LIFO Backlog Management, what is it and why should you consider it? First off, LIFO stands for ‘Last in, first out’ and is the exact opposite of regular inventory management, where a ‘first in, first out’ (FIFO) approach is taken to prevent inventory from degrading.

What does all this have to do with Backlog Management? It is hardly the same as regular inventory, since Backlog Items are ideas and they don’t get stale. Or do they? Viktor Grgic triggered my thoughts on this by asking on linkedin about FIFO or LIFO backlog management. Which one of these options would lead to a better overall delivered product?

Putting new backlog items at the top by default for shorter lead time and earlier value validation

My thoughts on this: since you naturally spend more time looking at the top of the backlog, new stuff that is put at the top (LIFO) has to be dealt with quicker, leading to shorter lead times and a cleaner backlog. Stuff that comes in and gets discarded is cleaned up earlier. New work is split up for minimum testable hypothesis and validation of value earlier, etc. AND delivered items can be validated to market response sooner. The only downside is that potentially, older work, already on the backlog, gets dusty and stuck hanging mid-to-low on the list. Fix this by having a small backlog of 50-100 items and regularly going through the entire list with a ‘delete’, ‘unless we can explain potential value’ attitude.

So definitely go for LIFO backlog management IF you have to choose.  The reality might be somewhere in the middle, but I’m curious to hear your experiences and thoughts. This idea may help you to keep a healthier, less wasteful more transparent overview of the possible work ahead. So try it!

Previously posted on sjoerdly.tumblr.com, slightly updated on transfer here.

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