Klaus Breyer Tech Leadership, Product Delivery & Startup Strategy.

No bullshit backlog management

None of the teams I ever worked with had the courage to remove (currently) irrelevant tickets from the backlog. Too often, there was the fear of forgetting something. So the teams end up with a very long backlog of things that are neither important nor urgent, but where the implicit expectation is that they are getting done - sometimes. But sometimes never comes - and I’m not particularly eager to sweep such tickets under the carpet.

In a video conference organized by Ryan and some early Shape Up Adopters, I learned something essential about Backlog management:

It is crucial to distinguish between “small” (but not urgent) work and “reactive” (super urgent) work.

1. Batch small tickets around themes that make sense to have them together. And then, the team can frame/shape/deliver them as usual within a given appetite via Shape Up.

2. Take care of reactive work and critical bugs immediately! If a bug is not critical but “acceptable,” it is not a bug but an improvement (called Zero Bug Development, by the way). And if it is an improvement, it goes together with the rest of the small tickets - in a larger batch when there is the time for it.

With this in mind, the daily look into the (growing) backlog is no longer daunting:

  • A bug ticket is crucial and it is okay to drop other work.
  • It is also clear that there will be the right time and place to take care of all the small work.