Agile teams have been using cards and sticky notes to visualise their work for many years now. Visualisation makes things so much clearer and easier to understand, as well as ensuring that plans are dynamic and collaborative. But the concepts of collaboration, feedback, openness and visualisation that characterise Agile, can also helpfully be applied before a Backlog ever gets refined.
How did that Backlog get created? Did someone just jot down a list of things they wanted? Did a group do it? Was that list written collaboratively or individually? One of my favourite visualisation tools is the story map.
Recently, I stumbled upon a TED talk by Tom Wujec entitled "Got a wicked problem? First tell me how to make toast." Tom shows how complex problems can be depicted in nodes and links. The process of making toast can be depicted quite well in between 4 and 12 nodes. More complex problems may need to be further decomposed and refined into dozens or even hundreds of nodes. This process is very similar to story mapping; in fact, it could be thought of as problem mapping.
Tom's web page explains the process further and provides templates for a handful of problem types.
So the next time you have a complex (wicked) problem, invite a group of interested people into a room, with Sharpies and PostIts and ask them to draw the problem.