The Scrum method provides minimal boundaries within which teams can self-organize to solve complex problems. This is a massive benefit of the approach, but because it’s so loosely defined, items must be revisited and clearly defined before they come into the sprint. Enter sprint refinement meetings.

Also referred to as product backlog refinements, sprint refinement meetings ensure that once a project reaches the sprint meeting stage, it’s been well-analyzed, and the project can be moved forward in a meaningful way.

Refinement Meetings: When and Why They Happen

Refinement meetings help teams arrive at clearly-defined and prioritized blocks of work that can be taken forward into the next sprint. Relatively short sessions that occur after product grooming is complete, they happen right before the sprint meeting. We often hold refinement meetings on a Friday and have the sprint meeting the following Monday.

At a typical sprint execution refinement meeting we:

  • Review stories that will be going into the next sprint.
  • Run through groomed backlog items with the developers.
  • Ask questions to gain clarity.

What is Refinement Meetings?

Refinement meetings are also a great opportunity for the tech guys to make contributions, giving them more ownership and enjoyment in the process. They also allow engineers to provide their input. It’s sort of like the two heads are better than one proverb, except in this case it’s many heads are better than one. Having non-tech people weigh in on possible solutions often results in discovering new ways to do something.

For instance, engineers tend to see problem-solving as a creative endeavor, and if there is no problem, they’ll often create one just so they can try to solve it! A “this will work here” or “how will this behave there?” contribution can spark the team to add to or take away from the product.

At the end of the refinement meeting, the “to do” list for the sprint is put together.

Sprint Planning Agenda

Poor Planning Leads to Project Failure. Here are the Six factors must be met for any software project to be successful:

  • On-time delivery.
  • Stays within budget.
  • Works as designed.
  • People use it.
  • The owners are happy.
  • It meets its stated goals.

With many different stakeholders having many different requirements, there should be little surprise that one of the top five causes of software project failure is inaccurate requirements gathering. Even under the best circumstances, requirements can be vague. For example, it can be hard for an owner to articulate all their needs until they see the end product.

Unlike traditional waterfall development, Scrum projects treat requirements in a progressive way. For instance, details are fleshed out just enough for teams to start building functionality, and as change is expected, requirements can be manipulated. Refinement meetings set up an environment where:

  • Product features can be negotiated.
  • Some requirements can be discarded in favor of something more valuable.

Most organizations have indeed come to expect failure for their software projects. But what if that didn’t need to be? While owners, developers, project managers, and product managers can all learn from project failures, the goal should be to make those failures few and far between. Refinement meetings mitigate the risk of items failing the sprint or taking longer to complete than anticipated. They expose risk and get all team members aligned with a shared understanding of any problems. Finding the skills to run a well tuned development team can be difficult, you can outsource certain aspect to augment your team with the right resources to be more productive.

To learn more about Zibtek’s sprint planning process, including the role of refinement meetings, contact us online today to schedule a consultation.