Tell stories don’t write them

Posted on Posted in Agile, Agile Practices, Kanban, Scrum, Scrum Practices

Tell Stories don't Write ThemThe typical format suggested to write a use story is

“As a <User>
I want <Feature>
So that <Business Value>”

This is a good way to start writing user stories, as it ensures that you think about important elements like, who the user is, and what the business value is.

My suggestion is, use this template to start until you find that you are thinking of the user and business value by default. I believe the template should be used to encourage the correct behavior and thought process, until it becomes a habit.

Now you can start considering the following. It is called a user story, as it is meant to be told from the perspective of a user in the form of a story. Write the story as if it was told as a story from the user or customer. People remember stories better, and can relate easier to them.

The problem I have with the defined format of a user story is that it doesn’t provide opportunity for creative discussion.  The format is more an instruction than an invitation for a discussion. As a User “I WANT”. There are only two outcomes for the team with that statement. You either agree or disagree. With only two options available, there is no room for creativity. What if the story was written more as a narrative? How could this influence or facilitate the beginning of a discussion, enabling creative thinking. Yes, its important to deliver what the customer wants, and we also know that the customer doesn’t always know what it is until they see it. So would it not be better if it was a narrative that didn’t constrain the discussion and creativity, and rather encourage a better solution for the customer. At the end of the day, the customer probably knows the problem or need that he has rather than the specific functionality required to fulfill that need.

An example might be something like: The last time I visited your site and was looking for a toaster. When I searched, there were over 800 results, which included items which were not toasters. This made it difficult for me to review just the toasters.

The narrative still includes the User (A visitor or browser or potential customer). The need is to have the search result to be accurate and only display the product searched for. The customer hasn’t said that he wants a filter, or category selection, he has just stated the problem. The value, is that he can review only the items he is interested in buying.

In knowledge work, we want to provide people with the opportunity to solve problems in a creative way. At the end of the day, the customer has a “problem” that needs to be solve. By limiting or defining the solution, we inhibit the teams potential for creative solutions.


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