ideally, everyone should be in the room. Why? Because backlog refinement is about sharing understanding, and to do so, you need everyone—from the customer to the developers—to be on the same page. 🌟

– Voicing the Problem: This includes the person articulating the challenge—whether it’s the customer, the product owner, or an expert. Their perspective helps frame the upcoming work.

– Solvers in Sync: Developers should be present irrespective of their job titles. After all, they’re the ones crafting the solution. Bringing everyone under one roof (or video call) ensures questions are answered in real-time, preventing potential misalignments. 💡

 When Everyone Can’t Make It 

While the ideal scenario advocates for complete attendance, reality often dictates otherwise. Even in the absence of the ideal, the focus should be on ensuring a diverse and inclusive conversation.

There’s an approach, often termed ‘The Three Amigos’, which suggests that there should always be someone who understands the problem and a couple of others who are adept at solving it. Ensure that multiple angles are considered.

The magic here lies in the variety of perspectives. 🚀

Ensure that the few present representatives can relay the insights to the entire team. A sole person risks having a singular perspective, which may not be comprehensive. 💡

 The Value of Collective Memory  

Although collective memory is valuable, I’d also like to point out that memory can be a double-edged sword.

Our memory, though a formidable tool, is not infallible. We all misremember things.

Here are a few points to keep in mind:

– Checking Ambiguity: We all perceive and remember things differently. When multiple team members participate, discrepancies in understanding can be identified and clarified.

– Boosting Recollection: With multiple minds in the room, the odds of collectively remembering the conversation’s crux increase. 🚀

Pitfalls to Avoid 

What I don’t want is for the team leads to disappear. It’s about broad participation, not hierarchy. We must empower all voices in the team to truly harness the power of backlog refinement. ⚠️

– Beware of the ‘Lead’ Syndrome: If the team leads—lead developer, tester, or analyst—huddle together, it’s not a shared perspective. It’s imperative to have representation across the team.

– Empower Everyone: Make sure all team members, irrespective of their seniority, have the opportunity to participate. Those newer to the team or industry can often ask questions that seasoned professionals might overlook.

 Bottom Line 

Whether you’re refining your backlog once a week or multiple times, the essence is to ensure understanding and reduce ambiguities.

After all, you can’t solve a problem you don’t fully grasp.

Clarifying our understanding of the problem is critical.

If you’re passionate about optimising your Agile and Scrum processes, consider joining one of my in-depth courses. 🔥

Together, let’s build teams that are more efficient, collaborative, and successful.

And remember – stay engaged.

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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