Wednesday, January 27, 2016

DEEP or SEED backlog?

In Scrum training, we learn that a Product Backlog should be DEEP, i.e., "Detailed Appropriately. Estimated. Emergent. Prioritized."

Consider your backlog as SEED!

However, I personally feel that another acronym might fit better: SEED. As in:

Detailed Appropriately.

That's not really a stretch, because when people say "Prioritized", they explain what we acually do: Not prioritizing, but actually sorting so that there is only one #1 in the list.

The real difference: Mindset

Seeing that SEED and DEEP pose the same requirements towards the backlog, one might argue that there is no difference. The difference would be in the mindset of the Product Owner, not in the Backlog itself.

DEEP: "I need to put deep thought into this, make it really deep." - After doing a detailed planning of the product, we concluded that this is the best way to implement it - which is not what you want from the initial backlog!
 SEED: "It's a seed. Let's see what becomes of it." - the kernel of the seed (Backlog items) have a lot of power and potential, but you can't really predict the future state.

Let us take the example of an acorn. The acorn is a specific type of seed and you can pretty much tell that by growing it, you'll end up with an oak. But you don't know yet whether it will grow at all, whether it will have a split trunk or how much fruit it will yield.

We want a Product Backlog that is brimming full of potential, but we have very little understanding of what we will be seeing in a couple of years.
This makes the Product Owner the gardener of their very own tree (the product), definitely in charge of raising it properly - but not doing everything right now: Let your product grow at a natural pace!

Towards the backlog as a Seed, you can ask the following questions:
  • Can something meaningful grow from this?
  • Do we have the proper conditions to grow this?
  • Given the current state of each item, can we actually grow it?
  • Will we end up with a tree or a mutant jungle when this grows?


Keeping not only the individual letter items of the acronym, but also the acronym SEED as a whole in mind when setting up or working on your backlog will help you focus on getting meaningful items in there, while keeping useless waste out.

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