Have you tidied up your personal life with Marie Kondo and are now wondering how to achieve the same effect in your work life? Do you have the feeling that the most valuable product backlog items (PBIs) are getting lost under a mountain of old stories, bugs, and tasks? Maybe you know a change is needed, but feel completely overwhelmed about where to start? If so, join us to learn how to make your product better through the life changing magic of tidying up your backlog.

We’ll start by exploring the costs of a large, cluttered product backlog and share a short quiz you can use to gauge the current state of your own backlog. Next, we’ll cover how we’ve adapted the KonMari method and introduce five easy steps you can take to get started in your tidying process. We'll share real-life examples along the way, calling out potential pitfalls to avoid (don’t become a storage expert!), and illustrating how story mapping may be the magical backlog equivalent to Kondo’s “vertical folding” technique. By the end of the session, you’ll know the specific next steps to take so that you too can realize the many benefits of a tidied-up product backlog: improved visibility, increased self-organization, and easier decision-making.

 
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Outline/Structure of the Talk

1. Getting Started

  • Introductions: speakers & learning objectives
  • Warm Up: product backlog pop quiz!
    • Used to gauge the current state of your product backlog

2. Why Tidy Up?

  • Simplicity is a key principle behind the Agile Manifesto
  • Costs associated when operating without simplicity
    • Mental overhead/load
    • Can't distinguish between what is and is not important
    • Makes prioritization and decision-making more difficult
  • Simplicity supports self-organization
  • Clutter creeps up, so teams should make a mindset shift now

3. How does this work for a Product Backlog? How Do I Start?

Note: We will share real examples of doing this with a team or in our personal lives throughout each of these steps.

  • Step 1: Use your product vision as a guide (create one, if you don't already have it)
  • Step 2: Find all PBIs and put them in one place (uncover any "unofficial backlogs" or separate lists)
  • Step 3: Sort by category (sort to help make sense of what you have)
  • Step 4: Start simply (practice with easier items first to build up tidying skills)
  • Step 5: Keep what "sparks joy" (similar to "delight the customer", ok to let go of some "good" ideas)
  • Some practical tips...
    • Decide to keep or discard first - then worry about refining
    • Be respectful when discarding PBIs
    • Really let things go - don't pass PBIs off on to other teams

4. Some Thoughts on Storage…

  • The goal of any product backlog "storage" system should be to increase visibility in order to empower self-organization and facilitate decision-making
  • Similarities between Marie Kondo's "vertical folding" technique and story mapping
  • Decluttering Sprint/Kanban board and user story detail views
  • Use INVEST as a guide for the backlog items you decide to keep
  • Don't become a storage expert (the tool isn't important, keep it simple)

5. Next Steps & Wrapping Up

  • Discussion / call to action: What can you apply from today to improve your team's score on the product backlog quiz?
  • Additional resources
  • Recap key points and learning objectives

Learning Outcome

1. Describe the costs of maintaining a large, cluttered product backlog
2. Explain the benefits of simplicity and how it relates to the product backlog
3. Understand how to apply the KonMari tidying up method in the context of a product backlog and the steps to take to get started
4. Describe how to “store” product backlog items to increase visibility, empower self-organization, and facilitate decision-making

Target Audience

Any team member or stakeholder, but especially Product Owners, Business Analysts, and Scrum Masters

Prerequisites for Attendees

No advanced knowledge required, but a high-level familiarity with the concept of a Product Backlog will be useful.

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