What do you do when you are winding down Sprint 1 and you find out your product backlog does not exist? How does such a thing happen?
Well, it did happen to me. I recently started a coaching assignment as the first sprint was winding down. The team had formed and start the sprint with what it had estimated was enough scope to start the sprint. The Product Owner had just been identified and was in Scrum training. It never dawned on my to actually ask to see the backlog. I just assumed one existed. As panic started to set in, the Scrum Master listed the options in front of us. He came up with:
- Delay the start of the next sprint.
- Start the sprint and fill in the backlog later.
- Have the team work on some other items.
All three options had their own challenges, but had one common issue. Granted, it was a big one: Start the next sprint without a credible backlog or delaying the next sprint might put the whole transition to Scrum in jeopardy.
Luckily, the next production release date had not been communicated yet, which gave us some breathing room.
So, how did we overcome the impediment? Sprint planning will start on time taking in a prioritized list of outstanding product defects. The sprint timebox will be shortened from 4 weeks to 2 weeks, and a Kanban board will be used to pull the defects into the sprint. The Scrum Master will ensure to have all of the rituals of Scrum, including the sprint planning, daily scrums, and the retrospective. The team will be self-organizing, figuring out how and what they are going to accomplish.
While the team is conducting it’s sprint, the Product Owner and the Scrum Master will work together to establish and trim the product backlog in anticipation of the next sprint.
The sprint retrospective tomorrow will be interesting. Let’s see if one of the items on the list to fix in the next sprint is to get the backlog groomed.
Thanks for coming in today.