Refinement and User Stories — Panda Story — Episode #01

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Refinement and User Stories — Panda Story — Episode #01

The markets have been changing for many years. Customers can compare and buy products from almost any company in the world. Companies that want to reach their customers with the right products are facing new challenges. Many try to meet these challenges with transformations in various areas, new forms of cooperation, internally as well as with the customer are the goal. If it is an agile transformation, it is often Agile Coaches who are supposed to support Scrum Masters and Product Owners in the company. But by which means is an agile transformation successful, who would be best to support it and what makes a good Scrum Master and/or Agile Coach?

ReG AG is a company that offers a wide range of software products. For many years, the SuS Suite was the driving force, but customers want more and different features. The current structures in the company as well as in the software architecture do not allow to react quickly to customer need. Britta is an expert in the agile environment. She has already accompanied many agile transformations in companies, from individual teams to entire departments. Silke is the CIO of the company, she has worked together with Britta before and now drives the transformation at ReG AG. Howard is quite new in the company, he has just completed a training to become a Scrum Master and now wants to get started. Silke trusts him to support his first team, consisting of developers and product owners, as a Scrum Master. However, Silke demands that Britta accompanies him, which does not make him very enthusiastic. He is convinced that he is sufficiently prepared for this job, after completing the two-day training and passing the exam. He knows the 19 pages of the Scrum Guide, so what else should Britta teach him? Howard knows exactly what he wants and how he wants to empower the team.

On Monday it‘s the first Refinement of the team and he wants to accompany . He is not sure if the weekly schedule is right. He was told that the sprints are two weeks long. The Review and the Retrospective are Tuesday afternoon and the Sprint Planning is scheduled for Wednesday morning. The team has invited him to the Refinement because they want to discuss some requirements from the product backlog. He listens to the discussions regarding the requirements for half an hour, rolling his eyes every now and then. In his opinion, the requirements are simply not described precisely enough, somehow the product owner doesn’t seem to do his job. The team is in a lively discussion and refines some requirements and also estimates some.

Howard thinks that this Refinement could have been much more efficient if the Product Owner had worked properly before, so many questions, it seems unnecessary. He goes to the Product Owner, asks for a chat. Without waiting to hear what the Product Owner has to say, he suggests right away that all requirements should be written as a User Story before they are discussed with the team. The Product Owner should also think about the acceptance criteria and attach them directly to the User Story. The Product Owner feels a bit overwhelmed, but agrees to write a few more User Stories before the upcoming Sprint Planning.

On Wednesday, during the Sprint Planning, the Product Owner presents several User Stories, which he would like to have implemented in the Sprint. The Product Owner has also created acceptance criteria, which he presents to the team. Howard is very satisfied with this story. The fact that the team has no further questions is yet the icing on the cake in his eyes, so the Sprint Planning can be completed quickly and efficiently.

The team implements the User Stories in the Sprint exactly as described by the Product Owner, all acceptance criteria are also met. In the Review, it turns out that the User Stories were developed correctly, but is not the right thing, as it does not meet the expectations of the stakeholders. Howard is disappointed with the team and the Product Owner. He meets with Britta at lunch to talk about it. He decides to tighten the reins and provide the Product Owner with a business analyst to support him and describe the requirements in more detail.

Britta points out that Howard’s approach to User Stories and acceptance criteria was a bit too one-sided and Howard’s demands for the Product Owner too restrictive. User Stories are a communication tool, communication is the key to success. Britta reminds Howard of the Agile Manifesto #1 “Individuals and interactions more than processes and tools”.

Howard is thoughtful on this day, he wants to do better… just how…

Zur deutschen Version / find the german version here

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