So what does ice cream have to do with backlogs and Kanban? Everything!!

What do you put on a backlog?

My daughter works at an ice cream shop. She is a shift leader, which means she has duties outside of serving the ice cream to customers.

When she gets to work, she creates a daily plan, very much like a Kanban team does with their Daily Stand Up.

She reviews the upcoming cake orders, the flavors of ice cream that need to be replenished, the cleaning tasks that need to be done and determines how to manage her team’s time. She plans her shift by prioritizing the work for the day and refining her backlog.

Planned tasks such as these make up her backlog as well as any items that may have already been in the backlog when she got there.

What do you not put on a backlog?

The serving of customers is BAU (business as usual). It is an on-demand task that is unplanned and unpredictable, but its the top priority. This BAU work does not make her backlog. For her purposes, it would not make sense to add these types of tasks.

The work of serving customers directly impacts her ability to complete her planned work which is why it is important for her to plan and prioritize effectively. Working her planned tasks in priority order ensures the priority work gets done, just in case the customers come in high volume.

Portfolio Kanban - Reduce Overburden - Improve Flow

It is all about prioritization

Just like any team, a backlog is effective when the priorities are set correctly. Just like many teams, my daughter has to prioritize. For example, the cake orders are date driven requirements, customers have been given a pickup time and therefore the work must be completed by that time. Floors need to be cleaned, and the priority can be influenced by the weather. A rainy day may require the mopping of floors to be moved higher in priority. Prioritization plays an important role in every backlog.

Backlog Planning

There is no right or wrong answer to what should or shouldn’t go into a backlog. Agile teams must decide what makes sense to get the most value out of their backlog. A backlog is one tool for Kanban teams to utilize to promote efficiency. When used properly, a well planned and prioritized backlog can flow work quickly and help teams function like a well-oiled machine.

Take a good look at your backlog, does it need some cleanup? Are you getting the most out of your backlog, it is much more than just a dumping ground To-Do List. Take control and master your backlog, and see how your work starts to flow.

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About the Author: Kristen Varona

Kristen Varona, Kanban Coach at Kanban Zone
Kristen Varona is a Software Architect turned Agile Coach who embraced the Agile mindset. Kristen became a Certified SCRUM Master in 2005 and has continued active in technology and Agile practices. Kristen leverages her 20+ years of software development experience to help different kinds of Agile teams learn to break work down for faster feedback and delivery while ensuring quality along the way. Kristen's technical understanding of how software needs to be built, verified, deployed and monitored gets teams up and running smoothly.