Today I read… (8/31/2017)

We need to shift the conversation around AI before Elon Musk dooms us all


Writing User Stories Is Easy

“Writing user stories is easy.”

“You should be able to write 10 user stories per hour in a story writing session.”

“Refining user stories should only take a few minutes each.”

I’ve read or heard statements like this and they make me wonder if there’s something wrong with me. Writing stories always seems to be harder than it sounds. I was sitting in a Scrum training course and suddenly realized, maybe people mean different things when they say “user story”.

One of the usual descriptions of a user story is the 3 C’s – Card, Conversation, Confirmation. The Product Owner writes his/her ideas for a story on an index card or sticky note – the Card. The information on the Card spurs the development team to have a Conversation with the Product Owner for clarification and details. Confirmation is the Conditions of Satisfaction (aka Acceptance Criteria) the Product Owner uses to determine if the work is complete and acceptable.

Now, user stories don’t always start with all 3 parts. Stories evolve over time and a feature-sized story might start as a simple idea – the title on the Card. These large stories go by different names like themes, epics, or features. And the Scrum team works together to break down these larger stories into smaller stories and add details during user story refinement.

So what exactly are we referring to when we say “writing stories”, or “stories in a story writing session”, or “refining stories in a story refinement session”? Are we referring to simply the initial idea, the title? Or all 3 parts? It depends on the context, but I’ve found most of the time people are referring to a story with the 3 C’s. This is especially true when we are pulling stories into a sprint.

Why is “story writing” easy for some teams? “Easy” may not be the best word, but some team are better at it. From experience, I can tell you that it starts with the Product Owner. PO’s that have learned to write good story titles, clear value statements, and reasonably complete conditions of satisfaction make things easier for their teams. This gives the team a better starting point and makes story refinement and refinement sessions more efficient.

A regular cadence for refinement sessions also helps. I prefer to see these sessions scheduled at a regular time well in advance. Of course, there will be conflicts at times. But when we put off refinement sessions, or neglect a regular schedule, it will be reflected in longer planning sessions (where we’re actually refining stories) and fewer successful sprints.

Team members also help make story refinement more efficient by using spare time to review user stories at the top of the product backlog. Prior to the next refinement session, add to those stories comments, notes, or questions that will help the team gain shared understanding. Doing this will reduce the time spent on each story in the refinement session.

I like to refer to story refinement as a pipeline of work. New stories enter the pipeline with a few details. Over time the Scrum team works together to break down and refine stories to move them through the pipeline so they are ready for a sprint. This process might span several sprints for stories that start as nothing more than an idea, or that are complex and require the team to use multiple refinement sessions to gain shared understand. It’s important for teams to find efficient ways to keep the pipeline flowing.

How do you define “user story”? And if you find writing them easy, what techniques do you use?

Today I read… (8/25/2017)

A Navy SEAL’s 15 Pillars of Resilient Teams

Navy SEAL Commander Tells Students To Make Their Beds Every Morning In Incredible Commencement Speech

How To Increase Mental Toughness: 4 Secrets Of Navy SEALs And Olympians


I regularly do something similar to visualization, but it isn’t as formal. For myself, I would just call it planning or thinking through the day. I generally think about the things I need to do, how they might unfold, and how I say things if I’m in a meeting or presenting something. Maybe more formal visualization will help me be more productive.

Today I read… (8/17/2017)

Facebook’s go-to management guide dispels a common myth about leaders and managers

4 Ways to Show You’re Ready for Management

6 Habits Of Aspiring Leaders

Today I read… (8/16/2017)

A Guide to Becoming a Full-Stack Developer in 2017

Half of All Employees Quit Because of Managers: Why the Best Managers Have This Trait

Today I read… (8/15/2017)

6 Deep Learning Techniques They Never Taught You In School


I realized that I sort of use the Feynman technique. After I read something, I usually think about how I would explain it to someone or how it relates to my own experience.


Today I read… (8/13/2017)

How to Take Down Kim Jong Un