4 workshops to destroy Silos: 3/4 – The Story Mapping

About time right? I know, the suspens has been killing you, what the hell is the 3rd workshop about?! So today we’re going to talk a little bit about the Story Mapping, a great way to define the content of a project or epic πŸ‘Œ

Define the path

So far, we worked on 2 aspects:

  • A clear objective: the Lightning Session is where you present it, discuss it and clarify why you want to get there
  • A shared & complete understanding of the current system: the Event Storming was there to help you with this one

So we have the destination and the map, now we need to define the path from where we are to where we want to be and one interesting way of doing this is by telling a story πŸ“– We’ll go through 3 steps for that.

1. The Hero of your story: the persona πŸ¦Έβ€β™€οΈ

Any good story starts with great characters and this one is no different. Before we can detail a little bit what we want him to do, we need to know who the user is. It can be a very simple description like Visitor of the website or something more detailed like what’s his age, profession, cultural background, financial situation, daily activities…any information that might dictate his behavior.

Let’s apply this to me for exemple:

  • One simple way to define me as a persona could be
    • Olivier, agile coach.
      That’s not much information but you can suppose at least that I will be interested in agile practices and communities πŸ€“
  • A more detailed persona would be
    • Olivier, 39 years old, agile coach. Technology geek and amateur of blockbusters. Likes to travel, discover new places and different cultures. Fairly organized, social person by nature, interested in systems & groups dynamics and how to help teams & individuals grow and become efficient.
      Ok now we have a lot more going on here right. Going back to the agile community, based on this description you can bet that an agile conference abroad might be of even more interest to me πŸ˜‰

2. Tell the tale

I know, you didn’t see that coming 😯 Time to give your Hero a story! But there’s a trick here, this story is about the future 🎱 The objective of the exercise is to focus on what behavior do we want to create in our user in order to achieve the objective. This might be the hardest part of the Story Mapping but it’s also the most exciting one, brainstorm without constraints, let everyone participate, share their crazy ideas and iterate until you finally identify a solution that looks promising and that you want to invest in. Don’t try to find the best solution, there’s a big chance that it doesn’t even exists. Instead identify a few possibilities, select one and go for it.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Focus on behavior, not features: at this stage we are not trying to define the what but the how. I’m not sure what will be the action to find a product (a search field, some filters, a bot that asks you questions…there are a lot of options) but I know that I want the customer to look at products that I sell;
  • Create drafts of User Stories: or whatever format you are using to describe a functional need. Don’t go too much into details at this point (but don’t be too general either), find the sweet spot that gives enough information on what should be the user activity here but don’t get too technical. The importance of this step in the user journey has to be clear and that’s pretty much it. Going back to my precedent exemple the following description would be enough:
    As a buyer
    I want to have access to your catalog
    In order to see if you sell the product I’m looking for
  • Focus on business impact: at the end of the exercise, depending on the creativity of the people involved, you might end up with a lot of stories and you will have to make choices. As always, business impact should be the most important criteria. Chances are you’re not going to do everything so focus your energy on what seems mandatory right now and reassess the rest of the backlog later.
    For exemple maybe you don’t need your customer to access the whole catalog, a simple search is enough for now. And maybe it is the other way around, it won’t be possible to search for a product for now, they’ll have to go through the catalog and look at the products available…

    To help take those decisions I like to ask people to assess the stories based on what impact they should generate on the business and how costly they are. Once again nothing too detailed, we don’t spend too much time on it (one hour or less), this is just to have a macro vision of things. Another interesting exercise that can help is the Extreme Quotation.

3. You’re almost done!

Good, the hardest part is over, go take a break you deserve it πŸ₯΅β˜•

Now one of the objective of all this is to plan work collaboratively, so there is one last thing that you need to do: group those awesome stories into sprints. Go back to the impact/cost matrix, select stories that make sense together and answer to a common business objective and give a priority to each group: TADAAAAA, your sprints are ready! And if you are struggling in defining priorities, remember this simple and well known trick:

Imagine the next iteration is the last one we will do, no more time nor budget after that. What should we be working on so that the increment was worth it?

Once again, everyone involved will be present here so if there is any risk (like this is too much work for one iteration) people will be able to raise their hand and talk. Then you can find solutions together, rearrange groups, take decisions and align everyone.

Its Magic GIFs | Tenor

What could go wrong πŸ€·β€β™‚οΈ

It all looks pretty good and used properly this workshop is a big help and usually quite enjoyable (note that I didn’t say easy). Nevertheless, like any other tool, it can also do more harm than good and there is one thing that we learned the hard way: one path, one story mapping!

When working on defining the user journey and the different activities he will be performing, it is easy to get lost in different paths. Those will exist for sure and you might be tempted to start integrating all of them in your diagram. Well let’s be clear, this is a very bad idea!

  • First of all it will unnecessarily complexify the exercise. You will get lost into details that are not even important right now. Start with the most common situation and do another session for each different journey
  • It will take too much time and I’m pretty sure you will regret it (at least I know we did πŸ€¦β€β™‚οΈ). Once again there’s a high probability that you won’t do everything you talked about. After delivering some stuff and analyzing the reaction of you clients you might need to rethink what to do next, so make sure you don’t overthink it
  • You will loose people focus and energy. Having people involved in a workshop is usually easy when they understand how it will help them. Having people involved in a workshop that last several hours is a little bit more complicated but still manageable with the right rhythm. But having people involved and focused several hours in a remote workshop is nearly impossible…they will definitely drift away (I already shared my thoughts on this topic here)

One more thing πŸ˜€

So that was the Story Mapping. I’m pretty sure this is not the first article you read about it (or maybe it is and you found this one first, yaaaay lucky me πŸ€) and if you haven’t tried it yet I definitely encourage you to do so! As always this is not something we do all the time (and maybe we should change that) but it has proven useful for us. Not only to align everyone on a solution but also to find out that what we had in mind is not that clear or not such a good idea after all.

Yup, the second time we did the exercise (and after a few hours of workshops) one question took everyone aback and once the discussion was over the result became clear to all: we simply cannot do that! Isn’t that great?! We had invested quite some time thinking about all of this and you could think “What a waste of time…” but I must admit that I was thrilled when this happened! Having people from different department of the company (business, product and IT) discussing and brainstorming together for a few hours had allowed us to find out that this great thing we wanted to do was not so great after all and that we still missed a clear understanding of the problem and how to solve it. I know, I know, this is basic agile mindset: work together, try, learn and adapt, small batches and short iterations…etc…But it’s always a great experience to see it in action πŸ‘Š

Anyway, that was us…but what about you, do you use Story Mapping? What have you learned from it? Or if you haven’t do you think you’re going to try it? In what context and why? As always I’m quite interested in your feedbacks so let me know in the comments section ✍️

Did you like this article? Show it

Leave a comment, like on LinkedIn πŸ‘ and share! Your help and feedback is important, it helps me learn and keep improving, thank you πŸ˜€

Published by Olivier Rouhaud

I'm an Agile Coach, Scrum Master & manager convinced that human centered teams and organisations are the most interesting and efficient!

2 thoughts on “4 workshops to destroy Silos: 3/4 – The Story Mapping

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: