Why is Backlog Refinement not an official scrum event yet?

Last post 05:14 pm November 5, 2021
by Leo Inthapichai
4 replies
02:43 pm March 22, 2017

While backlog refinement is mentioned in the scrum guide in the product backlog section, it is still not listed as an official event beneath daily scrum, review. planning, retrospective (and the sprint as a whole thing).

From my personal experience, it's the best way to do the product backlog refinement with as many members of the development team as useful once a week, having the PO and sometimes even stakeholders available for questions which may rise and be answered quickly. The scrum guide neither tells how the refinement should be done, nor defines a specific time box. So people might do refinements totally differently. But it clearly describes the backlog refinement's purpose and even suggests a maximum amount of overall capacity of the development team to be absorbed by the refinement. So even if the scrum guide does let it open if the whole scrum team should have refinement sessions together, only some members of the team should come together or if everybody should refine item's independently (which I personally wouldn't suggest), there is clearly some kind of an event happening here.

What's your thought on this topic? Should Product Backlog Refinement be entitled an event on it's own instead of only being mentioned in a small section of the product backlog descrption as part of the scrum artefacts? From my point of view, this "event" is to crucial to be only mentioned in a side note.

Extract from scrum guide p. 14:

"Product Backlog refinement is the act of adding detail, estimates, and order to items in the Product Backlog. This is an ongoing process in which the Product Owner and the Development Team collaborate on the details of Product Backlog items. During Product Backlog refinement, items are reviewed and revised. The Scrum Team decides how and when refinement is done. Refinement usually consumes no more than 10% of the capacity of the Development Team. However, Product Backlog items can be updated at any time by the Product Owner or at the Product Owner’s discretion."

11:30 pm March 22, 2017

Refinement is described as an event in the Nexus Guide. Since both Scrum and Nexus are frameworks, and are as non-prescriptive as possible, what do you think might be the reasoning behind this difference?

01:42 am March 23, 2017

Assuming that in Scrum something done by the team is only called an event, if it has it's own dedicated meeting, it's not called an event in the Scrum Guide, because it shall not be predefined as being a meeting (which it is in the Nexus Guide).

01:48 am March 23, 2017

As more as I think about it, the more sense it makes. I was thinking to long in the Nexus realm, I think :)


12:49 am November 5, 2021

Hi Steven, thanks for posting this - for a long time I had just assumed that backlog refinement was an event in the Scrum Guide! (Scrum 3-6-3 anyone?).

In practice, I think until a team can repeatedly hit the outcomes of Product Backlog refinement, they will benefit from establishing a backlog refinement event to dedicate time to refinement activities each Sprint. Without an event, what I've seen is that refinement activities don't take place enough - which then places stress on Sprint Planning.

If a team can demonstrate they can achieve the outcomes of backlog refinement without an event - that's great! In that case, there would be no reason to be prescriptive in how they refine the backlog.

But in practice, it is an evolution in the way of working, and especially for new teams it's helpful to have dedicated time booked in for refinement activities.

Craig Larman and Bas Vodde articulates it well when they say: "Scrum hits an ideal balance between abstract principles and concrete practices".

I think the Scrum Guide in the case of it's approach to Product Backlog refinement, is trying to achieve that balance.