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Today we got an email from a new Scrum Master who has been using our online training courses and books to learn. She has just started at a new company (her first job as a Scrum Master) and identified that the team needs to groom their work before taking it into a sprint, something they haven’t been doing. Then she panicked. What should she do? And how? And when?

Here is our response:

My best advice for your session is to not stress too much about it. It will be the first of many grooming sessions, so be honest with the team that it might take some time to get this right.

Your goal for the session is just to help make the things the team will work on next a bit clearer.

Your role is:

  1. To ask open questions – to stimulate their thinking
  2. To timebox – to make sure you cover enough work for the next sprint
  3. To facilitate – don’t have one person dominating the conversation.

Start by asking the Product Owner: What is the most important thing the team needs to work on next?
Then ask the team: What do you need to know to work on this?

Some good questions to ask in this discussion:

  • How will you test it?
  • Why is it important?
  • Who will use it?
  • How will we know when it’s done?
  • What assumptions are we making?
  • What can we leave out?
  • How could we break this into smaller pieces?

You don’t need to understand the answers they are just to help the team think about certain things. Make sure someone on the team is taking notes of what gets agreed (not you).

Don’t worry about writing user stories in a specific format, let the team group pieces of work together in a way that makes sense to them. I also wouldn’t worry about sizing yet.

If they are discussing one big piece of work, you probably only need to run through this once to result in enough work for a few weeks. If the first piece of work is something small, then repeat the process for the next piece.

Hope this helps!

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