Story Time! Yey!

Do we like story time? Of course we do! Story time is great! We also like this name far more than ‘Backlog Grooming’ which just sounds wrong…

So what is so great about Story Time? Well, are you sitting comfortably? Then I will begin…

Once upon a time there was a meeting called the Sprint Planning Meeting and that was held at the beginning of every sprint in a faraway place (it seems far away to a developer if it is not at their desk…) in a land called ‘Meeting Room’ and it took a lonnng lonnng time. The Sprint Planning Meeting had a very looonnnng time box (8 hours for a month sprint, proportionately less for shorter sprints) and it made the Scrum teams very very tired and not want to go anymore because it was soooo lonnngggg…

Ok, so you get the picture, Sprint Planning can be boring and take ages…So, as a ScrumMaster, what can you do about it and what is Story Time anyway?!

Story Time is also known as the Backlog Refinement Meeting, or Story Elaboration Meeting and it should be scheduled to occur a day or so before Sprint Planning. The point of the meeting is to get the dev/test the team together with the Product Owner (PO) to go through the top priority backlog items that are candidates for the next sprint. The MAIN PURPOSE of this meeting for me is to make sure the whole team understand the requirements of the product Backlog Item (PBI) in question, and provide a gut feeling as to whether it is possible to complete it in the sprint. I know, right?! Gut feelings as opposed to knowing for sure? This sounds like fiction! Especially to all you command-and-control traditional Project Managers out there (naw, bless….sucks to be you).

It is important to stress that the team do not commit to anything in the Story Time meeting; they are just assessing what could be possible to get done in the next sprint. There are two reasons why I find this meeting is great: Firstly, because by the end of the meeting, the PO and the team are on the same page when it comes to the requirements for the top priority backlog items, and secondly, it shaves time off your lengthy Sprint Planning Meeting because the team are already familiar with the story and the requirements. For a two-week sprint, I keep Story Time to a two hour time box. This is not too little, not too much, but is just right to keep the team focused and engaged and most importantly, clear on the requirements for the top priority backlog items.

For a great video on Story Time, see Andrea Druckman’s 60 Second Scrum YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRZ201j1ZUk

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