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We have two-week sprints and our PO organizes grooming activity when it's needed looking after that it should not exceed more than 10% of the development time.

Question is: - Should refinement activity be ''locked'' in the calendar? - Must all of the members in the Scrum team participate in it?

My concerns: - If all team members are participating, we may encounter a situation that not all functionalities are for all participants, for example, sometimes it's only for the FE part of the team. However, if we call only some members, will something be lost in the communication after the grooming session?

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    PO, FE, BE, ... can we please stop excluding those who haven't been issued their alphabet soup decoder rings? – candied_orange Sep 2 at 3:48
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Should refinement activity be ''locked'' in the calendar?

It does not have to be, but it makes planning the sprint a lot easier when you know when that 10% are going to hit. I would hate it to have the sprint randomly and spontaneously interrupted by grooming meetings. Most teams I know prefer to have a set point in time for it, so they can prepare. A grooming is not a meeting people should just blindly stumble in to. To estimate properly, everybody should have read the story in question and found out any unknowns or clear any questions that they could clear on their own. So you don't waste time reading the story to people or asking questions that can only be answered outside the meeting.

Must all of the members in the Scrum team participate in it?

Must? No. If someone is out sick or on vacation, you can still hold the meeting. Life goes on. But you are asking should all members attend. Couldn't they be more productive working. The answer is yes they should all attend and not do something else. Communication and transparency is a key feature of Scrum. Some developers changing parts of the product while others know nothing about said change is unhealthy and counterproductive. Except for very, very rare cases, there is no such thing as a backend-only change or a frontend-only change. A backend change that is not visible to the user is not producing any value to the user, so except for some technical stories, it should not be a story at all, it's not complete. A frontend change without the backend (so without any data being read or written) seems completely trivial. I mean there might be exceptions, like switching to a different corporate branding or integrating a splash-screen, but they are rare.

So everybody should know about every change of the product. Otherwise, you are not a Scrum team, but just a bunch of developers working in the same room and for the same boss.

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What you are generally trying to achieve with scrum and other agile methodologies is predictable progress towards goals.

One of the main things that can muck this up is tasks that depend on other teams or people.

eg. "That is an easy task it will only take 3 hours". 3 days later "I am blocked because other task is not complete"

Or. "Why isn't this top priority task done?!". "I skipped the high priority ones because bob is the best person to do them and added some other stuff that I like to do"

This is why people extol having cross functional team members, who can work on any task and cross functional teams who can cover the entire tech stack required by the product.

So I would strongly advise not splitting your tasks into FE and BE and to have all team members involved in all meetings.

If your planning meetings are getting too long, make the tasks and sprint smaller. This lets you take smaller bites which require less planning.

Don't try to plan out how much you need to do. Do some stuff and then look at how much you got done. Sure you might go down some dead ends. But you will make gradual, measurable progress towards your goal.

  • Ok, but do we need to always call the entire Scrum team or if we are having some task which consists of both BE and FE expertise, can we all both expertise but not 2 guys from both expertizes? – DarkKnightSM Aug 28 at 14:20
  • Yes. You are trying to create a 'self managing team' with the emphasis on team rather than a hierarchy of employees that do tasks to the letter of the spec as fast as possible. – Ewan Aug 28 at 14:26
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Ultimately, it depends on your team. The Scrum Guide does not specify how refinement happens. However, in scaled Scrum frameworks, such as Nexus and LeSS, Refinement is elevated from an activity to an event and has a little more structure and guidance placed around it. This is to be expected when you have multiple teams coordinating around a single Product Backlog, though.

The teams that I've worked with have wanted to have full-team refinement meetings on the calendar, but other work on refinement happens individually, in small groups, or ad-hoc full team sessions outside of this regularly scheduled refinement session. The regularly scheduled session focuses primarily on estimation, while the work outside of it is about ensuring that the work is clearly captured, makes sense, is appropriately sliced, and is generally ready for the whole team to look at and estimate.

As long as the Product Backlog Items are sufficiently refined and estimated before Sprint Planning and you have enough of Product Backlog Items in this state for the Product Owner to be able to make trade-off decisions about ordering the items, a lot of the hows of refinement are left up to the team.

I would question, though, why you are timeboxing refinement at 10%. The Scrum Guide does not place such a restriction, using 10% as an estimate rather than a firm, fixed window. When I work with teams, time that is significantly lower than 10% for an extended period of time or significantly above 10% for an extended period of time (2-4 Sprints, usually) would raise questions that I may ask about in a retrospective. But this firm timebox is not part of Scrum - I'd want to make sure that adequate refinement is happening. I'd rather spent more than 10% if it makes Sprint Planning and subsequent Sprint executions easier.

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I am not a Scrum expert, but IMHO this ultimately depends

  • on the team, its size, and to which degree members are specialized in the team (or if the team is fully cross-functional)
  • on the backlog itself, if it can be subdivided into sections which are only of interest for part of the team, or if that's not possible (so it depends also on the product).

For example, if it is clear beforehand that a grooming session will only cover front-end features, and your team is divided into frontend and backend devs (as your question imposes), then it will probably make not much sense to invite also the backend developers to the meeting. However, in my experience, pure "frontend features" are not so frequent, and sometimes it is not clear beforehand if a user-story can be implemented by only changing the frontend, or if frontend and backend changes are required.

So inviting the whole team can make sense, but sometimes it can be avoided - the PO should check what fits best to their team, their product and to the topics for the individual session.

If the grooming activity needs to be "fixed in calendar" depends mostly on the team, on their usual working hours and how hard is is in reality to get the people participating if the date & time is not announced beforehand. But that is not a software engineering issue, that's a general workplace issue.

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Recently I have been starting projects to begin with one fixed hour per week of refinement and grow from there. During that hour, what is accomplished, is accomplished. It feels like maintaining a garden a little bit without planting anything new. When it is quickly outgrown by additional meetings, the process can be understood and grown collaboratively by the entire group.

If there priority issues exists, the idea is other meetings and processes related to the individual projects will capture them.

  • The Scrum Guide recommends about 10% of the Development Team capacity for refinement. 1 hour is no where near this. Unless individuals or small groups were also doing work outside of this 1 hour meeting session, I'd question if refinement was happening anywhere near enough. – Thomas Owens Aug 28 at 15:31
  • Hi Thomas, I agree with you and should have better described. There is absolutely work done outside a 1 hour meeting per week, the 1 hour acts as a starting point which when insufficient is grown. I think you will agree that jumping from 0% to 10%. immediately can be hard too. – Jas Panesar Sep 1 at 21:59

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