Chapter 17. Stories Are Actually Like Asteroids

If you’re of a certain age, you may fondly recall playing an early video game called Asteroids. Stick with me here for a moment. I promise this is relevant.

In the game Asteroids, you’re represented by a little ship floating deep in outer space. But you’re stranded in a field of huge asteroids, and you need to shoot your way out to survive! If you shoot a big asteroid, it explodes into a few smaller asteroids. And, to make things more complicated, these smaller asteroids move faster, and in different directions—which makes it harder for you to keep from getting hit. If you shoot one of those smaller asteroids, it’ll break into even smaller asteroids that move even faster in different directions. Pretty soon, the screen is full of asteroids of all different sizes flying in every possible direction. Happily, when you shoot the tiniest asteroids, they blow up completely and help clear away this mess.

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A really bad asteroid strategy is to shoot all the big rocks and break them down into small rocks. The screen fills with lots of small rocks flying every which way, and you’ll die a quick and painful death.

A really bad product backlog management strategy is to break down all the big stories so they’re small enough to fit into the next development cycle. Your backlog will fill with lots of small stories flying every which way, and you’ll die. ...

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