Agile Mentors Podcast

Agile Mentors Podcast

Practical advice for making agile work in the real world

The Agile Mentors podcast is for agilists of all levels. Whether you’re new to agile and Scrum or have years of experience, listen in to find answers to your questions and new ways to succeed with agile.

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#86: Revisiting User Stories with Mike Cohn

February 21, 2024     42 minutes

Have you ever returned to an old User Story and wondered, “what was I thinking?” On today’s episode, Mike Cohn, walks us through how and why he recently revisited and updated 200 Real Life User Story Examples from his past projects and updated a resource for you! Listen in as Mike and Brian share what worked and what didn’t work from the past, in an effort to make their user story writing skills stronger.


What makes a user or job story great? In this episode of the Agile Mentors Podcast, Brian Milner and Mike Cohn of Mountain Goat Software, share Mike’s recent updates and edit to 200 Real Life User Story Examples.

Listen as they revisit 200 older user stories, breaking down their analysis through the lens of more experience and an evolving technological landscape.

Plus, in true iterative fashion, Mike shares how he is still working to write better user stories after years of perfecting and teaching the art of story writing.

Tune in to learn what makes a great clear user story, and what makes a story that stinks.

Listen Now to Discover:

[00:57] - Brian is joined today by Mike Cohn who will be revisiting user stories.
[02:58] - Mike talks about how he came back to these 200 user stories and decided that some of them sucked and needed updating.
[04:42] - When writing user stories, Mike talks about prioritizing meaningful conversations over perfect user stories.
[06:35] - Brian underscores the importance of efficient communication with developers through unconventional yet practical user stories.
[07:22] - Brian points to previous podcast episodes with Mike that delve into the basics of writing user stories, in episode, #10 Why User Stories are the Best Way to Capture Requirements with Mike Cohn and #39 The Art of Writing User Stories with Mike Cohn
[08:22] - Mike walks through a story written for the development of the Scrum Alliance website, noting it is framed well within the site's premise.
[09:10] - Brian raises considerations about inserting information mid-story.
[09:57] - Mike finds the story intriguing but suggests simplifying it by moving details into acceptance criteria, a notion that didn’t exist at the time, for clarity.
[12:03] - Mike advocates for concise user stories, suggesting omitting unnecessary details and using acceptance criteria for specifics.
[13:52] - In a job story example, Mike and Brian point out common mistakes from an era without distinct fields.
[16:34] - Brian understands the attempt to prompt discussion in the job story but finds it normal overall.
[17:32] - Mike critiques a job story for site admins approving job postings, suggesting modernizing language for notification methods and flexibility.
[19:34] - Reflecting on a story about user authentication, Mike acknowledges a bias toward email-centric perspectives, and questions if this story goes too far separating the what and the how.
[21:22] - Mike highlights story #42, recognizing a potential mistake in specifying UI details in a story about navigating job listings.
[23:24] - If you’re struggling to get your team or organization on the same Agile page from team members to senior executives. Mountain Goat Software can help you Build a Common Understanding of Agile on your team!
[24:17] - If you’re a visual learner or you’d like to follow along, you can find the pdf of all the user and job stories discussed in this episode, plus many more, right here.
[25:12] - Mike defends a story about viewing detailed course pages, acknowledging UI implications but justifying the necessity of the detail.
[27:13] - Mike critiques a user story about creating user accounts, cautioning against a potentially misleading "so that" clause with a specific example.
[29:18] - Reflecting on the evolution of user stories, Mike emphasizes a shift from stating "I can" or "I want to" to a more neutral "I."
[30:40] - Critiquing a user story about browser compatibility, Mike suggests that it's a nonfunctional requirement and better suited as part of the definition of done.
[33:18] - Brian presents a user story for Mountain Goat Software’s Planning Poker tool about database indexes, expressing reservations about the commonality of developer-focused stories.
[34:00] - Mike reflects on the “as a developer” story and expresses uncertainty about its inclusion, considering it potentially problematic.
[36:22] - Mike critiques a story about database analysis, acknowledging its verbosity but justifying the detail as necessary for clarifying the researcher's role and objectives.
[38:03] - Brian appreciates the brevity of the "I want" part of a user story and finds the "so that" clause acceptable as it provides examples and context for developers.
[38:39] - Considering a story about storing results, Mike deems it not bad but potentially too long.
[40:00] - Mike highlights that the best way to get better at writing stories is to write a bunch of them, acknowledging that his early stories taught him valuable lessons.
[41:03] - Brian thanks listeners and invites them to share and subscribe to the Agile Mentors Podcast on Apple Podcasts.
[41:29] - Do you have feedback or a great idea for an episode of the show? Great! Just send us an email.

References and resources mentioned in the show:

Free download: 200 User Story Examples
#10 Why User Stories are the Best Way to Capture Requirements with Mike Cohn
#39 The Art of Writing User Stories with Mike Cohn
User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development by Mike Cohn
Job Stories Offer a Viable Alternative to User Stories by Mike Cohn
Mountain Goat Software’s Planning Poker
Better User Stories Course
Build a Common Understanding of Agile
Subscribe to the Agile Mentors Podcast on Apple Podcasts
Mountain Goat Software Certified Scrum and Agile Training Schedule

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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, CEO of Mountain Goat Software, is a passionate advocate for agile methodologies. Co-founder of Agile Alliance and Scrum Alliance, he thrives on helping companies succeed with Agile and witnessing its transformative impact on individuals' careers. Mike resides in Northern Idaho with his family, two Havanese dogs, and an impressive hot sauce collection.