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How to Organize a User Story Writing Workshop


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How to organize a user story writing workshop. An overview for Scrum Masters, Product Owners, and others wanting to organize creation of an agile product backlog

Published in: Technology
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How to Organize a User Story Writing Workshop

  1. 1. Overiview  Assumptions for Facilitators  When is a story writing workshop called for?  Assumptions for the Product Owner  Who must be there? Who else should be invited?  Ideal physical Space  Prepare for the workshop  Get cracking!  After the workshop
  2. 2. Assumptions for Facilitators  Workshop Facilitators must  Be fluent in writing user stories  Have general knowledge of the product domain and vision before the workshop begins  Establish trust with all of the audiences in attendance  Have all of the preparations perfectly complete at the time the workshop begins.  Scrum Masters are best at this. 
  3. 3. When is a story writing workshop needed?  When the business has a product vision, but has no backlog of desired value  When the product vision is expansive enough that the backlog is too big for them to explain in one sitting (50 stories? Create your own rule-of-thumb)  When there are significant technical or architectural implications that could impact the product vision.  When you need to establish a shared vision and approach with the product and development teams.
  4. 4. Assumptions for the Product Owner  The product owner(s) exist.  A product vision has been established, and can be explained to the team in 5 minutes or less.  They are committed to:  Make themselves and any needed staff available during the entire workshop  Explain the product vision to the group in 5 minutes or less  Prioritize and groom the backlog after the workshop is complete.
  5. 5. Who must be there?  The product owner, and any other product staff that will have input into the backlog  The entire team  All must be physically present at the workshop  No call-ins  Who ever shows up are the right people.  Some real-time collaboration tools possible, but not at BAML
  6. 6. Who should be there?  Others with input to the final product:  Quality/UAT Testers  Regulatory/Auditing  Security  Legal  Change management  Technology Infrastructure  Customer Support
  7. 7. Ideal conditions  Primary Objective: generate as many user stories as possible, without impediment  Maintain focus on generating stories ○ No one can write anything wrong, unimportant, or unclear ○ No prioritization, scheduling, or sizing  Destroy any impediments immediately ○ Lack of preparation ○ Outside distractions (physical or human) ○ Lack of openness, respect, and courage
  8. 8. Ideal physical space  Close space that supports complete focus  Lots and lots of open wall space  Walls that can accommodate drafting dots or large sticky notes  Location for refreshments  Easy for everyone to get to and be on time
  9. 9. Fourth floor “Virtual Machine” Room
  10. 10. Themes for groups of stories  Themes are useful ways to group stories so that they can be prioritized  General business objectives: ○ “View Account Information” ○ “Loan Application Processing” ○ “New Account Marketing”
  11. 11. Prepare for the Workshop  Posters  User story format  Types of user stories  Product Vision (if available)  Tools  Half-page card stock or extra-large stickies  Drafting dots  Enough sharpies for everyone  Blue tape  Theme cards (if themes exist)  Have everything in abundance – don’t allow for the impediment of running short on supplies
  12. 12. Other useful tools  INVEST model poster (if everyone knows what the INVEST model is)  List of personas  High level information architecture, story maps, or wireframes that can inspire stories  Technology platform details (if they exist)  EVERYTHING on BIG VISIBLE CHARTS  Keep it simple. Tools should never be a distraction.
  13. 13. Prepare the participants  Elevator-pitch of the purpose  This is your chance to create the (and your!) future!  Lombardi time – Be there 10 minutes early, or you’re late  Be there for 100% of the time box.  Don’t plan on interruptions  When it’s over, it’s over
  14. 14. Prepare the room  Hang posters as high as possible – don’t take up wall space from stories  Distribute blank cards, dots, and pens around the room.  Remove anything else that could be a distraction.
  15. 15. Get cracking!  Start on time  1 minute – Why are we here?  5 minutes or less – Who are we? (Name and role only)  5 minutes – Product Vision  5 minutes – User Story Orientation
  16. 16. User Story Orientation  Why are we creating user stories?  To establish a backlog of work to obtain the value represented in the vision  What is a user story?  Very simple explanation  Explain personas if necessary  Walk through one or two examples?  Good one: “As a user, I need to log in so that I can use the system”.  What are the rules of the session?  What if I need help?
  17. 17. What are the rules of the session?  If a story comes into your head, write it on a story card  You cannot write anything wrong  Product owner and development teams (and everyone else) can work together to generate ideas for stories  No prioritization  No scheduling  No sizing or estimation  If you have a question, ask one of the facilitators
  18. 18. Get to work  Allow people to get a rhythm going after a few minutes  Workshops work best with “beginners mind” – no advance strategy or motive other than to get as many stories as possible  If someone looks lost, help them think through a couple stories  Most sessions will develop into healthy chaos.
  19. 19. Themes/Ep ics Stories
  20. 20. UX Designer Marketing Director Technical Architect Product Manager QA Lead Scrum Master
  21. 21. Follow up  Capture all of the stories in digital format as soon as possible after the workshop  Generate new beautiful story cards with the entire output of the workshop  Create a story gallery, and allow everyone to visit it.  Let people add new stories to the gallery as they come up with new ideas  Best case: get a team together, and have the gallery ready within 24 hours.  Ask the product owner to acknowledge all the hard work done, and inform them how grooming and prioritization will proceed.
  22. 22. Thank you! Jeff Lopez-Stuit