When I asked readers to list their biggest challenges with user stories, I received hundreds and hundreds of questions and problems just on the subject of adding detail.
- How do we add the right amount of detail to user stories to give the development team enough information without directing their approach?
- We’re spending too much time and effort adding details to our user stories up front. How do we make the team feel more comfortable with less information?
- How can we work with product owners to help them provide more specifics in the user stories without them dictating the design?
Spending too much time adding unnecessary details in user stories too early takes time away from developing the product. It also stifles creativity. Worse still, that extra time often turns out to be wasted when early details become outdated and irrelevant.
Yet, when agile teams don’t include enough detail in user stories they are vulnerable to being blamed for functionality they didn’t deliver… features that weren’t specified but that others assumed the team would understand were essential.
A Better Question about User Stories, Details, and Balance
This all makes sense. We know that adding the right amount of detail is a balance of not too much and not too little. A common phrase that guides agile activities is “just enough, just in time.” This maxim definitely applies to adding detail to user stories. But it’s one thing to understand the concept of balance and another thing entirely to gauge how much is enough and when is the right time.
And this is why one of the most common questions is:
How do I add just the right detail, just in time?
But this is actually the wrong question.
Well, not so much wrong as almost right. And I believe it’s this question that holds people back from finding a better answer.
A better question is:
How do I add just the right detail, just in time… for my team?
The Simple System for Adding the Right Detail at the Right Time to Your User Stories
There is no arbitrary rule or checklist you can use that is right for every user story, and any attempt to provide this will most likely fail when in the real world.
But there is a simple system you can use to get the answers you need for your team. I want to share it with you in this free video training.
What you’ll learn when you watch this free training:
- How to identify when a team’s struggle to finish a story within the iteration is because the story is too ambiguous rather than too big.
- Why the goal is not about getting details right for each and every story.
- The key coaching question you must ask in a retrospective to gauge the right level of specificity for your team.
- The one thing that will tell you whether stories were sufficiently fine-grained during the iteration.
- Why teams need to know it’s OK to miss the goal of adding the right amount of detail (and why this actually improves performance in the long run).
- How to make teams more comfortable with the idea of having less detail than they’re used to.
Using this system you’ll be able to identify what works specifically for the unique needs of your team, and achieve that all important balance of just enough, just in time.
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