Yup… don’t refine features or stories until you have prioritized these (features at program level or stories at team level).
You have to be refining highly prioritized work all the time. First things first! You do not want to spend major time on minor things!
SAFe has a way of helping you mathematically prioritize work. It is via WSJF (Weighted Shortest Job First). It is considering cost of delay (COD)… applying principle #1 — take an economic view. Yup … find the shortest job that has the most weight … go do that first!
COD is the sum of ‘Business or User Value’ + ‘Time Criticality’ + Risk Reduction or Economic Opportunity). Assign values using the Fibonacci sequence numbers… each element of the COD is subject to relative sizing vis-a-vis the same element of the other items to prioritize.
COD is then divided by the job size (again using Fibonacci sequence numbers for relative estimating vis-vis the job size element of the other items to prioritize).
The highest WSJF amongst other WSJF of other items to prioritize is the highly prioritized work.
Of course, You may not use WSJF if you feel that what you see overall — as you stand back and see the big picture — does not make sense…in that case, you may go ahead and adjust the priority of each work item… find that sequence of work that makes sense. The first in the sequence then becomes the one with the highest priority.
Once you have the work prioritized … you then pull the work with the highest priority from the backlog for refinement.
Spend major time on major things! Maximum value with the least effort! Make these your mantra!
You can look at it in a different mantra: Don’t spend major time on minor things ! Don’t spend maximum effort on least value!