Backlog reFUNment!

We all have a favourite agile meeting or ceremony. Or maybe not! For most of us I suspect it wouldn’t be backlog refinement. It’s not usually a fun meeting talking through backlog items re ordering discussing possible solutions and options again and again.


Why do you want to make backlog refinement more fun? Anything thats fun tends to make people happier and happier people see more are more innovative and creative. Studies have shown elevated levels of serotonin and dopamine “allow us to create and sustain more neutral connections, which allow us to think more quickly and creatively, become more skilled at complex analysis and problem solving” [1]


Richard Branson CEO of Virgin famously said ” more than any other element, fun is the secret of Virgin’s success”


Fun can change behaviour. Here is an example, it may be from a German Car manufacturer who at one point installed defeat devices in their cars! The point being fun changes behaviours….


Now you are convinced, how can we make backlog refinement more engaging more FUN?


Gamification – I have created a set of questions. The idea was to create a game, maybe at the end of refining each backlog item each of the participants takes a card and reads the question aloud. The idea being it prompts discussion and may make us consider something we had overlooked. Questions at the bottom of this post.

Visual – Making the backlog more visually appealing not simply a list of backlog items with uninspiring titles. Think about adding a Logo to each ticket.

Creating a Pyramid backlog as made popular by Jimmy Janlen in his book “Toolbox for the Agile Coach 96 Visualization Examples”



Do Food – A powerful change pattern and influencer, i have seen this work well. For more on the types of food which make fun or change more likely see Fearless Change by Linda Rising

Altering the Length of time – A short session done regularly a heartbeat maybe 15 minutes each day or a longer sit down session carried out less often. Altering the time and then seeking feedback

Three Amigos – Get some hats and pretend to be the three amigos, a gimmick.


Category Question
Process Has the story been created collaboratively?
What Do you as a team have a shared understanding of the story?
Process Does this story meet your elaboration step definition of done?
INVEST What is the problem or need addressed by this story?
What Who is this story for?
INVEST Why is this story valuable?
Vision Does this story fit with the higher level vision?
Vision Is this aligned with current strategy?
What What are we testing with this story?
Why What risks are we mitigating?
INVEST Can the story be finished within the relevant timebox?
INVEST Are the acceptance criteria testable?
INVEST At what level will we test this?
INVEST How can we demo this?
Process Is the story written as … As a …… I want ……. So that ………
Why What does the user really want to do?
What Is this the right story?
What What is the real challenge with this story?
What What documentation is required?
INVEST Is this story feasible?
INVEST Can we slice it?
INVEST Is this story Independent of others?
INVEST Will we be blocked by external dependencies?
INVEST Does the story have an estimate?
INVEST Can we increase estimate confidence?
Acc Criteria How will you know this story is done?
UX Have you considered the user experience?
UX  Would a user journey, story board, workflow diagram, sketch or mock-up add something to this elaboration?
UX Would creating a model help?
Process  Is your current elaboration process helping you develop solutions as quickly as possible?
Why What hypothesis is this story testing?
Acc Criteria  Are the acceptance criteria a yes/No question
UX  Have you had a conversation with a user?
 What  Do you have any examples? Can these examples be executed?
INVEST How will we measure success?
 Decay  What is the best before date for this story? At what point will this story need to be re-elaborated?


Apologies to the person or persons who originally used the term reFUNment please comment and i will credit you.

[1] The Happiness Advantage – Shawn Achor


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