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Does your backlog focus on “The Real Work”

Say what you like about the iPad, but it’s got people talking, and thinking.

The effect on the world, to me, is almost more interesting than the device itself.

Whilst reading this well considered piece, I was immediately struck by the following statement (emphasis mine)

The Real Work is not formatting the margins, installing the printer driver, uploading the document, finishing the PowerPoint slides, running the software update or reinstalling the OS.

The Real Work is teaching the child, healing the patient, selling the house, logging the road defects, fixing the car at the roadside, capturing the table's order, designing the house and organising the party.

Fraser, whether intentionally or not, has spoken about the very heart of Agile itself, and at the same time described why so many individuals and organisations fail time and time again to “get it”.

The Product Backlog (just to use a commonly understood artefact) is not a requirements specification that speaks of formatting the margins; the Product Backlog is a list of all the “Real Work” that needs doing, and is yet to be done.

What does your backlog focus on?

Published Saturday, January 30, 2010 3:31 PM by Anonymous

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Alistair D said:


I think you are exactly right.  This is also related to thoughts that I first heard from James Martin on corporate 'value streams' where the focus is on parts of your business process which add 'value.'  If we apply that type of principle to microcosms of our organisations and down to individual level you end up with 'Real Work' as you emphasise.

Agile is a way of rapidly getting to this 'Real Work' or 'Value Stream' and delivering it effectively.

Just my 2p's worth as we say in the UK...

January 31, 2010 9:13 AM

Peter Merrick said:

Hi Simon,

On the subject of the backlog extended to the groomed backlog and the notion of the requirements specification. It seems to me there is a hierarchy of stories that can satisfy your criticism of people failing to understand the 'real work' that stories aim to capture. I guess the backlog serves two purposes; one to remind the business why they are funding the project, and two, to show a hierarchical relationship to tasks that coders will get to in an iteration. There's value in showing the traceability between one and the other. I have developed this theme at masterstoryteller.co.uk where I've asserted a new definition of epic. Love you have your thoughts on that...

Yours Peter.

June 21, 2010 6:06 PM

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