When User Stories Get Bigger

What should you do when user stories get bigger? We have all been in the situation. You discuss a user story; you have a pretty good understanding of how it needs to be implemented in the system. Then when you start to work on it, you realise more work needs to be done.

It’s a common practice, when you originally estimate its at a pretty high level. Then when you actually get into the detail and further clarifications are made — scope can often increase.

Mitigating the Risk

A good technique that I have used many times is to create a checklist of areas to consider each time you estimate. This would be a living list which would grow as new considerations come up during the sprint. Each time a user stories estimate grows…. ask why this is.

Each time you split a user story and estimate it. You can refer to this list then to mitigate the risk of your user stories growing. Sometimes it will be a one off; a new area that you have not touched on or considered in the past. Sometimes it can be from a consistent pattern that should be addressed.

Read a similar article on user stories and how to split them.

Going through the list

To create the initial list, you should refer to your definition of done. If one of the things on your list is documentation, you should ask yourself :

  • “Have we considered the impact of documentation?”
  • “Has any similar documentation been created”
  • “Is this a case of just updating existing documentation?”.

When you are going through your user stories and estimating them, have the list somewhere clear for everyone to see. This could be a poster on a wall or print outs that everyone can see when going through the process.

By identifying and tracking these, hopefully you will be able to reduce the amount of times that your user stores grow in estimate during a sprint.

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