Keeping Your Backlog Lean

Story board
Story board








A large and fat backlog will impede innovation and cause a frustration.

To maintain a lean, healthy backlog and to minimize cycle time, store only the selected
options in your product backlog. Leftover product options-those not selected for the candidate
solution-may be removed. Some teams choose to record them or take a picture of walls that show
them listed, along with the rationale for not choosing them.

Sometimes is necessary to remember the definition of a Product Backlog.

What is a Product Backlog?

The product backlog is an ordered list of everything that might be needed in the product
and is the single source of requirements for any changes to be made to the product.1

At its core, the product backlog is an ordered list of items that is managed by a person
with the ability to understand the business’ needs.

Product Backlog Items

It’s pretty common to have items in the form of:

  • user stories – representing new functionality; and
  • bugs – representing work to address a defect.

After a while you may be a little more sophisticated an add in:

  • Epics-representing big user stories.
  • chores – representing work that must be done, but provide no direct business value

There really are no hard rules on what an item should be called. Keeping all items
customer-oriented, rather than couched in terms of the delivery team will keep your
backlog focused on making a product that delivers the most amount of business value.

Characteristics of the Product Backlog

Visible to everyone

The product backlog should be available for anyone to see. Agile principles place a high value on collaboration and transparency. Making the entire
list of requests visible will let everyone know what is going on. There shouldn’t be any

Only source

The backlog must be the only source of requests. It is important for the source of requests
to be centralized because the entire list needs to be ordered and prioritized.


The product backlog is a living artifact and is never complete. At the beginning of its
life it will only contain the best understood requests. As the teams learns more about
their customers and the marketplace in which the product will operate, the backlog will
continue to change for the better.


In large organizations there may be a PO chief and PO proxy who occupy the role of customer
representatives but in smaller teams, the product owner may be the CEO or product manager
working directly with their delivery teams.



Mario Lucero

Mario Lucero

I am all about helping companies to adopt agile as methodology in Chile. Why? I believe many organizations think that agile is not for Chilean companies because of Chilean culture is totally different from i.e. USA culture but I worked with Chilean professionals who after using agile realized it is feasible to implement it. Agile works in small and large projects and there are many evidences which demonstrate this.


  1. Very timely piece with clear points. Great lesson. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Hi Al

      Thank you for your words and if you want to chat about this subject or other Agile term I am available on Skype (metlucero).



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