Agile Mentors Podcast

Agile Mentors Podcast

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#39: The Art of Writing User Stories with Mike Cohn

March 15, 2023     29 minutes

Mike Cohn joins Brian to share his experience facilitating story-writing workshops and offers insights on creating effective user stories that deliver value to customers and focus to your team.


In this episode of the "Agile Mentors" podcast, Brian is joined by Agile coach and trainer Mike Cohn to discuss the art of writing user stories through story-writing workshops.

Mike shares his expertise on the importance of creating user stories, including how to write them effectively and their benefits in the development process.

Listen in as Mike provides valuable insights on conducting effective story-writing workshops, including the role of a skilled facilitator, keeping the conversation on track, and how using the INVEST criteria can help you create high-quality user stories that meet the needs of your users.

Tune in for practical tips and strategies to improve your user story writing workshops to energize your team while giving them a clear focus on what they need to do.

Listen Now to discover:

[01:09] - Brian is sitting down with Mike Cohn today to discuss story writing workshops.
[01:57] - Mike shares team/stakeholder writing sessions during the early 2000s that morphed into "story writing workshops" to help teams understand what they were doing.
[03:37] - Mike explains why he prefers to write 20-30 stories at the start of a quarter, only writing a few new stories during the sprint, then doing another story writing workshop every three months.
[05:20] - Brian clarifies that teams don't have to wait for a story writing workshop to write stories. He shares his recommendations for holding story-writing workshops once a quarter to replenish the backlog and "refill the gas tank" with new ideas.
[06:03] - Mike expands on the gas tank analogy, explaining that, like filling up a gas tank, teams don't need to wait until the backlog is empty to have a story-writing workshop.
[06:52] - Mike shares why he prefers a quarterly approach to story writing for its big-picture view of the coming months.
[07:17] - Brian references the 2020 Scrum Guide and suggests using the product goal as the bigger idea to zero in on.
[07:32] - Mike agrees with Brian's suggestion of using the product goal as a focal point during story-writing workshops sharing his idea of the importance of something to aim for beyond just the single sprint goal.
[07:59] - The importance of focusing a story-writing workshop on a single goal, i.e., setting a product goal for three to six months and using it as the workshop's focus to generate necessary stories.
[09:29] - Who should attend a story-writing workshop? Mike offers his suggestions to bring creativity and new ideas and build better products.
[11:33] - Mike shares why he believes involving team members in story-writing workshops is a time-saving, worthwhile investment that will improve product outcomes.
[12:06] -The tools for a successful story-writing workshop for everyone involved.
[13:57] - Mike explains why story-writing workshops might work better online than in person.
[17:19] - To keep the conversation on track, having a skilled facilitator for your story-telling workshop is crucial.
[17:58] - The importance of having a scrum master or agile coach facilitating story mapping sessions for guidance through any issues with sequencing or organization of ideas.
[19:16] - Collectively writing the same story simultaneously vs. brainstorming different stories and then coming together—Mike shares which he prefers and why.
[21:34] - Mike shares why saving the story refinement for later is best.
[24:05] - The importance of striking a balance between the level of detail in the stories and the time spent on the story-writing workshop.
[25:21] - Brian shares a story about an organization he worked with recently at Mountain Goat Software that used the INVEST criteria as a definition of Done to check off every story they wrote.
[25:58] - Mike explains the six attributes a team should know to create good user stories.
[27:20] - Mike shares why story-writing meetings energize teams, leaving them excited about the product and the upcoming period while giving them a clear focus on what they need to do.

References and resources mentioned in the show:

How to Run a Successful User Story Writing Workshop
Better User Stories Video Course by Mike Cohn
2020 Scrum Guide
Join the Agile Mentors Community
Mountain Goat Software Certified Scrum and Agile Training Schedule
Scrum Alliance
Subscribe to the Agile Mentors Podcast on Apple Podcasts

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This episode’s presenters are:

Brian Milner is SVP of coaching and training at Mountain Goat Software. He’s passionate about making a difference in people’s day-to-day work, influenced by his own experience of transitioning to Scrum and seeing improvements in work/life balance, honesty, respect, and the quality of work.

Mike Cohn is the CEO of Mountain Goat Software and the Co-founder of Agile Alliance and Scrum Alliance. He’s passionate about agile and finds it rewarding when a company really understands agile, commits to doing it well, and succeeds dramatically. Mike’s focus is coaching, training, developing new courses, sharing ideas in his blog posts and tips, and participating in the Agile Mentors Community, especially with the live Q & A sessions.