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Activities for improving backlog refinement that work remotely

Last post 02:00 am May 23, 2013 by Sanjay Saini
7 replies
10:16 am May 16, 2013

I'm working with a highly distributed team that struggles with backlog decomposition; breaking down big things. Much of this comes from not understanding the business and that's being resolved through industry training, etc.

I'm curious, though. Are there retrospective or training activities that you've found helpful in learning how to decompose that might work well for a distributed team? Something that works well in a collocated scenario that might be modified.

I understand all of the problems with distributed teams and that this causes problems. I'm not interested in that particular discussion being repeated.

05:34 am May 17, 2013

Hi Ryan

First let's consider why big PBI's are a problem. Usually it's because they cause uneven flow rate, the delayed delivery of value, and stand a higher risk of becoming impeded than smaller ones. You can therefore try to get the team to think in terms of where a work item is likely to become blocked (e.g. by needing something from another team or stakeholder), and encourage them to author smaller items that "wrap" these blockages. Sometimes a user story can be phrased in terms of delivering value to those other stakeholders or teams.

Another option is to play hardball and adopt one point = 1 work item. I've used this in the past to encourage the authoring of smaller PBI's, It becomes better the more of them there are, because any residual sizing discrepancies tend to average out over the course of a Sprint.

05:33 am May 18, 2013

Yes "Agile Distributed- " helps organizing distributed teams co ordinate work efficiently

12:34 am May 20, 2013

Thanks Ian, do you have any **activities** that you find useful in teaching teams how to do what you're suggesting that might work for distributed teams? I have plenty of experience working through these challenges with collocated teams, but again - this isn't one of those situations.

12:35 am May 20, 2013

Alice - were should I look on this website for activities. Thanks.

08:23 am May 20, 2013

Hi Ryan

Unfortunately not, though I'd be strongly disposed towards using Google Docs as the basis for a distributed approach. There's an article on Pragmatic Agilist which I think is a good starting point:…

10:37 pm May 22, 2013

Thanks Ian. Certainly has some good ideas.

02:00 am May 23, 2013

Hello Ryan

It is good that you have started with the industry/domain training to team. Another thing I would like to add is that - as a standard, teams should spend at-least 10% of their sprint time in grooming for future sprints which may be more for your team, are you giving your team enough time for grooming and understanding the backlog? Also human brain understand the visual things earlier as compared to the textual so I would recommend to use mock-ups, HTML screens for your user stories.

Also don't get frustrated and communicate with your team as much as you can.


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