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Scrum Product Backlog Anti-Pattern

Updated: Apr 13

Scrum is the best in establishing validated hypotheses of valuable features for clients to complete learning processes. If we observe the scrum flowchart we will see that scrum has two different parts- tactical which is on the left side whereas, product discovery and operational part are on right. As there are various ways to engage with tactical parts like design thinking, lean start-up, etcetera. But other side of product discovery and operational part needs scrum teams' constant engagement. Even though constant engagement doesn’t mean squeezing all work items in a product backlog. As per my experience, I have seen scrum teams maintaining the strict two artifacts for both parts. First artifacts for ideas, hypotheses, and experiments, and a second one for the product backlog.

“If you are on the wrong path change and travel in the right direction.”

In my previous article, ‘Common Anti-Pattern of Scrum Product Backlog’ I have already mentioned the general anti-pattern teams have in Product Backlog so let’s move towards other common anti-pattern Scrum teams follow affecting business and products, how to rectify them, and move towards our right direction.

Product Owner Anti-Pattern

Partly Shared Product Owner-Product Owners provide only their short time for Product Backlog and do not update it everyday. But the Product Backlog must be up to date so that it can work for giving the best used time to the developer every time and at any point.

Idea Storage-The Product Backlog should not be used as a repository for ideas or requirements. This bloating of ideas will create a hindering effect on the communication of stakeholders and customers.

Dominant Product Owner-The Product Owner provides Product Backlog items along with every step including why, how, and what to the team. But the how of Product Backlog item must be answered by a developer and what by the technical, product owner, and team together.

Copy-Paste Product Owner-By breaking down requirement documents obtained from stakeholders, Product Owners will create a Product Backlog. It is nothing but a copy-paste job. Product Backlog must be a team effort and not just copy-paste.

Working by Own Product Owner-The Product Owner does not involve stakeholders or subject experts in the refinement process. This will create a risk for the scrum project and the team's success. The skilled product owner and team know when they need to turn to others for better understanding.

Portfolio and Roadmap Anti-Pattern

Roadmap- In my experience, it is required to have necessary detail in the Product Backlog that ensures the current goal achievement. And after three to four sprints focus of the product backlog must be on broad topics in fewer details. As product backlog is no roadmap.

Unachievable Dreams- When the product portfolio plan, product roadmap, or release plan is unachievable or unreliable then it will reflect on a product backlog causing refining work as waste.

The invisibility of Roadmap to Everyone- The roadmap related to the project when are not ensured of sharing to everyone who helps in product incrementing will create a critical time as not everyone will be sure knowing where they are heading towards. It is necessary to know the bigger picture for the success of the scrum team.

Developer Anti-Pattern

Submissive Developer- Team members accept every order from the product owner being submissive to their seniors. But developers must challenge the product owner wherever they feel necessary as their effort and time are also invested in the project. Scrum is about building it together and not following orders.

No Backup Time-Team members do not require or get any slack-up time or unplanned capacity time. When teams work continuously to their full capacity their performance will surely decline. The only focus will be on getting the job done. This will provide no time to support and guide team members or address minor occurred issues in the project. It will also lead to confusion among team members as they will be not clear on why they do, what they do about a certain thing.

Technical Dept. - Many teams avoid doing debugs or checking dept. instead of continued focus on bringing up new features one after another. But when I lead a team I mainly practice providing 20% of the time for dept. and bugs fixing. This will improve the product quality and also help the team to learn from their mistakes.

Scrum Team Anti-Pattern

Excessive Refinement- I have seen some scrum teams who have excessive Product Backlog refinement sessions but this leads them to overly detailed Product Backlog which will lead to nowhere.

No Refinement Time-When scrum teams do not go through enough refinement sessions the Product Backlogs obtained are of poor quality. The Scrum Teams must go through 10% of their team’s time for Product Backlog Refinement.

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