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How To Run A Backlog Refinement Meeting

To run a backlog refinement meeting, prioritize items, estimate effort, clarify requirements, decompose large items, and ensure the team is in agreement, as a means to prepare for the next sprint planning.

A Backlog Refinement Meeting, also known as a Product Backlog Grooming or Sprint Backlog Refinement Meeting, is a recurring event in agile project management where the product development team reviews and updates the items on the product backlog. The purpose of the meeting is to clarify, estimate, and prioritize user stories or product backlog items. It involves discussions between the product owner and the development team to ensure a shared understanding of the upcoming work items and to make them ready for future sprints. The meeting helps prioritize tasks, identify dependencies, and refine estimates, ultimately improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the sprint planning and execution process.

What is the purpose of a Backlog Refinement Meeting?

As a leader, the purpose of running a backlog refinement meeting is to ensure that the team has a clear understanding of the items in the backlog. It provides an opportunity to prioritize and estimate tasks, clarify requirements, and identify any dependencies or potential risks. This meeting helps the team stay organized, focused, and aligned with the overall project goals.

How To Run A Backlog Refinement Meeting: Step-By-Step


Step 1: Agenda Setting

The Scrum Master or the Product Owner takes charge of the Backlog Refinement Meeting, determining the topics to be covered and providing a clear outline of the main discussion points.

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Step 2: Start the Meeting

The Scrum Master takes the lead in initiating the meeting, ensuring clear comprehension of the meeting’s objective, and addressing any initial queries or concerns from the participants.

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Step 3: Reviewing the Backlog

During the product backlog review, the team thoroughly examines the items to ensure complete comprehension of their details, thereby enhancing their mutual understanding and facilitating effective collaboration.


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Step 4: Questioning

During the meeting, the team engages with the product owner by posing questions regarding the product backlog items. This interactive discussion aids in resolving any uncertainties or misinterpretations, ensuring clarity and understanding among all stakeholders.

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Step 5: Estimation

The team collaborates to evaluate the difficulty and size of each task in the Product Backlog, enabling them to provide accurate effort estimates necessary for successful project planning and resource allocation.

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Step 6: Prioritizing

The Product Owner collaborates with the team to assess value, effort, risk, and dependency, and then determines the order of priorities for items on the Product Backlog.

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Step 7: Story Slicing

Slicing is the process of breaking down large product backlog items or user stories into smaller, manageable tasks, allowing the team to focus on one segment at a time for efficient development and delivery.

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Step 8: Definition of Done

The team collaboratively defines ‘Definition of Done’, establishing the set of criteria that must be fulfilled for a task to be deemed finished, ensuring clarity and accountability in the completion of tasks.

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Step 9: Updating the Backlog

Once all the discussions and decisions have taken place, the Product Owner takes the necessary actions to update the backlog. This may involve incorporating new details, revisiting priorities, or improving estimates to ensure alignment with the project goals.

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Step 10: Plan Next Steps

During the final part of the meeting, the team collaborates to determine the next course of action and assigns specific tasks to individual members. They may also strategize for upcoming sprints or refinement meetings, ensuring a smooth continuation of the project.

Questions to ask as the leader of the meeting

1. What are the top priority items in the backlog and why?
– This question helps to ensure that the most valuable and important items are identified and given appropriate attention during refinement.

2. Are there any dependencies between backlog items?
– Understanding dependencies is crucial for planning and sequencing tasks, as well as identifying potential bottlenecks or risks.

3. Are there any backlog items that need further clarification or requirements specification?
– This question aims to address any ambiguity or lack of information that may hinder the team’s ability to understand and refine the backlog items.

4. Do we have a clear acceptance criteria for each backlog item?
– Well-defined acceptance criteria help ensure shared understanding and alignment on what constitutes a completed and successful outcome.

5. Can any backlog items be broken down into smaller, more manageable tasks?
– Breaking down complex items into smaller tasks helps in estimating and planning, as well as enables better tracking and progress monitoring.

6. Are there any backlog items that may benefit from additional user research or validation?
– This question prompts discussion on the need for further user feedback or research to enhance the quality and relevance of the backlog items.

7. Are there any backlog items that no longer align with the team’s goals or strategic objectives?
– Eliminating or deprioritizing backlog items that no longer serve the team’s objectives helps maintain focus and ensure value-driven work.

8. Is the estimated effort/complexity of backlog items still valid?
– Regularly reviewing and validating effort estimates allows teams to adjust their backlog priorities based on the most current information.

9. Are there any risks or dependencies that may impact the timeline or delivery of backlog items?
– Identifying and mitigating risks and dependencies helps teams anticipate and address potential obstacles in their planning and execution.

10. Are there any new backlog items that have emerged or been requested since the last meeting?
– Acknowledging and considering new items helps ensure that the backlog remains up-to-date and reflects the evolving needs and priorities of stakeholders.

11. Can any backlog items be removed or deprioritized to make room for new items?
– This question prompts a critical evaluation of the backlog’s overall size and impact, ensuring that it remains manageable and focused on the most valuable work.

As a leader, preparing a backlog refinement meeting agenda is essential for an effective and productive session. Start by clearly defining the meeting objectives and create an outline of the topics to be discussed. Include time allocations for each item and prioritize them based on their urgency and importance. Share the agenda with the team in advance to allow them to come prepared and make the most out of the meeting.

How To Prepare For A Backlog Refinement Meeting
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In a backlog refinement meeting, it is essential to discuss topics such as prioritizing user stories, breaking down complex tasks, estimating effort, clarifying requirements, and identifying dependencies. These discussions help ensure that the backlog is well-groomed and ready for development.

See Our Backlog Refinement Meeting Template
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Software tools to facilitate a Backlog Refinement Meeting

Software helps leaders run efficient backlog refinement meetings by providing a centralized platform for managing and prioritizing user stories, tracking progress, and facilitating collaboration among team members. It streamlines the process, ensures clear communication, and allows for easy access to relevant information, ultimately enabling leaders to make informed decisions and effectively manage their backlog.

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In conclusion, a backlog refinement meeting is an essential component of agile project management. It serves as a platform for the team to prioritize, clarify, and estimate user stories that will be worked on in the upcoming sprints. By effectively running a backlog refinement meeting, teams can ensure that their product backlog remains up-to-date, well-groomed, and ready for development. Key elements such as inviting the right participants, setting clear objectives, utilizing efficient techniques, and maintaining a focused agenda can greatly contribute to the success of the meeting. Regular refinement meetings enable teams to stay aligned, make informed decisions, and ultimately deliver high-quality software products. So, start implementing these tips and techniques to optimize your backlog refinement meetings and enhance your project outcomes.

Jannik Lindner

I'm Jannik and I write on MeetingFever about the experiences from my career as a founder and team lead.

If you have any questions, please contact me via LinkedIn.

Popular Questions

What is the purpose of a Backlog Refinement Meeting?

The primary purpose of a Backlog Refinement Meeting is to review and prioritize items in the backlog. This involves detailing, estimating and ordering product backlog items to ensure they are ready for future Sprints.

Who typically attends a Backlog Refinement Meeting?

The meeting is usually attended by the product owner, Scrum Master, and the development team. However, other stakeholders may be invited if their input could provide significant value.

How often should Backlog Refinement Meetings be held?

The frequency of Backlog Refinement Meetings depends on the team’s needs, but generally, they are held once per Sprint. This ensures that the team is always prepared for the upcoming Sprint Planning Meeting.

How long does a typical Backlog Refinement Meeting last?

The duration of a Backlog Refinement Meeting varies, but they typically should not consume more than 10% of the capacity of the development team for the upcoming Sprint. This could range from an hour to a few hours spread across several sessions.

What are some key activities during a Backlog Refinement Meeting?

Some key activities during a Backlog Refinement Meeting include reviewing the backlog items, discussing and clarifying the requirements, refining the acceptance criteria, prioritizing the items based on their value to the project, and estimating the effort to deliver each item.

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