📬 The Backlog

📬 The Backlog is Thomas van Zuijlen's weekly newsletter on practical agility, with annotated articles on Scrum, facilitation, collaboration, and (product) development.

29 August 2022

📬 The Backlog #191

The Art of Product Backlog Refinement, the reason refactoring has no place on your PBL, and the key to professional agile leadership.

  1. I believe that Product Backlog Refinement is where many moving parts of Scrum can come together to great effect. It’s an often underestimated activity but there’s a real art to getting it right: which conversations to have, how to have them, how far to take those, how to incorporate learnings, and so much more. Read 2018’s The Art of Product Backlog Refinement by Stephanie Ockerman for a succinct set of benefits to the activity, that your team can explore by balancing their efforts: “The goal is to balance gaining enough benefits from the activity while minimizing the potential waste,” writes Ockerman.

  2. And speaking of old articles that feature product backlogs: Refactoring — Not on the Backlog!, writes Ron Jeffries in 2014. The gist of his richly illustrated post is that “We are tempted to ask for time from our product owner to refactor. Often, that time is not granted: we’re asking for time to fix what we screwed up in the past. Not likely anyone is going to cut us any slack on that.” Indeed. The solution is just as simple as this line of reasoning; perform refactoring incrementally.

    “Take the next feature that we are asked to build, and instead of detouring around all the weeds and bushes [representing suboptimal code], we take the time to clear a path through some of them. Maybe we detour around others. We improve the code where we work, and ignore the code where we don’t have to work. We get a nice clean path for some of our work. Odds are, we’ll visit this place again: that’s how software development works.”

  3. Last Friday I attended a launch party for the book The Professional Agile Leader by Laurens Bonnema, Ron Eringa and  Kurt Bittner. The event had two things I closely associate with the host Xebia: extremely nice food and insightful conversations. The authors were all present and each of them spoke; Bittner Zoomed in from his home in Colorado.

    I like their joint approach to leadership and planting seeds of change. A key to their approach is found in Kurt Bittner’s 2018 article, What Do Agile Leaders Do?.

    “Agile Leaders focus on three things: (1) they create and nurture a culture in which experimentation and learning are embraced; (2) they collaborate with employees (at all levels in the organization) to find common values to create a greater goal for the company and the teams; and (3) they create an organizational structure that reinforces and rewards the other two dimensions.”

Have a fruitful week and Scrum on,
Thomas van Zuijlen