Ask why first

19 Mar 2015

This post is part of a series of Rules of thumb for writing Agile Stories

The first thing we do when writing a story is describe what it’s going to do. Usually a short name for the story has been described and we’ve been talking about the story for a few minutes (or maybe a few hours) before we decide to actually write the body of the story.

Say something like:

Name: “Do Thing”

When we sit down to write the story the first thing everyone wants to write is what it’s going to do:

Name: “Do Thing”
I want to do the thing

It’s the natural thing to do. We are builders, we like to build things.

Asking why is usually the last step. I have found that the short name and the discussion we’ve had is enough for everyone to understand the What. The Why behind the story is the hard part, so in Agile fashion I try to do the hard part first.

By trying to define the Why, the “so that” or the “in order to”, I find it helps you really focus on the User Need or the Business Benefit.

Another benefit is it prevents you from spending time on stories that don’t have an actual need. Often the What of a story can overshadow the Why, as everyone knows that the What would be really useful somehow. Having the What not actually written there isn’t that chance for it to obscure why we think the User wants it.

And finally I find it forces you to question why you are doing the thing at all. You are fundamentally asking “why bother doing this work?”. That’s quite a mind shift from the normal “solve the problem and solve it fast” mentality that I normally find myself in.

This post is part of a series of Rules of thumb for writing Agile Stories