Mowing the lawn: how some teams still write their user stories

Door Patrick Verheij

\r\n\r\nMany books and articles have been written about user stories. Some people have read these books and articles, others have not. That shows when you dig into the backlogs of teams that apply agile frameworks and practices.\r\n\r\nSo to entertain you a bit, I’d like to show you how I see some teams still write their user stores. I’ll use the metaphore of “mowing the lawn” for that.\r\n\r\nJust imagine some epic like:\r\n\r\n“As a lovely child in a sweet family I’d like to be able to play a great game of soccer with my awesome brother so we can enjoy our hot summer days”.\r\n\r\nWe assume that the “architecture” here, a big slab of grassy lawn, is available but currently a mess and therefore not suitable for a game of soccer. It needs to be mown.\r\n\r\nNow let’s split the epic into user stories in the way some teams tend to do:\r\n


  1. As a father I’d like to know what kind of equipment is most suitable for mowing a lawn.
  2. \r\n

  3. As a father I’d like to know how long it takes to mow the lawn.
  4. \r\n

  5. As a mother I’d like to know if a mown law can also be used to sun bathe.
  6. \r\n

  7. As a father I’d like to have the necessary equipment for mowing the lawn.
  8. \r\n

  9. As a father I want permission from my wife to mow the lawn.
  10. \r\n

  11. As a father I want a nicely mown lawn for my children to play soccer on.
  12. \r\n

  13. As a mother I want safety measures in place to protect my children from harm while playing soccer.
  14. \r\n

  15. As a child I want a ball to play soccer with my brother.
  16. \r\n

\r\nLong story short: it takes a couple of iterations to find the right equipment (most investigation tasks were done but daddy kept changing his mind, drooling over all available mowing equipment, stalling the decision process), the process is delayed because a special team was hired to measure the lawn, the mother kept whining about the beautiful small flowers on the grass and thus further delaying the decision to kill them by mowing the lawn, and then the equipment for mowing the lawn was placed on back order.\r\n\r\nEventually the lawn was mown but the kids were not allowed to play there because mom didn’t think it was safe enough and it would be too expensive to make it safe. The kids never got their ball and are now building a snowman while enjoying their cold winter days.\r\n\r\nSo yes, we applied the practice of user story writing here. And yes, these user stories expressed certain requirements. And also yes, all people involved did their best.\r\n\r\nBut…there’s no agility of course.\r\n\r\nSo whenever you write some user stories, or apply any other agile practice for that matter, you may want to ask youself: “how much more agile will this make me and to whom will the benefits of that agility come to be?”.\r\n\r\nThen suddenly you are playing a different game.\r\n\r\nEnjoy your summer weekend.\r\n\r\n



Patrick Verheij

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