Writing on the principles & practice of building digital products

The black hole of sprint planning

The Icebox – where good ideas go to die

At Boords, we use some Agile principles in our sprint planning. The most visible of these is a kanban board, for which we use Zenhub to turn our GitHub issues into columns. Around this board, our weekly sprint planning sessions and subsequent development work revolves.

During the sprint plan, new ideas either go into the Sprint backlog (i.e. we're going to do them this week), get deleted, or go into what's called the Icebox.

I want to talk about the Icebox.

Ostensibly, the Icebox is a place for good ideas we don't have time to take on right now. They go into the Icebox so we can do them "later". I find "later" a troublesome term because it often seems to be used as a synonym for "never". The Icebox grows ever larger, a swirling mass of good intentions.

So why not just delete them?

Ultimately, the majority of what goes into the Icebox stays there until it's deleted during a tidy-up many months later. Having said that, I do believe there's real value in having it.

Firstly, it helps people feel like their ideas have been heard. There's nothing quite so brutal as having a card you added immediately obliterated from existence just after you added it. Being able to file it somewhere is a nice alternative.

Secondly, if an ideas from the Icebox comes up again and again in conversation it's also usually a good indication that it's something we should think seriously about doing. Having a track record of when it first came up is has proved very helpful.