This is the sixth post in a series about what makes a team effective. Effective means, the team does the right thing to reach its goal.
A lot of Scrum teams work Sprint per Sprint. They seldom look further ahead than a single Sprint.
While they really tackle problems just in time, define requirements as late as possible to eliminate waste, they still suffer from a big problem: Good ideas take time.
Finding a good solution to a hard problem takes normally more time than a single Sprint.
Product Backlog Grooming
Every Sprint, we have a product backlog grooming meeting. In this meeting, we look at what might be implemented in the next two to three months.
When things show up on the horizon that we think have a big impact on our current system, we talk about how we could implement them on a very abstract level (which parts of the system would have to change and how would they communicate). We talk about different alternatives, too. Maybe we decide to add a Spike to the product backlog to make sure that we build up knowledge about the problem and possible solutions early. We discuss these things in every product backlog meeting until they are implemented. Every time this discussion is a bit less abstract with less variants so that we are ready when it is time to implement the thing.
Things that have a medium impact are discussed much later (about two Sprints – we have two week Sprints – ahead of estimated implementation).
Things with small impact are discussed in the product backlog grooming meeting directly before the Sprint we planned to implement it. We often shortly discuss about the design as well.
Good ideas, less cost
This approach gives us the time to find good ideas for important tasks that have high impact on our system. The recurring discussions help us to look at the task from different angles with different ideas for a solution. A lot of times we found completely different approaches with better usability for the user and less implementation cost for us.
My experience tells me that we need about one to two months to get to the really good ideas. And the ideas are mostly generated under the shower or on the Sunday afternoon walk 🙂