Joshua L. Roberts

Agile / Lean Enterprise Transformation Coach

Week Twelve – Let’s Groom Our Backlog

By Josh Roberts | August 25, 2014 | 2 Comment

We are three months into our transformation and a few of the teams are seeing their Daily Standup meetings turn into what’s-on-my-schedule recitations. Initially, we used the three questions from Scrum to help us get the boards populated and as a means to facilitate COLLABORATION. But, it might be time to changes things up a bit. Remember, our Kanban system is also about TRANSPARENCY and delivering VALUE as a team.

3 questions

The two posts below talk about creating more “targeted” discussions. After all, we should be pointing to specific pieces of work (i.e. value) on the board and determining how best to deliver that piece of value as a team. We also need to move the conversation from “I” to “We”.

1) One Word Can Change Your Daily Scrum

2) How Kanban Supports High-Value Collaboration

Each day, the team should be looking at business value and encroaching deadlines to re-prioritize, or reassign, work as needed. In a word, “Planning”. In Scrum, the team holds a Sprint Planning sessions at the start of each iteration. In Kanban the planning is done continuously and this can be hard for new teams.

Whether you plan every two weeks, or continuously, you must have a prioritized backlog of work from which to “pull” work. This is the key next step for our teams. Our backlogs are a mess and we need to get them groomed!

messy hair

In the near future, we will be engaging our business partners to help us understand the business value of items in our backlog. We will hold Backlog Grooming sessions every 2 weeks to collaboratively discuss their work requests. During Backlog Grooming, we will decompose work, establish acceptance criteria, perform sizing, and ultimately establish a shared priority. The key word is “shared”.

In it’s simplest form, priority for an independent feature can be set with two pieces of information; size of effort and business value. After all, we want to deliver the highest value and lowest effort features into the system first. This is your low hanging fruit. A simple priority equation would look as follows:

Priority = Size of Effort * Business Value

priority table

We need our business partners to set vision and value, while we own the sizing piece of the equation. In the table above, the Fibonacci Numbers are used to define the size of effort and priority is set as High (1), Medium (2), or Low (3). We played a modified game of Planning Poker from Scrum Bob (Bob Schatz) this week to establish sizes.


So, let’s get back to where we started…Daily Standup meetings. In order to focus on moving value across the board, the teams must be collaborating with their business partners to define value. And, to ensure we have a shared definition of value, we must be transparent in our work. Together, we must share information among our IT peers and business partners. The Daily Standup meetings are another important feedback loop to keep us all aligned.

            “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” – Helen Keller


Josh Roberts

Agile / Lean Transformation Coach - Passionate About Delivering Value!


26 August, 2014 Reply

Why are Fibonacci Numbers used for the size of effort? Are these in days, FTE-hours, etc?

    Josh Roberts

    01 September, 2014 Reply

    The Fibonacci Numbers are used to reflect relative size (points) for a piece of work in a team's backlog. This size does not equate to days, or FTE-hours, but rather is used to calculate the rate of throughput for a given team (i.e. velocity). If, on average, a team's velocity is to deliver 50 points of work in a two week period, it will take them 8 weeks to get through a backlog of 200 points of work.

    Per Wikipedia, “The reason for using the Fibonacci sequence is to reflect the inherent uncertainty in estimating larger items.” This line of thinking is derived from the Information Theory and that is why an exponential estimation scale is used. See this great post on the subject. You could use powers of 2, but that gets us calculating again. We want to keep the thinking abstract and using uneven numbers forces the team to re-estimate when breaking down work. It also forces more discussion during the team sizing activities like Planning Poker. As a bonus, it’s easy to create the Fibonacci Numbers in your head.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *