Backlog Grooming vs Sprint Planning: A Guide

Ruth Hadari
Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert
Posted on
Sep 9, 2021
Updated on
Dec 19, 2022
Table of Content

Look, we get it: the fine line between backlog grooming vs sprint planning is a tricky one to define.  

But, define it we will! In this helpful guide, we’ll give you the ‘need to know’ of backlog grooming, a handy checklist, and more! 

What’s an Agile Backlog, and What’s Backlog Grooming?

Let’s kick things off: what is backlog grooming, exactly? And what’s an agile backlog

Your agile backlog is literally the backlog of tasks you have waiting to enter your sprint, usually in order of highest priority to the lowest. 

“Backlog grooming”, aka “backlog refinement”, is taking that agile backlog and making it fit and ready to enter your sprint. Just as in life, ‘grooming’ is the process of cleaning and beautifying. In this case, backlog grooming refers to the sprint at hand. 

In practice, agile backlog grooming keeps your backlog updated and relevant, while getting the entire backlog ready and refined for the upcoming sprint. We’ll get into the difference between backlog grooming vs sprint planning a little later, but the long story short is, you need both to help your sprint run effectively without a hitch. 

How Is Backlog Grooming Done?

Much like most types of grooming, agile backlog grooming is an artform. Here’s a quick backlog grooming checklist to tame and effectively groom your agile backlog! 

  1. Get rid of any lower priority user stories - the ones taking up unwanted or unnecessary space, or the ‘nice to haves’. 
  2. Reprioritize. Your priorities will change from sprint to sprint, so shift some things around which may be more of what you need to focus on. 
  3. Break down any large stories into smaller chunks. This also makes it much easier to assign time estimations to each task or story. 

What Is Sprint Planning?

And here, we get to the crux of the matter: just what is the difference between backlog grooming vs sprint planning? 

Sprint planning is what happens after the backlog grooming meeting. You first need a nicely groomed backlog, ready and waiting to go into a sprint planning meeting. Once everything is ready to be discussed, the sprint is planned. Priorities are checked and double-checked, and the rest of the stakeholders are called in to plan the sprint accordingly. 

Backlog Grooming Vs Sprint Planning

Although both types of meeting sound the same, there are a few important differences: 

  • Your agile backlog grooming is the semi-finished list that is presented to all members in the sprint planning session. 
  • Your backlog grooming meeting has to happen before the sprint planning, or your sprint planning session won't go as effectively (or as quickly). 

When it comes to your backlog grooming meeting, it is up to you to decide who should be present; however, once the backlog has been groomed and is ready for the sprint planning meeting, we recommend that all stakeholders are present to plan for the sprint. 

If you're looking to maximize the entire process, then you could always invite all stakeholders to the backlog grooming meeting too, and even hold both meetings back to back! 

Effective Backlog Grooming: GoRetro 

For the most effective backlog grooming meeting, you can't go wrong with GoRetro

Forever free, use the power of GoRetro sprint retrospective to help plan, prioritize, assign, groom, and more - and tame your backlog for the most effective sprint...ever! 

About the author

Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert

Highly experienced in leading multi-organizational teams, groups, in-shore as well as off-shore. The go-to person who is able to simplify the complex. An agile advocate, experienced in all common methodologies. Responsible for the entire software development lifecycle process from development, QA, DevOps, Automation to delivery including overall planning, direction, coordination, execution, implementation, control and completion. Drives execution, and communicates on status, risks, metrics, risk-mitigation and processes across R&D.

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