I was speaking once to the CEO of a small company, saying how valuable I found it to have small user stories for teams to work through. Not only is there a sense of achievement from moving them to Done, but they enable much more precise prioritisation. We can get one thing done, choose to deprioritise another, move a third one further up the list… and so on. And that means we deliver more effectively.
“And,” she said, “they’re great for communication. Otherwise a really large piece of work sits in one person’s head, and no-one else really understands it.” I thought this was a great point. With large pieces of work there’s often a documented design, but that only conveys what the final result should look like; it doesn’t explain how to put it together. The “putting it together” part—both the breakdown and the prioritisation—is the work not just of engineers, but also product managers and others, who can help determine which elements can exist without which others, what outcomes are most urgent, and so on.
This was also another reminder to me that good practices have different benefits to different stakeholders. I don’t think I’d have thought of the “communications” benefit myself; it took someone with different daily pressures to help me see that.