Scrum Ceremony Best Practices – Sprint Backlog Grooming

Man with Beard writing on white board

In this final installment of Scrum ceremony best practices, we will take a look at Sprint Grooming. Although this ceremony may fall more into the hands of the Product Owner, it is imperative that a Scrum Master has a good idea of how to help the Product Owner get the most out of this ceremony. As I mention frequently in other articles, sometimes your team may not have a dedicated Product Owner. Sometimes he or she may be brand new and not have an idea of how to properly run a grooming meeting. I want to make sure that you are prepared to run the meeting if necessary. So let’s take a brief look at how to ensure a great grooming.

Purpose of the Sprint Grooming:

  • Develop and provide an implementable sprint backlog
    • It is no secret that without this meeting, there would be total chaos during development. Grooming gives the team an opportunity to flesh out stories, give their perspectives, talk through potential challenges and roadblocks, and ultimately come up with well-defined, small, workable stories that can be developed and implemented within a sprint.

Best Practices:

  • Create a formal Definition of ready. Please read my article on how to develop one.
  • Team must agree that a story is ready to pull into a sprint
  • Full team must be engaged (no excessive computer use or other distractions)
    • It is real easy to distract yourself with your computer in front of you. Be mindful of your attention and give your entire team the respect by being engaged
  • Don’t leave grooming until the next sprint is “ready” (Ideally 2 sprints)
    • We make it a goal to always be groomed for two sprints in advance. Too far into the future and you run the risk of having to change a lot of the work. Cutting it too closely means that you could rush and not groom the stories to their potential
  • Everyone should have a voice
    • Use planning poker for story estimation.
    • We use the pointing poker to quickly size items. It allows everyone on the team the ability to submit their votes simultaneously, regardless of whether they are remote or not.
  • PO should have the backlog ready to be groomed
    • The PO should ideally have a rough idea of each story involved in the features.
  • Stories are ideally groomed two times
    • This should be left up to the discretion of the team and how complicated the stories are.
  • Acceptance criteria are defined and understood by the end of the meeting
    • Leave no doubt in the mind of the development team of what is expected from each story

Benefits of an Effective Grooming:

    • Well defined stories allow the team to pursue technical excellence
    • Properly groomed stories are a step to becoming more predictable as a team
    • Accurately pointed stories will help teams meet delivery commitments
    • Well defined stories, a solid plan and direction prevent chaos from occurring during a Sprint

I hope you have enjoyed this series and have learned something new. What are your secrets to a great backlog grooming? I would love to hear them!