What does "high priority process improvement" mean?

Last post 08:58 am November 18, 2019
by Steven Busse
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10:31 pm November 14, 2019

In the latest Scrum Guide edition there is phrase which I don't really understand:  "To ensure continuous improvement, [the Sprint Backlog] includes at least one high priority process improvement identified in the previous Retrospective meeting." 

Can anyone give me some real life examples of  "high priority process improvements"?

It is kind of confusing, since I always thought that a sprint backlog contains only product related tickets. How a "high priority process improvement" can even be added to it? 

02:46 pm November 15, 2019

Hi John,

That is a great question.  When Ken and Jeff came up with this idea it was done to ensure that the Product Owner doesn't only look at features/product capabilities when prioritizing work to help ensure true empiricism.  As Scrum is about continuously inspecting and adapting how we work and what we deliver.

So, this ensures that we are always improving how we work as a team based off of what we learn in the retrospective and throughout the Sprint.  You add one item of team improvement to the Sprint Backlog to help focus on it and review at the end of the Sprint to see if it helped the team improve how it worked.  This can be anything related to the team and how they work.  We have had several different things that we have added.  Some include:

  • More clearly defined user stories
  • Invite the right people to meetings
  • Change how we approach the Daily Scrum
  • Improve communication about workarounds people are using to see if there is a way to automate them instead
  • ...
04:38 pm November 16, 2019

Hey Eric,

Thank you for your detailed answer. If I understood you correctly, this item doesn't have story points, acceptance criteria etc. It's there only to help the team to focus on the process improvement.

Am I right?

04:27 pm November 17, 2019

Hi John, I guess that would be up to the team. If you believe that it will take effort away from other things, you may want to size it or you may not.  That would be a team decision.  I have done it both ways depending on what the item is and how it is being accomplished.

08:58 am November 18, 2019

Hi John

I asked a quite similar question just after the revision you're mentioning came out. Maybe reading through the discussion there could give you some insights as well:

https://www.scrum.org/forum/scrum-forum/13520/high-priority-process-improvement-sprint-backlog