This is a great facilitation exercise for quickly seeding a Product Backlog or anything else that requires collaboration. It is a technique that I’ve used for years and was originally inspired by Lyssa Adkins’ Silent Work Techniques


  1. Divide participants into groups of 4-8 people.
  2. Provide each participant with 3X5 cards and a sharpie.
  3. Seed the product backlog by using the first 15% of your story writing timebox for silent writing.
  4. Then, have each participant take turns reading one of their stories.
  5. After the story is read, the group discusses and decides whether it is suitable or not. If so, put it in the middle of the table. If not, rewrite it or destroy it.
  6. If any participant has a similar story as the one being presented, they alert the group and then destroy one of the duplicates.
  7. Continue in this manner until all the stories are either in the middle of the table or destroyed.

Learning Points:

The team will quickly have an initial Product Backlog that is ready to be ordered and sized. It takes the emphasis off of any one facilitator or manager and engages ALL participants. This method also appeals to people that think better by themselves than in large groups (introverts).

4 thoughts on “Silent Collaboration

  1. Hi AJ,

    I suppose using any technique for creating a Product Backlog would not work very well without first presenting the participants with an overall product vision and strategy (i.e. who are we building this for, what are the main value propositions).
    Does that make sense?

  2. This may sound silly, but for a team that is not Agile at all, what would these stories be? Let’s suppose a team wants to experience agility and start using user stories. What would these stories be? Thanks!

  3. As this technique is about empowering the participants, it can be facilitated by anyone really. As an agile coach, I typically facilitate it the first time (mostly amongst stakeholders, the dev team, and the PO). But once the group has done it once and gets it, it is pretty much on rails. This is a good tool for SMs to have in their belt with the intent of empowering the participants. I also know of POs that have facilitated and participated at the same time without any issues.

  4. Wiuld you say this activity would be completed by the product owners and stakeholders, facilitated by the scrum master?

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