A Healthy Backlog

Bart has been in ecommerce for over 20 years, and can't imagine a better job to have. He is interested in all things agile, or anything new to learn.

Agile has a concept of waiting until the “last responsible moment” to make a decision. The logic being that by the time the decision must be made, either the answer will have become clearer or more information will have been gathered. However, if you wait too long — sometimes called the “first irresponsible moment” — then the decision might be forced upon you and the team’s options may be limited. Knowing the difference between the two moments — and when you cross over from responsible to irresponsible  — can be tricky. 

One of those questions often asked of any team is, “Are we on track?” If the next release is due in a few days, you should probably have a decent idea if the team is going to deliver; but if it is six or 10 sprints away, making that determination can be difficult. One input into that decision is the health of the backlog.

If a construction crew is asked, “How long will it take you to build a house?” the first response will be, “How big of a house?” The crew doesn’t need to know the color of the walls or the makeup of the kitchen counters, but they do need to know the number of rooms, bathrooms, and probably the total square footage. If the painting crew is showing up this morning, the time for delaying the decision has long passed.

The same is true…

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"Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind."

- Rudyard Kipling