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” 
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.
|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.
 The Happiness Advantage – Shawn Achor