Sunday, August 10, 2014

Ideas for tasks when splitting or planning your User Stories

After years of working in a command and control culture moving to an agile methodology feels liberating for many team members. Unfortunately it can also feel over whelming. The first time a team needs to plan their iteration for themselves the can struggle to think of appropriate (and importantly small) tasks to split their User Story into. What follows is a list of ideas that I use with new teams to open their eyes to some of the options they have available to them.

Additionally of the following information is available on this one page PDF cheat sheet.

Cheat sheet for splitting or planning User Stories into tasks


  • Clarify Product Owner expectations
  • Product Owner early feedback
  • Product Owner review 
  • Confirm all Acceptance criteria

Shared Understanding

  • Scenario workshop (Three amigos)
  • Design session
  • Test creation session
  • Meet with customer representative


  • Design review 
  • Refactoring of existing code
  • Interfaces created
  • Code / Implementation
  • Code reviewed
  • Unit tests
  • Unit tests reviewed 
  • Defects resolved 
  • Defects retested 
  • Code merged 

Quality Assurance

  • Functional test plan created 
  • Functional test plan reviewed 
  • Functional test plan executed 
  • Automate functional tests 
  • Identify tests for automation
  • Exploratory testing
  • Regression Test Suite passes 
  • Continuous Integration passes
  • Deployment Tested
  • Performance tested


  • Deployment instructions
  • Internal Processes / Guides
  • External Processes / Guides
  • User story – notes, history, plan
  • High Level design
  • Design decisions
  • User Manual
  • Help
  • ‘How to’ Guides 


  • User Story updated in tracking tool 


  • Script/Run-sheet updated 
  • Data prepared 
  • Demo automated
  • Deployed to demo environment 
  • Practice run

Agile Coach Competencies

When thinking about how I could further improve my skills and knowledge as an Agile Coach, I came to the question of ‘How does an Agile Coach differ from a Scrum Master?’ Both provide coaching and work in agile, hence any division could appear to be very arbitrary. Writing out the competencies that I feel a good Scrum Master should have and then the competencies a good Agile Coach should have helped me answer the question. One good way to split the roles; is to look at what they focus on.

If I assume a Scrum Master is someone focused on providing Servant Leadership for a single team or a couple of teams. Than an Agile Coach is someone who focuses on coaching the department (and/or company) that those teams exist in. The Agile Coach provides training and coaching that is aimed at delivering value across the department/company, not just the team level. Sure a Scrum Master can do this, however it is not their focus when there are Agile Coaches and Scrum Masters in the same company.

With all of that in mind, I have updated my post on Scrum Master Competencies, and I present the competencies that I want a good Agile Coach to have.

The information presented below is available as a two page PDFcheat sheet.

Agile Coaching Competencies cheat sheet

Competencies of a good Agile Coach

These competencies assume that the person already has most of the Scrum Master Competencies.


* Adaptable
* Persistent
* Observant
* Unassuming
* Inquisitive


* agile Manifesto
* Scrum
* XP
* Lean 
* Kanban
* Agile Fluency Model
* Declaration of Interdependence

Scaling Approaches

* Scrum of Scrums
* Lean PMO
* LeSS 
* SAFe 

Change Management

* Iterating towards agility
* Questioning to encourage action
* Create broad network of contacts
* Building strong relationships
* Crucial Conversations
* Fearless Change Patterns
* Kanban Method
* Kubler-Ross change curve
* Kotter’s 8 step model
* Lewin's model
* McKinsey 7-S model 
* ADKAR model
* Schein's organizational culture model
* Appreciative Inquiry


* Dangers of metrics
* Lean metrics
* Visualising metrics
* Personal KPIs
* Team KPIs

Thinking Tools

* Queuing Theory
* Systems Thinking
* Theory of Constraints

  • The Five Focusing steps
  • Current reality tree
  • Evaporating Cloud


* Questioning for realisation
* Questioning to encourage action
* Creating SMART goals
* GROW model
* FUEL model
* Neuro-linguistic programming 
* Body language to control the mind
* De-stressing techniques
* The Responsibility Process 
* Working with resistant people

Training / Teaching

* Reading the audience
* Keeping energy levels up
* Kolbs learning styles
* Learning Modalities
* Fleming's VARK model
* Games for learning
* Run Dojo’s
* Run Lean Coffees
* Run World Cafes
* Competency Based Training
* Creating training material
* Creating games


* 30s elevator pitch for agile
* Exhibit passion


* Interviewing Techniques
* Competencies to look for


* Awesome emails
* Excellent written
* Creating memorable presentations
* Presenting
* Using appropriate medium


* Backlog Prioritisation Frameworks

* Multi Team Boards
* Traditional Iron Triangle
* Agile Iron Triangle
* Release burn-ups
* Feature / Traffic Light charts
* MoSCoW categorisation


* Facilitate large groups
* Facilitate senior managers

Collaborative engagement techniques 

* Impact Mapping
* Value Stream Analysis

Self Development

* Experiment at work
* Self reflection
* Attend Meet-ups
* Attend Conferences
* Read Books, Articles, etc.

Motivating Others

* Autonomy
* Relatedness / Purpose
* Mastery
* Detractors / Inhibitors

Distributed Development

* Models
* Communication
* Engagement
* Technical Practices

Agile Contracts

* 10 types
* Building trust

Your Thoughts

Have I missed anything? 

Is there any that you disagree with?

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