Antimatter Stories

Antimatter Stories

That’s User Stories, in case you were wondering.

The widely accepted format for User Stories (a form of requirements capture) goes something like:

As an X
I want to Y
So that Z

Outwith the real purpose of User Stories being as placeholders for future conversations, folks do tend to obsess over the written results. Both their format and their content.

So, the written form of User Stories attempts to capture the who (X), the what (Y) and the why (Z).

Needs Trump Value

We may alternatively choose to write our User Stories with the value stated first, thereby emphasising that the purpose of each User Story, when implemented, is to deliver some value, e.g.:

So that Z
As an X
I want to Y

Setting aside the issue of the widespread misunderstanding and misuse of the User Story concept, the idea that value is paramount seems almost universal.

But, from a human psychology perspective, needs trump value every time.

So might it not make more sense, if we choose to continue using the User Story, to capture folks’ needs, so we can attend to those need?

Something like:

As X (individual, human being)
When I hear/see Y
I feel F1, F2, F3…
Because I have a need for Z1, Z2, Z3…

Possibly augmented by a refusable request, and enclosed in an “Empathy envelope”. And with a separate story, or a separate aspect of the one story, for each and every person affected by it? Cf Covalence.

Some examples:

As Peter Smythe, in my role as IT Security Engineer
When I see someone attempting to access the system
I feel anxious
Because I need to keep my job – and that depends on preventing unauthorised access
[So would you be willing to ensure the system validates each access attempt via e.g. a logon screen to ensure only authorises people can have access]

As Helen Arbuthnot, in my role as sales assistant
When someone chooses to buy a can of beans
I feel happy our shop will make a sale
Because I need to have this job and get paid, and to help people
[So would you be willing to ensure that payment is taken, and the sale is accounted for]


I accept the relative lameness of these contrived examples. Would you be willing to provide more useful examples?

– Bob

  1. It would be neat to wrap the actual feedback from say Lean UX prototyping with real customers into this format to offer an authentic connection to the team. In my case we are several layers removed and are required to understand customer through a proxy organization. By a fluke of erroneous production data a customer (US Veterans) came into the team’s office looking for help on filling out one of the apps’s form by which they can obtain legal help. The team were blessed with a rare insight into what a Veteran goes through.
    As Pat Patriot, a Veteran
    When I seek professional help in obtaining benefits for service to my country
    I feel frustrated when I cannot understand how to use the online forms
    When I try to find someone to answer the questions I have about the form
    I feel isolated
    Because I need need to pay for injuries received during my period of service
    Would you be willing to change online request for help is contains the help I need to fill it out so that the needs of the service organization are met enabling it to be processed without delay.

  2. Martien said:

    Hi Bob, Your post reminds me of Alan Klement’s job stories. I must say I agree with Alan’s perspective, hence yours. The ‘when’, context or situation gives meaning to the story. I always say “context gives meaning”. It is missing from the standard story template. You might say that the traditional story template is deprecated.

    Also, all this story talk resonates with the focus on narratives, prompting questions and signifiers in the SenseMaker and Cynefin context, TMO.

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