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Teddy Zetterlund – Product Coach

Splitting stories like a journalist

When people are new to (agile) software development, I have found that splitting stories can be a confusing and difficult exercise for many. Splitting (also synonymous with slicing) stories is the activity of dividing stories too big for effective development into new, smaller, stories.

Many good techniques and tips for splitting stories exists already (some linked to at the end of this post). Yet, I’d like to introduce a simple alternative to splitting stories, that doesn’t care about story formats, software development terms, and other jargon.

“The Five Ws (sometimes referred to as Five Ws and How, 5W1H, or Six Ws) are questions whose answers are considered basic in information gathering or problem solving. They are often mentioned in journalism, research and police investigations.”

Five Ws – Wikipedia

Splitting stories like a journalist is asking questions, using the the Five Ws and How, to learn more about a story and expand our thinking about how it can be divided into smaller stories. The questions all start with either What, Why, When, Where, Who, or How.

Splitting stories using the Five Ws and How on the story’s solution, problem, and context. #

Example: “Formatting toolbar” #

To demonstrate how this might work, we’ll continue with an example.

What we learned from our questions #

Alright. Before we continue, let’s take a look at what we’ve learnt already:

What’s next? #

That should give you an idea about how the Five Ws and How can be used to explore and expand our understanding of a story. From this short conversation there’s already quite a few opportunities for splitting the original story, “formatting toolbar”, to smaller stories, which we then can ship one after another.

Since there’s also, in this example, fewer styling alternatives needed for each kind of user. A toolbar might even not be needed. Maybe there’s a simpler user interface that is available now that we don’t need as many styling options.

I hope that gave some ideas of how you can work with dividing stories into smaller stories. And when you’re ready to level up your game, I suggest you use the same questions on the story’s problem statement and context as well, and not just on the proposed solution.

If you have any story splitting techniques or tips to share. Please do, below in the comments.