What is Sprint Refinement?

At Wieni we add Sprint Refinement as an extra event to our Scrum routine in certain cases. But what does it mean? And what is the difference with Sprint Planning?

Scrum only comes with Sprint Planning out-of-the-box. Scrumguides.org explains this event as follows: 

“Sprint Planning initiates the Sprint by laying out the work to be performed for the Sprint. This resulting plan is created by the collaborative work of the entire Scrum Team.”

So why add an extra event?

  • Sprint Refinement allows the Product Owner to also focus on work that lies ahead of the upcoming sprint.
  • The Product Owner can gather information around complexity and value to determine the priority in the Product Backlog.
  • The Product Owner can harvest reasons why the Product Backlog item is not fit to enter the Sprint Backlog and what needs more information. Does it fit the definition of ready or not? 

Similarities between Sprint Planning and Sprint Refinement

  • They both focus on having an agreed understanding about the Product Backlog items.
  • Planning Poker can be used as a technique to obtain estimates around complexity of Product Backlog items and stimulate conversation.
  • They generate constructive discussions.
  • The nitty gritty technicalities don’t have to be discussed in detail.
  • They help the team and the Product Owner understand complexity

Differences between Sprint Planning and Sprint Refinement

  • Sprint Planning only focuses on the upcoming sprint. Sprint Refinement can have a longer horizon.
  • Sprint Planning is timeboxed and is an essential part of every sprint. Sprint Refinement can have a more variable cadence.
  • Sprint Planning needs all team members to attend. For Sprint Refinement it is possible to work with a smaller subset of the team, depending on the Product Backlog items that will be discussed.

Pro Tips and Best Practices

  • It is a good practice to organise Sprint Refinement right in the middle of a Sprint. This way it doesn’t conflict with Sprint Planning and it gives the Team and the Product Owner the opportunity to take appropriate action before the start of the next sprint.
  • Scrum events create overhead for the team. Adding Sprint Refinement needs to take into account this extra overhead. Refinement should only be considered when it adds efficiency and effectiveness to the process.
  • Prepare asynchronously. Plan Refinements upfront if possible and let the Product Owner or the Team share the items that will be discussed. This way the team can already prepare questions or remarks. Wieni Product Owners provide asynchronous video in some cases, to give a maximum of context before the actual Sprint Refinement takes place.