What? Does that sound like Scrum treason or Agile anarchy?
This has bothered me for a while, but before I go on let me just say I don’t have a problem with the established “As a.. I want.. So that..” template for writing user stories. I don’t have a problem with the “In order to.. I want.. “, variant either, but these are not really user stories.
I mentioned this in a twitter thread the other day and got the following, quite correct, response from Rachel Davies;
— Rachel Davies (@rachelcdavies) November 13, 2013
I completely agree with Rachel, but like all great ideas I think we should question them, change them and build on the them to suit our needs.
So I’ve been playing around with telling user stories from a different perspective.
You see, I think the standard templates are a little bit dry. They’re missing something, they leave me feeling like someone has expressed a wish and why, but it might not necessarily engage me.
Personas, go some way to helping this, I see a lot of stories written like, “As a user..”, and personas address this by giving life to the user, giving them a back story and some depth. That’s great, but the result still feels a bit disjointed. “As Bill…” Ok, I know who you are, and your persona, and I can see why you want it from the value proposition of the story “I want to..”. Still, I’m not feeling like I love that story, I am part of it, I am involved, especially when there are many stories repeated over and over this way. It still feels like Bill’s story.
Lets, remind ourselves, for a second, not to get too hung up here, they are as Rachel mentioned a reminder for a conversation.
So as a reminder, they’re fine.
What though if we changed the story a little, what if we told a story, with a beginning, middle and an end. What if Bill’s story were written as a story?
How different would we feel if we wrote the the story, as a narrative, from Bill’s perspective.
Let’s look at an example, taken from Mike Cohn’s website.
As a power user, I can specify files or folders to backup based on file size, date created and date modified.
If we made Bill our power user, and gave him a persona and filled out his character some it’d help, a lot.
What if we told the story in a different way?
Bill, was working late, his hard drive was starting to make funny sounds, he suspected it might be on its way out. He was worried he’d lose all the work he’d put in today, he was grateful to find that he could identify files, by size, creation and modification dates. This would help him find the new work he’d added and back it up.
Ok, I’m no JK Rowling, and my attempts don’t weave a great deal of magic. The point I’m trying to make is when I read a story, any story, I don’t read it in a detached or remote manner. I find that I identify with the character, his or her experiences or emotions resonate with me. I’m in the book, I am part of it. That’s what I want to see from user stories. I want to see user stories told from the point of view of the user, rather than have the user just be part of a template. I’d like to think that narratives will help tell the real story from the perspective of the user.
There’s more to it, a collection of user stories forms a backlog, but what if each story formed part of a larger narrative with the protagonists guiding us through their journey. What if the backlog was a larger narrative in its own right, with the user stories small narratives within.
Would it help if a Product Owner were able to draw us into the story we’re about to create? If I could identify with the characters, feel their needs, would I, as part of a team, be more engaged?