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The Backlog (aka Wishing Well)

Published: October 20, 2017

Made a list of some backlog gotchas and challenges for a friend.

Keep an eye out for these things. Without the right love, backlogs can cause more problems than they solve.

  • Unclear sense of commitment level for a task or goal.
  • To-do, to-consider, to-try, to talk about, to achieve? All valid in context
  • Unclear distinction between problems to solve, solution ideas, guesses, and goals/measurements. Unclear distinctions between why, who, what, and how
  • Inflexible to the idea of experimentation (multiple experiments w/one learning goal)
  • Unclear relationships between items (nesting, siblings, etc.)
  • “Project” vs. “product” issues. Is this a “project backlog”?
  • Spec masked as backlog. Might as well write a spec :)
  • Different scopes for prioritization (dumping ground, vs. ordered list)
  • Overlaps with roadmap, user story map, one-pagers, and other artifacts
  • “I’ll add it to the backlog” can be completely meaningless
  • Inconsistent use of progressive decomposition
  • Obscures multiple queues, classes of work, etc. Should be multiple queues (but prioritized in one list apples-to-apples)
  • Pressure to solution vs. describing goals and JIT brainstorming. Can encourage premature convergence. Obscures the original objective, and decreases opportunity to contribute new ideas
  • Easy to add items. Should add items only as fast as team finishes work
  • Becomes dumping ground for notes, research, and reminders
  • Quality should be constant priority … not a shuffle-able concern
  • Does item align with team mission? How? Backlog != vision or mission
  • People outside team can easily misinterpret backlog
  • “The backlog” is just too simplistic for modern software product development 1 8b1S6WTza5NSZtKDQwfd g 2x