Agile PM Process Grid-1.8 Product Backlog Grooming


In John Stenbeck’s book “PMI-ACP and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference”, he creates an “agile project management process grid” which describes 87 processes used in agile project management.   These processes are divided into five process groups (Initiate, Plan, Iterate, Control, and Close), which are analogous to the five process groups in traditional project management, and seven knowledge areas which can be mapped, more or less, onto the ten knowledge areas in traditional project management.

In this post, we will cover the process done during the “Iteration” process group that relates to the “External Stakeholders Engagement” knowledge area:   Process 1.8 Product Backlog Grooming.

I like John Stenbeck’s description of the product backlog grooming as the “steering wheel”, which allows for course corrections to make sure the project is going in the right direction.   What is the right direction?    This must be determined by the Product Owner or customer/proxy.   He or she needs to

  • refine the business value assessment of the product
  • set backlog priorities accordingly.

The latter responsibility, that of setting priorities, is what drives the process of product backlog grooming.    The setting of priority involves discerning the timing of the development of minimally marketable features (MMF) to create both incremental and long-term value.

Since it evolves on an iterative basis, the product backlog is not “written in stone” and is a living document which evolves as the requirements are elaborated.   Just because the customer wants a feature at Sprint #1 doesn’t mean that the customer will want that feature at Sprint #10.   The conversation between the customer and the development team may cause the customer to change his or her mind regarding the product vision and how that is to be expressed in the product under development.

The product backlog grooming process, aka product backlog management, prioritizes each item on the product backlog, moving items from the outer edge of the time horizon to the mid-term to the current time horizon.

It is known that product backlog grooming reduces waste, which has a positive effect on the company’s bottom line.    How does it accomplish this?    By delivering those items that creates business value within the capacity of the team to deliver that value.    Reducing waste is a Lean Manufacturing principle that is imbedded in the intellectual DNA of agile frameworks.

The next post covers processes that are done in the “iteration” process group that are related to the next knowledge area, value-driven delivery.

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