Some sketches about using User Stories to facilitate shared understanding: bad, better, best.

Jason Yip
3 min readJul 4, 2022


See also Users Stories to facilitate iterative, incremental development.

Shared documents aren’t shared understanding.

“Shared documents aren’t shared understanding.”

User Story Mapping by Jeff Patton

Bad (😞): Assuming shared documents is the same as shared understanding.

“If we write it down, we’re guaranteed to have shared understanding.” “I just skimmed it.” “I haven’t really read it but I assume it’s fine.”
If we write it down, then we’re guaranteed to have shared understanding!

Better (🤔): Using stories to facilitate conversation.

“Let’s talk about how we should do A.” “Who’s asking for A? What do they want? Why do they want it?”
Use stories to facilitate conversation

Best (😄): Converting conversations to acceptance criteria to validate shared understanding.

Conversation translated to a table with input and outputs.
Validate understanding with acceptance criteria

The essence of stories is how they’re used, not how they’re written.

“Stories get their name from how they should be used, not what should be written.”

User Story Mapping by Jeff Patton

Bad (😞): Filling out User Story templates blindly (no matter how confusing and contrived the result).

AKA Template Zombie

“As a Generic User I Want something that no user would actually want So That I can complete this template that I don’t understand.”
Don’t just fill out User Story templates blindly

See also Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies by Tom DeMarco et al.

Better (🤔): Who, What, Why (as a simple reminder of what to consider).

“..I’ll first give them a short, simple title, and then under it I’ll write:




User Story Mapping by Jeff Patton

[Story title (try to be concise but clear)], WHO: [specifically name all the different whos], WHAT: [notes about what to build], WHY: [notes about the different reasons why]
Who, What, Why

Best (😄): Card, Conversation, Confirmation.

“User stories have three critical aspects. We can call these Card, Conversation, and Confirmation.”

Essential XP: Card, Conversation, Confirmation by Ron Jeffries

“Card”: minimum reminder for what to talk about later; “Conversation”: back-and-forth dialogue to ensure we’re confident about Who, What, and Why; “Confirmation”: Unambiguous acceptance criteria to validate understanding of the story
Card, Conversation, Confirmation

If you’re not having rich, collaborative dialogue, you’re not using stories correctly.

“If you’re not getting together to have rich discussions about your stories, then you’re not really using stories.”

User Story Mapping by Jeff Patton

Bad (😞): PM writes fully fleshed out “stories” sent to the team in a 1-way fashion.

“Phew! Finished writing all the stories. Here you go! Tell me how it goes.” “This seems weird but I assume the PM knows best.”
1-way stories are bad

Better (🤔): Stories are used to facilitate back-and-forth dialogue with the PM to work out what to do.

“So that part seems weird… why does it need to work that way?” “Oh, that’s a doozy… so you know when I mentioned…”
Use stories to facilitate collaborative dialogue

Best (😄): Stories are used to facilitate direct collaboration with stakeholders and customers.

AKA reduce the distance between problems and problem-solvers

“I know it might sound weird but that’s how our work flow happens.” “Hmm… if we do this… would you be able to do something simpler instead?”
Use stories to facilitate direct collaboration with stakeholders and customers



Jason Yip

Senior Manager Product Engineering at Grainger. Extreme Programming, Agile, Lean guy. Ex-Spotify, ex-ThoughtWorks, ex-CruiseControl