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Independent User Stories

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Writing Compelling User Stories: Independent Functional Increments

One of the most difficult mindset shifts for an agile team is conceptualizing a vertical slice of functionality that is small enough to fit in a sprint. User stories are an agile tool that can help teams make this shift, yet most teams we speak with feel that their user stories need significant improvement. And without fail, the question of how to write a user story comes up at every class we teach.

This is because writing quality user stories combines both art and science — there are a few proven techniques to drafting ready user stories, but much of it comes down to understanding what is possible, and recognizing patterns from past project decomposition.

Our experience has shown that when a team masters producing clear, independent, and achievable user stories their velocity generally doubles. Scrum Inc. believes compelling user stories are so powerful that we are developing a series of online courses to help you improve the quality of your team’s user stories. This series will feature tips and tricks for writing powerful writing stories that:




· Describe independently valuable functionality

· Are descriptive enough to inform the team without being excessively proscriptive

· Have been reasonably estimated and sized to be completed within a single sprint, and

· Can be tested for success efficiently at sprint’s end


Our first installment focuses on decomposing large and complex projects into incremental vertical slices of functionality that can be delivered independently. Independent functionality is key to realizing Scrum’s potential to deliver 80% of value with 20% of the work, as well as a necessary driver of “inspect and adapt” product delivery.

However, it is often harder to do in practice than it sounds in theory. Too often, teams reach an impasse where the Product Owner is certain they have broken down the story into the smallest incremental functionality, but the team still feels that increment is too large to complete in one sprint.

This is a recording of the live broadcast on Wednesday, May 28th.

All of Scrum Inc.'s online courses are eligible for Project Management Institute PDUs and Scrum Alliance SEUs.