Monday, November 10, 2014

Making stories manageable

As a Human Being, I want to end World Hunger so that there is no more hunger.
Wow, I've written my first user story and it's even correct based on the template. Now my team can get going and because they are Agile, we will have a solution in no time!

What? You have some feedback proposal? ... mmh, okay. :(

Well, poor stories are often "World Hunger Projects" and this one is no different: It's just being a bit more straightforward to realize.

Too many times, in projects I see stories like this one: As a user, I would like to see my data so that I can see what I have to do next.
And the poor developers are stuck with a mess and can't deliver at sprint's end!

Let's take the example of the World Hunger Story to practice a little bit of slicing:

User Roles

Human Being - hmm, that looks pretty big scope. What is your role in all of this?
Are you a human being who is in the fortunate situation of having excess wealth and want to share it? If so, you are a "potential donor".
You maybe the founder of a charitable organization dedicated to actively do something about hunger.
Are you "afflicted by hunger" and need food for yourself? In that case, your perspective is different.
Or maybe you're a "homicidal maniac" and propose dropping a few nuclear missiles on hunger hotspots. (Hmm, maybe as a PO I would pass on that story.)

By identifying different user roles, it becomes significantly easier to focus on what actually needs to be implemented.

Specific goal

Before we get into the What, we must be clear on Why we want something to be realized.
Well, "that there is no more hunger" sounds cool, but it's not all too clear. How can we tackle this?
Let's put ourselves into the seats of a charity organization.
We have a whole bunch of problems, to name a few:

  • We need to have something to give to the hungering people of the world:
    • Do we want them to have food for the moment?
    • Do we want to help them obtain their own food?
    • Do we want to resolve a specific crisis?
  • We need to obtain funding
    • How do we raise our funds?
    • How do we manage our funds?
    • How do we spend the money wisely?
  • We need people with whom we collaborate:
    • Do we need speakers?
    • Do we need celebrity sponsors?
    • Do we need skilled workers who are willing to go into the region?

Each of these is a specific objective to tackle - and even these may still be too big to tackle with just one team and within a limited amount of time, so we may want to get even more specific!
But let's just stick to one goal now.

Specific approach

So, now we are the charity who want go give food to the Needy.
A whole bunch of ideas may come to mind:

  • Food baskets for the neighbour in need
  • Soup kitchen in the metropoles of the world
  • Shipments of wheat/flour/rice to central Africa

Putting it all together to deliver

Now we may create a much more focused story card:
"As a charity, we want to give food baskets to the neighbour in need so that nobody who lives in our community would have to go to bed with an empty stomach".

It won't really solve the entire problem of World Hunger, but it's a step, and you can have visible results in no time.
The team can brainstorm on the contents of the food basket, identify a needy neighbour - and maybe it can be delivered on this very day, working with real user feedback ("Thanks so much for the milk, but I'm lactose intolerant") and improve their strategy from there.


A good user story helps the team deliver visible results in a very short time without falling into the trap of missing the mark, running into Analysis-Paralysis and many other problems.
Good stories help the team deliver, motivate the team, enable Continous Improvement, allow the PO to check the direction of the implementation and adjust.
And most of all, they provide real value at a limited investment.

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