5 Signs That Your User Stories Suck

Stop Sign

About one a half years ago, I wrote an article about how to mess up your user stories. In the meantime I saw other “User Stories” that gave me creeps. That’s why I decided to write this article. So here is my new list of signs, that your user stories suck…

1- Your user Stories Are Only a Wrapper

If your user stories only consist of one task, this is a sign that you just using them as a wrapper. I don’t know why, but it seems that some people believe, that they have to use the user story format for everything. A user story is “a promise for a conversation”. If there is nothing to discuss and it is a simple task, than write it down like this. Don’t wrap a pseudo user story around it. In most cases this is also a sign that your user stories are too small.

This blog post has been moved to marcloeffler.eu



11 thoughts on “5 Signs That Your User Stories Suck”

  1. Thanks for this. I’ve just come into a scrum team from ‘cold’ and was struggling with the granularity of the stories I’m seeing and their purpose as they ate very different to my experience. This has formalised my objections rather nicely and I’ll be discretely drawing attention to it tomorrow.

  2. I run a highly effective number of teams that use scrum. Their code is quality, their customers happy, we are recognised in our industry as leaders in this area and we help others to get started. My teams do everything you are telling them not to do in this article. Can you explain that to me?

    Thanks, J.

    1. No, I can’t. I observed these strange “user stories” only with inexperienced teams. I can’t imagine that your’re able to produce great software based on such “user stories”.

  3. I think one reason for small User Stories is that you find them in almost every scrum book. Examples like: “the user can delete a book from his wishlist” are very common. This is something that is done within a day or less with most development enviroments and setting.

    Another reason for small User Stories is something I call “Story Erosion” (is this english?) You start with a story like “The User can use a wishlist to remind him of books he wants to buy”. At the end of the Sprint there is a chance that something like this happens: “we did all the acceptance criterias, but we found out that it would be cool to sort this list”. So there is a new (and very presumably small) User Story: The user can sort his wishlist.

    This dynamik is something you have to work with as PO. In my experience it is not useful to forbid large or to small User Stories. It is a natural process. Which leads me to the next story… tooling 😉


    1. I don’t think that small user stories should be forbidden. For me it is just one sign that you should have a closer look. If you write a small user story only to tell the developer to finish the documentation, it is useless. Don’t use a user story as a wrapper for single tasks.

  4. I like the thinking. We should be eliminating waste and concentrate on improving ourselves at every turn. Yes we’re in the delivery game but surely that should not be our only focus.

  5. Great points on creating effective user stories. After struggling with effective methods for creating tasks for user stories, I did some digging and wrote a brief article about the benefits of creating measurable tasks for user stories that I call Functional Smart Tasks. Others may find it valuable when exploring user stories and managing development.

  6. It’d save a lot of confusion if you gave an example or two of the bad practice, and then an example of the more progressive way. You kinda did it in point 5 and that was the clearest point you made in my opinion, and yes personas (literaltext or fully-fledged) would help and be the better user-centred practice.
    E.G. “As a busymobileuserondroppylossyconnection I want several news items to download automatically for offline reading so that I’m entertained all the time.”
    busymobileuserondroppylossyconnection being a literal persona, and a fully-fledged persona would
    As Bert (and then hopefully a link to Bert’s full persona, or a persona highlights pic of Bert on the Kanban wall)
    I have also found use in having user-centred stories like:
    “As a TechArchitect I want an abstracted data-layer (DAL) so that I can use multiple data sources and devs don’t hardcode the model” especially when in sprint 0 and would otherwise be ‘burning’ nothing. You could bury all that work into a development black hole, but i found calling it out at a high-level meant other stakeholders were cool de la with our progress from the get-go.

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