What Is: The Sprint Backlog
In short, the Sprint Backlog is the collection of Product Backlog Items (PBI’s) that the team has selected for the Sprint, plus all of the tasks, steps, actions, etc. that the Development Team has identified as being needed to complete, in order to fulfill the Sprint Goal.
The Sprint Backlog is the best Information Radiator to show what the Scrum Team identifies as necessary in order to deliver the next Increment.
Remember: The Sprint Backlog is solely owned by the Development Team. Only the Development Team has the authority to change or update the Sprint Backlog.
What about Continual Improvement tasks? In the November 2017 version of the Scrum Guide, Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber added Continual Improvement items to the Sprint Backlog. They stated “To ensure continuous improvement, [the Sprint Backlog] includes at least one high priority process improvement identified in the previous Retrospective meeting.“
What if we need to change the items in the Sprint Backlog during the Sprint? That’s completely normal. And, it’s expected. The specifics of the PBI’s selected for the Sprint should not change, but the Sprint Backlog Items may. Change is inevitable, and expected. So, as the Sprint progresses, we expect that some of the details of the Sprint Backlog Items will change. Some Sprint Backlog Items may even be added or removed. Just remember – the Sprint Goal must remain unchanged.
Think of it this way… We (you, me, and 5 more people) are on a Scrum Team’s Development Team together. We are currently located in Tampa, Florida. The Sprint goal is to arrive in Seattle, Washington, by the end of the Sprint. We decide (in Sprint Planning) to drive a big tour bus, with the whole Scrum Team in it, to Seattle. We arrived at this decision due to many good arguments by other team members about cost savings, ability to travel around the clock, see attractions along the way, etc. We set out on our trip, but encounter several obstacles – a bridge is out; an attraction is closed; highway construction forces us to detour. Each time, we change our plan, but the Sprint Goal of arriving in Seattle by the end of the Sprint never changes. Our route, and the attractions along the way, are the Sprint Backlog. It changed, but the Goal didn’t.