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Collaborating to Groom the Product Backlog

When dealing with emerging needs, it is impossible to keep the entire backlog in a ready state; only the top elements need to be. A healthy backlog provides a set of high-value, ready desirements, about equal in size, that are small enough so that the team can deliver them in the upcoming sprints. To obtain desirements that are ready to iterate, you need to periodically groom the backlog.

Even with all the improvements wrought by the Scrum framework, grooming the backlog remains, and likely will remain, a fundamentally human endeavor, fueled by the insights, ideas, passions, and perceptions of people looking for the best. Rather than letting stakeholders work of their own free will, the product owner must lead everyone by using a sequence of activities that promotes deliberate discovery. Grooming the backlog boils down to a sequence of four activities: ranking, illustrating, sizing, and splitting user stories, as shown in Figure 5.1.

FIGURE 5.1

Figure 5.1. Grooming the backlog.

These activities are never performed solo by the product owner. To accomplish these activities, the product owner must collaborate: first with stakeholders and then with the development team. Backlog grooming is a team effort.

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