How to Deal with an Ever-Growing Backlog?


One, albeit radical, idea would be to not let the backlog overgrow the team’s capacity in the first place.
In other words, if the team can normally handle 40 tasks a week, put a 40-task limit on a weekly backlog. While you’re at it, consider that it’s — in general — worth putting a time frame (any time frame) on all backlogs. This is one logical way of ensuring things don’t end up being written down and left idle for ages.
It’s great to split planned work into backlogs of different stages of urgency and time-line: quarterly, monthly, weekly, subdivided into: urgent and of a secondary priority. This way the team know what to pick up when, and there is room for assuming that if we haven’t gotten round to the items of secondary priority this week, they are to be moved to urgent next week or removed from the backlog completely.


The other thing you can do to keep tabs on the size of the backlog is to better organize the entire process you follow. Divide the work you do into more defined themes, epics, projects, product growth steps, stories, features, tasks. Having a hierarchical order of things that need / can be done will make adding priorities and tagging the ideas much easier. Note, that not all stages of the development need to make it directly to the working backlog.
Either set up a whole, granular order of backlogs, or keep the more general stages at another level of management (as a general time-line with an idea repository). Not every small thing you can think of for a project needs to make it to the actual project board. Does it?


It’s also important to define what you consider the backlog to be in the first place, before you begin your rework of its structure. Is this meant to be a list of things that are now decided that need to be implemented, or is this a list of loose ideas you’re hoping to be able to get done? Unless you have this worked out, creating a backlog where items from both of these — very different — categories will get, makes no sense. It will only create confusion and add to the notion of leaving it be, as it offers too much choice and too little instruction.



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