Splitting User Stories with Conjunctions and Connectors

As I described last week, splitting large user stories into smaller user stories has many benefits for the scrum team and the business. We also agreed that before we try to split a user story that we want to write it in the traditional format:


As a (type of stakeholder),
I want (something),
so that, (some value is created).

So now that we have our big user stories massaged into this format, we are ready to try the first technique for splitting user stories: Conjunctions and Connectors. This is a dead-simple technique, and that’s why I always start with it. Simply read the story looking for connector words such as: and, or, if, when, but, then, as-well-as, etc.. Don’t forget that commas often function as connectors. When I see one of these connector words, I can usually split the story into two stories by separating the pieces that the connector words are holding together. Here’s an example:

As a couple planning a vacation for our family,
We want a resort that has activities appropriate for our teenage children,
as well as couples,
so that we can all enjoy our vacation.

Notice the middle line:
“We want a resort that has activities appropriate for our teenage children, as well as couples ”

We can break this into stories for the teenagers, as well as the couple.


As a teenager on vacation with my family,
I want activities to do with other teens,
so that I can meet other teens to hang out with
instead of being stuck with my lame parents the whole time.

and

As a couple traveling with my our family,
We want romantic activities to do as a couple,
so that we can rekindle our love connection.


Notice how the stories change as they get smaller. It is usually the case that when the story gets smaller, the value statement gets more specific. It’s also common for the user to be more specific, or sometimes change entirely. While it’s true that Mom wants her teenagers to have fun, we will probably be better off writing stories from the point of view of the teenager in order to satisfy this requirement. Sometimes other parts of the story get more specific as well. This is exactly what we want, as the smaller stories are not only easier to implement, but are described in more detail. This leads to a better understanding of the story, which leads to better estimates and, ultimately, an increased likelihood that the team will build the right thing.

OK, go practice this technique; your story splitting skills will grow the more you use them . Tune in next week when we explore the second story splitting technique.

Here are quick links to all of the user story splitting posts.

Cheers,

Chris

Chris Sims is co-author of Elements of Scrum as well as a Certified Scrum Trainer, agile coach, and recovering C++ developer who helps software development teams improve their productivity and happiness.

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  1. [...] of stories using those 3 techniques. Occasionally, I find a user story that I cannot split using conjunctions, generic words, or acceptance criteria. When this happens, I resort to timeline analysis.With this [...]

  2. [...] and other members of our team. Questions, comments, and invitations to lunch are always welcome!« Splitting User Stories with Conjunctions and ConnectorsSplitting User Stories with Acceptance Criteria »Splitting User Stories with Generic WordsBy [...]

  3. […] presentation to break down a story into its smallest business value sliver. He has four techniques: Conjunctions & Connector Words, Generic Words, Acceptance Criteria, Timeline […]

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