Serious Scrum
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Serious Scrum

How to deal with an absolute unit of a Product Backlog?

When you don’t manage your gargantuan Product Backlog, it manages you

An absolute unit of a sheep, endearingly called a ‘chonk’, closely resembling my gargantuan Product Backlog.
  • A support board with 80 issues, some of them older than a year. Despite having ironclad SLAs (Service Level Agreements) in place that were not being met.
  • A Product Backlog containing more than 500 items, many with angry comments from stakeholders asking why their requests hadn’t been picked up yet.
  • Hundreds of Product Backlog Items with only a title. When opening them, I often could see lengthy conversations with different stakeholders about how vital this Product Backlog Item was for them.

“The things you own end up owning you.”

— Tyler Durden, Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

“When you don’t own your Product Backlog, it owns you.”

Escaping death by Product Backlog

Deciding on the right strategy to handle my different stakeholders

Holding initial conversations with stakeholders

A stale and long backlog weakens the ability to deliver value

“Running water never grows stale. You have to keep on flowing.” — Bruce Lee

How can Product Backlog Items become stale?

  1. The work is no longer important due to a change of direction in the company.
  2. It was already fixed as part of another issue, either accidentally or on purpose.
  3. It will become obsolete due to another feature we will work on in the near future.
  4. The solution direction of the feature is no longer applicable due to architectural changes. The whole Product Backlog item needs to be reworked and re-estimated.
  5. Due to new insights, we know the Product Backlog Item will actually not solve the problem it intends to solve.

Keep your Product Backlog small and fresh

  1. Waste of overproduction. Refining a lot more than what needs to be refined. Just refine what you need now. Who knows what the future brings?
  2. Waste of stock at hand. A long backlog usually contains a lot of noise, which drowns out the signal of the actually valuable items. A long Product Backlog distracts from what is actually valuable to do next.
  • Product Backlog Items are based on the latest and greatest insights.
  • Less rework will be necessary to keep backlog items fresh.
  • You will discuss fewer things you will never work on.

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” — Hans Hoffman

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