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So at my workplace we're following scrum and we've started to have backlog refinement meetings periodically.

Some of us in the Development team feel like this meetings are not very productive and are just a waste of time. It does not help that the team is distributed between Madrid, Spain and Mexico City, Mexico but we've barely started to work this way.

Because of this some of us feel like not everybody should go to this meeting.

Do you think that everybody should go to every refinement meeting? Should it be a rotationary thing? Is there any literature about this?

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The definitive literature is The Scrum Guide.

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.

Product Backlog items that will occupy the Development Team for the upcoming Sprint are refined so that any one item can reasonably be “Done” within the Sprint time-box.

As the Scrum Master I would have several questions. What is occurring during Product Backlog refinement? What about the refinement is unproductive? What suggestions do the Development Team members have to address the frustration? What issues arise during the Sprint that may be addressed via improved refinement? What benefits or risks are possible if the entire Development Team does not participate? How are the Product Backlog Items represented? Is the Development Team working collaboratively or does each member take a Product Backlog Item and work in isolation?

The distributed team is and will continue to be an impediment. Technology can assist with collaboration, but there is nothing like sitting in close proximity to the rest of the team and conversing throughout the day.

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I've dealt with a similar problem and backlog refinement remotely can feel like a drag.

One way to speed things up a lot is to make parts of it asynchronous AND time boxed.

We would do:

  • Every team member gets to pick the items that they think are necessary for the coming sprint. Product owner picks the items that they think need to be in there. Suspend call for 15 minutes and let everybody do that.
  • Come back and have a look at what has happened. Quickly run over the list and see whether that is reasonable.
  • Then go async again for 15 minutes and let everybody add subtasks to the items that are relevant to them with rough estimations.
  • Come back and discuss.

What this does with the asynchronicity and the hard deadlines is that it keeps things moving and keeps everybody busy and cuts back on most of the waiting time people experience. That alone should make things feel snappier.

Another benefit is that it staggers and forces preparation on the team. Ideally everybody would do this stuff before the meeting, but if they haven't you give them a couple of rounds where they have to go through the list and deliver their input. The people that have done their preparation will have an easier time during these rounds anyway (so it still pays to prepare).

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Entire Scrum Team(Product Owner, Development Team, Scrum Master) has to be there during backlog refinement.

  • hey, downvoter, please leave a comment why – JBRWilkinson Nov 7 '17 at 12:35

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