Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur
jducoeur

Does anybody understand the concept of a story stack?

Pardon a brief programming-tools rant:

One of the basic concepts of many Agile processes -- and one I'm particularly fond of -- is the notion of the Story Stack. Each User Story is written down on a 5x7 card, describing succinctly what that story is about. The Product Manager holds the stack of cards. At any given time, the order of the stack represents the current priority order: we want This, then That, then The Other Thing. The order is intentionally fluid, because in the real world of product development you are constantly rethinking what really matters. (*Not* rethinking this constantly is one reason why so many old-fashioned processes produce great steaming piles of suckage.)

So why is it that not a single damned Agile toolkit I've found so far *gets* this? Yes, they all have Stories -- but they all fall into the lazy game of prioritizing them "High", "Medium", and "Low", or some variation of that. It does *not* mean the same thing! The entire point of the Story Stack is that you don't just use this kind of coarse-grained prioritization, you actually keep track of what should be *next*! Yes, that's more work, both to program and to manage. But it helps the programmers know what's really coming up next, and lets them dive into tasks with confidence. That's the whole point. And even when I'm working on my own, it's my preferred mode of operation.

It really burns me: I've played with something like ten products so far that claim to do Agile-process management, and all of them get it wrong. All it takes is getting the data model right, and having drag-and-drop to rearrange the stories. But no: all of them fall back into the simple-to-program priority-order lists, without the ability to do fine-grained rearrangement easily.

Grr. I am beginning to think I'm going to have to give up on these stupid things, and just use ToDoList for my management. Ironically, this apparently simple and unambitious little tool seems to be the only project-management system that actually works right...
Tags: programming
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