5 Signs That Your User Stories Suck

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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.

2 – Your user stories can be done in less than a day

If you have 40+ user stories on your Sprint Backlog, it gets really hard to get a commitment from your team. Some people might say now: “Wait, isn’t it great if they were able to create such small stories?”. Yes, it is great, but not if all of these stories are tasks. In such cases, these stories belong to a bigger story and don’t make sense on their own. Check if your stories are meant to add new functionality, if not something is wrong.

3 – Your user Story Doesn’t Describe a Feature

This is somewhat related to 1 and 2, because in most cases these signs come in together. If your stories are describing tasks for the developer, instead of describing a new functionality, something went wrong. I saw POs writing user stories that described thing like “Write document X” or “Create acceptance test Y”. In those cases I’m asking for the DoD of the team, because those things clearly belong there. And if you don’t want to add them to the DoD, create a task but don’t rape the user story format.

4 – You Use It For Everything

It’s great that you decided to use user stories to create your backlog. But you know what: You can use any format that you like. There is no rule in Scrum that you have to use user stories. You’re not forced to use this format for everything that is in your backlog. In a lot of cases it just don’t make sense, e.g. when you want to add non-functional requirements. Instead add those non-functional requirements to the acceptance criteria of your user stories. If they apply to more than one, create an epic and add it there. But please, don’t use the user story format for everything that is in your backklog.

5 – You Lost Your User

Did you write stories like: “As a project manager…”, “As a product manager….”, “As a developer…” or “As a test technician…”? Than you have lost the real user of your software. It won’t be the project manager or product manager who will use your software. Start over and ask yourself who will use it and write your user stories with their view in your mind. Another possibilty would be to create personas. But always have your user in the focus.

I’m looking forward to your comments. What signs did you observe?