The core idea of lean is to eliminate or at least reduce activities that don’t add value (waste) and thus increase the customer value. You can think of agile as a form of lean methodology for software.
My team follows an agile methodology that serves the needs at an enterprise level, producing frequent interim releases at every four sprints. At the end of an interim release the product is ready to be shipped. On adopting some of the best agile practices, our process became extra lean and increased efficiency by increasing the throughput.
There is no change in the agile framework that my team was following before and after. We simply adopted some of the generally accepted agile practices that made our existing agile software development approach leaner. Here are some of those practices.
1. Backlog Grooming
Backlog grooming is one of the agile practices my team adopted and practices religiously. My Scrum team meets regularly to keep the product backlog items clean and up to date. Like other agile events, the grooming meeting is a timeboxed event.
Grooming of Stories
The grooming meeting for stories generally happens once per sprint. The Scrum team does the following activities:
- Creates new stories for prioritized epics so they can be considered in the next sprints
- Adds or updates the acceptance criteria for each story from the backlog list
- Estimates the story based on the acceptance criteria. Yes, we do estimate some of the stories, but not more than we can complete in this interim release. The reason for estimating is to attain a state called definition of ready for the next sprint planning meeting.
The meeting is timeboxed to two hours for a sprint with two weeks. The team creates stories that would be worked for next sprints. We create the stories well in advance to solve any impediments we might encounter in addressing the stories. We have time to resolve those impediments from grooming to sprint planning meetings by talking to the product owner, architect, or any member who would help the team to clarify queries. As this activity happens in the background, there is no waiting time involved to remove any impediments identified in grooming meetings. By the time the team meets for the sprint planning meeting, members are clear about the sprint’s goal.
Along with creating the stories for the next sprint, we also update acceptance criteria for stories and estimate the stories. Considering the timeboxed event, we may not do this for all the stories for the next sprint. Any remaining stories would be updated with acceptance criteria and estimated during the sprint planning.
Grooming of Epics
The grooming meeting of epics and features happens once per interim release. An interim release spans for four sprints. The product owner prioritizes the list of features he would like to see in the product based on the customer requirements and business priorities. The team spends time in grooming the epics and features as prioritized. The epic grooming meeting is also a timeboxed activity, with eight hours per interim release. These meetings are conducted on separate days and take half a day each. We go back to the product owner after the first part of the meeting for any clarifications.