A new sensation has hit households. "Tidying Up with Marie Kondo" is a new show on Netflix, inspiring individuals to declutter their life. At a very basic level, the method operates by picking up each object, determining whether or not it “sparks joy”. If it does, find a home for it in your life. If it does not, get rid of it.
So what does this have to do with Agile practices?
Recently I had a Product Owner who, jokingly, was grooming the backlog and mentioned she was going to do it via the KonMari method. We all had a laugh. But hang on, it might not actually be a bad idea.
Backlogs are forever growing, always changing. You add to them and subtract from them on a regular basis, just like the things in our lives. The challenge is when you have a backlog that has been in the hands of a hoarder. Someone who is never afraid to say no, or too afraid to get rid of anything (de-scope). In these cases, teams often feel overwhelmed when a backlog feels like it is forever growing and never shrinking. People want to feel like progress is being made.
This can also impact your Product Owners. They could end up with anxiety when they see the backlog disorganized and are unable to efficiently communicate plans to stakeholders.
So what if Product Owners applied the KonMari Method to their grooming habits?
Go through each item in the backlog and ask “Would this spark joy for our customers?" or "Does this solve a problem and provide value?"
If it does, keep it. If it doesn’t, remove it.
That might sound overly simplified. I am making the assumption that the Product Owner has access to the right customer data or individuals that can provide them with the knowledge needed to determine “Joy”. But if you are a Product Owner who is lucky enough to know user problems; and have direct access, maybe run this method as a short experiment. I would love to hear how it goes!