I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the size of user stories in agile projects. The idea that I’ve been reflecting on is what if teams only worked with small, similarly-sized pieces of work, rather than exponentially larger blocks of work?
In theory, small user stories should be more predictable, should include less risk, less uncertainty and less complexity. They should, therefore, take less time to complete than larger user stories… you would think! Or as Mike Cohn put it in Agile Estimating and Planning (Prentice Hall, 2006), “small stories keep work flowing”.
One of my favourite books on agility is The People’s Scrum (Dymaxicon, 2013) by Tobias Mayer.
A lot of books on agility focus on the mechanics of how it all fits together, who needs to be where doing what with whom in order for the machine to work more effectively.
This book is different. It focuses not on the how, but challenges the why. It is open to critically questioning every aspect of agile with the intention of uncovering the core drivers behind agile practices.
“Scrum has its roots in Japanese thought and practice”, Jeff Sutherland, the co-creator of Scrum, tells us in his book Scrum: the art of doing twice the work in half the time (Random House, 2014), p.38.
One of the ideas that Scrum has drawn on is the Japanese martial art concept of shu ha ri (or shuhari) which outlines three stages of learning towards mastery.
Over the last few years, I have found this a really useful model to bear in mind when working with teams as they embrace and grow towards agility.
The photograph above, taken a couple of months ago, shows the planning board in our office — an information radiator — that shows us at a glance how many tasks are left to do, what’s currently being worked on, what’s in testing, what’s done and (unlike, I would guess, most other Agile boards) what we’re waiting for.