Some sketches about using User Stories to facilitate iterative, incremental development: bad, better, best.

To provide context, “Think Big Work Small”.

Bad (😞): Just big stories with no breakdown

Three stories: “Solve global poverty”, “Solve global hunger”, “Solve gender inequality”. Developer responding with “Uh, I think these stories might be too big”
Just big stories are difficult to deal with and deliver

Bad (😞): Just small stories with no larger context

Two stories: “Make titles consistent”, “Add Y to Z”. One developer asks: “Why are we doing any of this?” Another developer responds: “No idea.”
Just small stories provide no larger context

Better (🤔): Using bigger stories to provide context for smaller stories

“Make interfaces consistent across products” as a parent story of two children stories “Make titles consistent”, “Add Y to Z”
Bigger stories providing context for smaller stories

Best (😄): Product strategy logically connected to stories

Cause effect diagram linking “X billion by 202x” to the two stories “Make titles consistent”, “Add Y to Z”
Strategy logically connected to stories

To encourage iteration, play Good-Better-Best.

From User Story Mapping by Jeff Patton:

  • What’s GOOD ENOUGH to get things working?
  • What would make it BETTER?
  • What’s the BEST version we can imagine?

Bad (😞): Best version only

3 stories that are all the best version. Developer responds with: “Uh, it might take a while before we can release any of this.”
Only having the best versions for stories means it will take a while to release anything

Bad (😞): Each story is good enough; overall product isn’t

Product Manager responding to 3 stories that are “good enough”: “Technically each story is good enough but the overall product isn’t releaseable.”
Each story can be good enough, but the overall product might not be

Better (🤔): Good enough, better, best

2 sets of stories with good enough, better, best versions. Developer asks: “Which version do you want?”
Good enough, better, best provides options

Best (😄): Targeted good enough, better, best

Good enough versions only for commodity capabilities; good, better, best versions for differentiating capabilities. Developer asks: “Which version do you want?”
Target good enough, better, best for differentiating capabilities

To avoid unnecessary effort, provide detail just-in-time.

Bad (😞): Stories covering all the breadth and depth up-front

Full breadth and depth story map. “It took us a few months but we’ve mapped out everything. Time to shift to Build It.”
All the breadth and depth up front

Better (😞): Stories covering overall breadth first

Breadth-first story map. “Okay, we get the overall scope but there are still some areas we’re not sure about that will affect what we’ll do first…”
Breadth-first

Best (🤔): Stories covering overall breadth first plus targeted depth as useful

Story map with breadth and some depth. Additional detail for: 1. What’s coming up next; 2. Anything we want to inform an upcoming decision
Overall breadth-first plus targeted depth as useful

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Jason Yip

Jason Yip

6.3K Followers

Staff Agile Coach at Spotify, ex-ThoughtWorks, ex-CruiseControl