User Story Workshop

Developing the right solution to a business need, at the right time, for the right reason is all about continuously aligned, clearly understood expectations.  The most common pitfall in failing to develop and deliver the most valuable solution with the highest quality and shortest lead time is not technology – it is unspoken expectations.  As with any desired outcome between people expressing a need and those fulfilling that need, continuous, collaborative and cooperative communication is the key to shared understanding and success. This User Story Workshop is designed as a primer with specific focus on user stories, and geared to jump-start those in business and technology on a collaborative journey to developing solutions to business needs in a faster, better, cheaper and happier approach than those of traditional waterfall methods.

Engaged participants will leave having achieved the following objectives:

  • Understand the meaning, types, purpose and practical application of user stories

  • Understand the value of user stories over traditional requirements approaches

  • Understand the who, what and why (plus where, when, and how) of user stories

  • Ability to recognize (‘smell’) good user stories vs. bad user stories

  • Understand User Roles, Role Modeling and Personas for better user stories

  • Understand valuable Acceptance Criteria as BDDs (business definitions of done)

  • Ability to gain and maintain business context for developing the most valuable solutions

  • Understand the multiple horizons of planning in an agile approach

  • Understand the agile artifacts of D.E.E.P. Backlogs, Story Maps and MVPs

  • Understand wave planning of frequent releases of value to customers

Course Outline


  • Why are we here, Who are we, and What to expect (set the stage)

  • Participant Objectives and Time Management Tools


Agile Overview

  • What is it, Why apply it, and How is it different or better

  • Myths Debunked (What is it not)

    • Team ExerciseBall Point Game (optional): Teams learn concepts of agile delivery in a competitive, fun game that simulates Scrum and all aspects of collaborating, focusing, executing and improving.


Roles & Responsibilities in Agile

  • Who typically does what and why – new and old roles

  • How is this different from the traditional ways of waterfall



Good User Stories


“A user story is simply a promise for a conversation (with context)

~ Alistair Cockburn


  • Overview – Who, What, Why of User Stories

  • Types and Non-Types – Spikes, User, Tech, Defect, Non-Functional

    • Examples – Good, Bad and the Ugly (Handout: Story Smells)

  • INVEST overview

  • Where are the Details? – The three C’s of a Story and “the rest of the story”

  • Understand Dimensions of Discovery

    • 7-Dimensions, SIPOC/R, SPIDR

  • Understanding User Roles, Personas and Empathy Mapping

    • Team Exercise: Planning Canvas: Identifying Solution Context, Roles & Personas

    • Team Exercise: Empathy Mapping: Identifying user goals and values

  • Understanding Stakeholder Mapping

    • Team Exercise: Team does a mind map of stakeholder interactions

  • Understand Good Acceptance Criteria, Constraints and Assumptions

    • Team Exercise: BDDs: Identifying verifiable business definitions of done

  • Understand Estimating with Relative Sizing Techniques

    • Team Exercise: Dog Wash: Teams will apply relative sizing to estimate story points with planning poker individual stories

    • Team Exercise: White Elephant: Teams will apply relative sizing to estimate T-shirt sizes with round-robin for batches of stories

  • Understand Story Splitting Techniques

    • 7-Dimensions, SPIDeR, others.

    • Team Exercise: Teams will use handout of story examples to critique and split

  • Prioritization techniques (MoSCoW, WSJF, Risk/Value)

    • Team Exercise:Buy-a-Feature: Teams will learn “valuetizing” by applying story points and value points to stack rank by value and scope to budget.


Agile Planning Horizons

  • Vision & Mission Planning

    • Team Exercise: Product Box: setting the stage for top-down decomposing to discover user stories by creating a product vision with value and mission statement(s).

  • Roadmap Planning

    • Understanding top-down vision decomposition into Epics

    • Understanding top-down epic decomposition into Features

  • Release (Wave) Planning

    • Understanding top-down feature decomposition into Stories

    • Understand tactical approach to creating a release (wave) plan

    • Story Mapping and MVPs

  • Sprint Planning

    • Understand tactical approach to creating a sprint plan

    • Team Exercise: Teams will compete in quick exercise to learn a recommended 12-step sprint planning agenda

  • Scrum (Daily) Planning

  • Understanding the people, purpose and process of the daily stand-up

  • Video (optional) – The Dysfunctional Daily Scrum (8 min)


Hands on User Story Writing Workshop 

  • Teams will write features and stories, both top-down and bottom-up

    • Team Exercise: Teams will generate user stories for their product vision bottom-up using BDDs (business definitions of done; behavior driven development)

    • Team Exercise: Teams will create a list of epics top-down from their product vision, focusing on the evolution of an application and ways in which to build upon its capabilities over time

    • Team Exercise: Teams will create a list of features top-down for the epics identified in previous exercise, focusing on how to break down the work into valuable slices of capabilities.

    • Team Exercise: Teams will create stories top-down that relate to the Epics written in the previous exercise. Focusing on the INVEST strategy of story writing and using group feedback to further refine.

    • Team Exercise: Teams will identify minimal viable product increments by identifying and mapping functional relationships among stories, and defining value statements for desired MVP capability.


Building a Release Plan and Backlog

  • Teams will apply sizing, prioritizing and mapping of stories created in previous exercise, for one or more MVPs

    • Team Exercise: Size, prioritize, and map stories into MVPs and stage into multiple sprints for wave planning one or more releases.

    • Team Challenge: Simulate unmet goals and impact on release planning.


Prep and Support of Sprints

  • Team Agreements

  • Definitions of Ready

  • Definitions of Done

  • Required and Recommended Ceremony Cadence

  • Readying Work Kanban

  • Backlog Prioritization

  • Release Planning


This course is beneficial to all members on an Agile team, but will add the most value for those in a Product Owner role or are a part of the development team and have focus on grooming the product backlog.

This course is perfect for:

  • Business Analysts, Requirements Analysts or Business Systems Analysts

  • Product Owners, Business customers, users or partners

  • QA Professionals, Systems Testers or User Acceptance Testers

  • Systems/Application Analysts, Architects, Designers or Developers

  • Anyone that wants to enhance their understanding and ability to author and elaborate on user stories