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Sprint Planning and Refinement meetings

Last post 06:33 pm August 12, 2020 by Mohit Joshi
2 replies
05:03 pm August 12, 2020


I have a question on Sprint Planning and Refinement meetings:

I was wondering why the scrum guide doesn't recognize Refinement meetings as an event if it is so vital for the Sprint?

I read in the scrum guide that product backlog refinement is not an event but an activity. It's an ongoing activity that shouldn't consume more than 10% of the development team's capacity and logically (not definitive but as a common practice) should occur before Sprint Planning. The main objective of the refinement activity is to ensure the Product Backlog items that will occupy the Development Team for the upcoming Sprint are refined (detailed, estimated and ordered) so that any one item can reasonably be “Done” within the Sprint time-box.

Since I couldn't find a definitive answer to this in the guide, I think it would be more appropriate to use the Sprint Planning event itself to include refinement activity since we are focused to plan for upcoming sprint. For example: say the Sprint planning meeting takes 4 hours for an upcoming 2 week sprint, use the first hour for refinement and identify the product backlog items that are deemed "ready" for selection for Sprint Planning. Then use the remaining hours to do the planning viz. what items can be done (Sprint Backlog) and how the development team plans to do it (plan by breaking into units of work/tasks). The distribution of hours can vary but I can see how we might not need a separate refinement meeting.

Do you think this understanding makes sense and workable based on real life experiences? Or should they both be conducted as different meetings?

--- Mohit

06:09 pm August 12, 2020

I was wondering why the scrum guide doesn't recognize Refinement meetings as an event if it is so vital for the Sprint?

Because every time a prescription is made about how something ought to be done, the ability of a skilled and professional team to inspect and adapt based on context is then inhibited. Scrum, therefore, is as non-prescriptive as possible.

In the Nexus Guide, where multiple teams work on the same integrated product increment, Product Backlog Refinement is treated as an event. Can you see why it is important to do so in this case?

06:33 pm August 12, 2020

Thanks Ian. But aren't the other events defined in Scrum guide telling how something ought to be done, like planning, review or retrospective. Why not refinement then? It's an important activity, so why not put into an event so it is not missed?

On another note, I get your point. I think it makes sense for the refinement to be a continuous activity and not a single event. Guess it's less significant when this meeting occurs, more that it should occur. I read few articles on it and seems like different teams follow different approaches as to when this refinement meeting occurs. Some prefer to have it at the end of Sprint (before the next Sprint Planning meeting) while others prefer to have it more frequently viz every week for a 2 week Sprint. 

Even the Nexus guide states: The number, frequency, duration and attendance of Refinement is based on the dependencies and uncertainty inherent in the Product Backlog.

--- Mohit


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