Where do future improvement items from the Retrospective go? Product Backlog or somewhere else?

Last post 04:46 pm June 8, 2021
by Tomasz Głowacki
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05:21 am June 8, 2021

Typically, improvement items are addressed as part of the Sprint Backlog. If for whatever reason, a Scrum Team has a set of improvement items that they can't action in the current Sprint, where do these improvement items go? Do we add them to the Product Backlog or somewhere else?

My understanding is that it can't be the Product Backlog unless it is something related to the Product.  What are your thoughts?

05:43 am June 8, 2021

As per the scrum guide: 

The Scrum Team identifies the most helpful changes to improve its effectiveness. The most impactful improvements are addressed as soon as possible. They may even be added to the Sprint Backlog for the next Sprint.

 

One could read this two ways: 

1) The items are added to the PB and then selected for a sprint during sprint planning

2) The team have a seperate board for retrospective items, which are then reviewed during sprint planning

 

I personally would go for option one, as this keeps the team focused on one board, and should make it easier for them to include those items into their planning calculations. 

Previous versions of the scrum guide made adding these items to the sprint backlog mandatory; however, as you can see, the wording has changed in the current version.

05:58 am June 8, 2021

Where do future improvement items from the Retrospective go? Product Backlog or somewhere else?

It's a good question, but I'd suggest that if there had to be a prescriptive answer rather than letting the team decide, then there might be a deeper problem.

07:25 am June 8, 2021

As per the scrum guide: 

The Scrum Team identifies the most helpful changes to improve its effectiveness. The most impactful improvements are addressed as soon as possible. They may even be added to the Sprint Backlog for the next Sprint.

 

One could read this two ways: 

1) The items are added to the PB and then selected for a sprint during sprint planning

2) The team have a seperate board for retrospective items, which are then reviewed during sprint planning

Option 2 is in conflict with scrum as scrum guide states:

Product Backlog

The Product Backlog is an emergent, ordered list of what is needed to improve the product. It is the single source of work undertaken by the Scrum Team.

in my opinion:

If there is work associated to the improvement it should be placed on the backlog and prioritized by the PO (these improvements have value to the product for instant time to market) i. If it is a improvement where no work is involved and it about doing something in a different way just do.

11:26 am June 8, 2021

I agree with you Sven; however, as these are team improvements and not product related items, some teams may wish to track them outside of the PB. 

04:46 pm June 8, 2021

Sven, I think that letting PO to order team improvements may be too prescriptive. The whole team decides here is better I guess. It was clear in SG 2017 (team selects at leasts one high priority improvement to sprint backlog) but now it is not clearly stated. Hovewer, introducing some healtlhy rules within scrum team like 10% capacity goes to tech debt and 1 improvement at least goes to sprint backlog is still good to have. I see your points using ebm to control it, but I think not all improvements impact tracked kpis directly.