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PO refinement questions during sprint

Last post 10:59 pm April 13, 2015 by phuong nguyen
9 replies
11:45 am February 23, 2015

I'm looking for advice on a new Scrum team. The team is reporting that their PO comes to them a lot during their sprint whilst he is working on stories in his backlog. When a question comes up such as 'Can we do this with the CMS?' the team investigate this with a tech lead. This is outside the work they committed to during the sprint, and they are feeling it is hidden work. Would you recommend the PO does this technical investigation work himself, or perhaps waits until a formal Backlog Refinement meeting to make the ask to the team? What level of working with the team to do informal grooming during the sprint would you think is acceptable?

12:21 pm February 23, 2015

Be happy with your PO. The Product backlog refining is a continuous process. If it was not continuous, the Development Team would be surprised at every sprint planning with new functionality that doesn’t fit in the technical structure.

But, when committing to a set of Product Backlog items for a sprint, be aware you don’t have 8 hours/day for working on them. There are things like people catching a flu, customers calling for support, having a cup of coffee next to the machine. Oh, and communication with the stakeholder / customer / client via the Product Owner.

01:40 pm February 23, 2015

> What level of working with the team to do
> informal grooming during the sprint would
> you think is acceptable?

Although Product Backlog refinement is not a formal Scrum event, it can and should be time-boxed. The team may therefore choose to budget, in a given Sprint, for a certain number of refinement sessions each of a certain length. This budget may reasonably include time spent on any spike investigations to clarify feasibility or scope.

Refinement activities should not be allowed to exceed the budgeted time-box, lest they impinge on planned development work or otherwise put the Sprint Goal in jeopardy.

09:58 am February 24, 2015

Thanks guys, this is very helpful.

11:22 am February 24, 2015

In addition to Ian remarks, the Scrum Guide mentions at page 13 a maximum budget of 10% for Product Backlog refinement.

03:34 am February 25, 2015

what do you think why the PO does this spontaneously instead of waiting for the refinement session?
Is it because he doesn't know about the productivity loss due to task switching? If so, you can teach him. Maybe he will learn to use the time of the team more efficiently by not interrupting them unneccessarily.
It can happen that the PO has questions to the team where he needs an immediate answer, and in an agile environment it has to be possible to talk to the team. However this should be the exception and not the rule.

07:12 am March 3, 2015

Ludwig brought up a great point in revealing the burden of task switching; I simply ask the PO to first discuss it with the SM so that if something needs to be brought up that will change the current sprint, it can be brought up as soon as possible. The definition of ASAP usually ends up being when everyone takes a break to grab a snack or right before or after lunch so there isn't such a burden of task switching. If it can hold off for our time boxed refinement
meeting, even better. Let's put it on a "things to discuss during the refinement meeting" list.

I would suggest to create a space to bring this up during a retrospective; use a technique that allows for more open communication and see what you get. The PO is most likely not aware of the affect they are having on the team's productivity and it most likely is affecting the relationship there.

11:17 am March 25, 2015

There may need to be a prioritization level communicated when the PO comes to the team with questions. Ultimately the PO needs to be in constant communication with the team in order to do the product backlog management effectively. This is reciprical with the team communicating with the PO about any questions they may have.

Ensuring the Development Team understands items in the Product Backlog to the level needed.

04:56 pm April 13, 2015

Who is the most important stakeholder to the Product Owner? Customer? Or Chief Product Owner? Or some other body?

10:59 pm April 13, 2015

Thanks, i hope this is realy!

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