What is the difference between the terms "grooming" and "refinement" of the product backlog in scrum methodology?

I am not able to find an accurate answer to this question. Are they the same?

2 Answers 2


The phrase "backlog grooming" was officially replaced with "backlog refinement" in the Scrum Guide back in 2013. The change was largely done for:

  1. Clarity of semantics. Arguably, the word refinement expresses the idea of continuous improvement a little better than grooming. The latter denotes removing defects or straightening out. Grooming also holds a connotation of a focus on appearances, as the Cambridge Dictionary's primary definition of grooming is:

    the things that you do to make your appearance clean and neat, for example brushing your hair, or the things that you do to keep an animal's hair or fur clean and neat

  2. Increased acceptance of framework terms. In British English, the same dictionary also defines grooming as:

    the criminal activity of becoming friends with a child, especially over the internet, in order to try to persuade the child to have a sexual relationship

Words matter, and the change to a term that provides better clarity about the purpose of the ceremony while also avoiding negative connotations is a net positive. However, you may still find early adopters of Scrum occasionally referring to "backlog grooming" out of habit, even though the term has officially been changed.

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    'Grooming' has serious negative connotation in the UK!
    – onedaywhen
    Commented Jun 6, 2018 at 15:44
  • That’s completely false. You need a modifier word in front of grooming for it to be negative. UK GQ used grooming to mean hair styling and clothing all the time. Please don’t spread rumors on this website. Commented Jan 15, 2019 at 0:31
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    Not a rumor. Grooming, no modifier necessary, is definitively "when someone builds an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or trafficking. Children and young people can be groomed online or face-to-face, by a stranger or by someone they know - for example a family member, friend or professional." And it's got nothing to do with the UK--it's THE term used when referring to child molestation activities. Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 18:52
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    As far as the rumor, this has been cited to me by multiple people with direct knowledge of the decision as one of the reasons for the change. I'm sure you are right that most people in the UK would not hear "backlog grooming" and assume you meant something nefarious. However, since refinement is just as good a word (maybe better), it only takes a few people to feel uneasy about it before it becomes easier to just change it.
    – Daniel
    Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 16:18
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    This isn’t a rumour. I’m Certified Scrum Trainer, so I’m plugged in to changes in the ScrumGuide. The answer is correct, Schawber and Sutherland changed for those two reasons. Commented Nov 8, 2022 at 14:34

When I first got my CSM, the course instructor specifically said that grooming was being replaced with refinement because of the child exploitation angle. I was indifferent but understood the reason for the change. For the last two years I have been working on application development projects for the Child Welfare department of my state. Grooming is definitely an uncomfortable term for social workers and children and families in the system. Besides all of that, refinement makes more sense any way so it is my preferred word.

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