Why shared understanding should be the goal of backlog grooming

Just recently, I read about creating shared understanding in Jeff Paton’s book “User Story Mapping”. A couple of days later, I asked myself: “How am I actually creating shared understanding during my backlog grooming meetings?”

How are we doing backlog grooming?

Let me quickly explain, how we are doing backlog groomings in general: In my team, we are having backlog grooming meetings every week. This helps us to stay ahead of our work.

As we are a distributed team all our meetings are virtual (voice-only). Hence, everybody needs to speak up if things aren’t clear. Estimating story points shows the biggest misunderstandings in the team. Nevertheless, this isn’t enough in many situations. Having the same estimates during pointing poker, doesn’t necessary lead to shared understanding.

How to improve shared understanding?

These are the 3 basic rules that my team and myself experienced to work well.

  • Groom less stories in detail than many stories quickly and with shallow understanding.
  • Explain the context of a story. Relate stories to user needs and your product vision or long term goals.
  • Define product releases to show your team when and how you would like to achieve your goals.

In other words:

You need to explain what a story is about, why it is important and when it should be done.

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