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Story Mapping Playbook

Overview

Story mapping is a powerful, collaborative technique to develop an intuitive, visual represention of what customers need to do to achieve an outcome and what we need to deliver to bring that about.

Use story mapping to…

  • Create a clear, intuitive visualisation for your work

  • Establish a shared understanding of scope and priorities

  • Ensure all your work is connected to customer outcomes

  • Promote customer empathy and outcome based approach

  • Identify gaps, reconcile boundaries and uncover a comprehensive view across all stakeholders

  • Create a structured value based backlog

  • Develop an iterative and incremental release plan that reduces delivery risk

There are 7 steps in completing this Playbook

  1. Preparation

  2. Frame the context

  3. Map the steps to achieving the outcome

  4. Break each step down into deliverables

  5. Define releases

  6. Using your Story Map

Participants

  • Team

  • Product Owner

  • Scrum Master

  • Invited Stakeholders

Difficulty

 

3 - Moderate

Duration

  • 2 - 8 hours (depending on the scale)

Materials

  • A big wall and lots of Post-it Notes, (or the virtual equivalent)

3 - Moderate.png
Route Planning

Introduction

A Story Map is structured in a way that makes deliverables that support an outcome visible so that a shared understanding of what needs to be provided can emerge.  Once you've done a few of them you can adapt the structure to better suit your needs, but I'd recommend sticking to the basic structure until you're familiar with how the whole thing works together.

Persona

A depiction of who will use the product or service and benefit from the outcome

Purpose

The OUTCOME the person using this wants to achieve

Key Features

The features we need to provide to enable the OUTCOME, these can simply be groups of steps in the backbone

Backbone

The ‘backbone’ represents the steps the user of the product or service will complete in order to create the outcome

Stories

Stories are the individual deliverables that contribute to the steps the user will complete

Release 1

Release slices

Represents the subset of stories that can be released together

Release 2

Release 3

Preparation

Bring the right people

  • Your entire Team, or teams for a larger initiative, it is really important that you get input from everyone who will be part of building the customer outcomes

  • Your Product Owner or a Business Representative who understands the customer context and the problems to solve, the business and the technology

  • Any other people that can bring diverse perspectives or who can contribute to understanding the problems or delivering the solutions

  • Facilitator, if you're not experienced facilitating large workshops, it can be useful to bring in a coach or facilitator

Prepare your ingredients

Bring clarity on the situation

You may not have the problem statement defined yet, but try to bring as much about the customer's situation as you can.

  • The customer's situation

  • Customer feedback, complaints, interviews or any other direct input from customers

  • The current state of the product or service

  • The processes or practices that contribute

  • What is happening in the marketplace outside your organisation?

If your session is virtual, prepare presentations that help attendees understand the above.​

Establish a creative space

Prepare the room with posters and information centres that bring all the learnings available about the customer, product, processes and marketplace.  Put lots of different coloured Post-it Notes and coloured markers around the tables.  If virtual, be prepared to share the same details via screen or miro board or similar.

Frame the context

TITLE: Name the product or service you’re mapping from the perspective of the person who will benefit from it, not a system name or an acronym. Think about what it does that is useful. What is the customer or business capability it provides?

Write the title in large text at the top of your Story Map.

PERSONA: Who utilise the product or service?  This could be ‘internal’ people like an operations team or a call centre that will use or maintain it. 

Write the persona nice and large on a card and post it immediately below the title.

PURPOSE: What is the purpose of the product or service?  What problem does it solve for the customer?

Write the purpose nice and large on a card and post it to the right of the persona card

PRO TIP!

It can be difficult and time consuming to create a story map that represents the needs of all the customer and business personas who will use it, start with one key persona, you can always revisit the story map you create if there are differences that make a difference in the way different people will use it.

Map the steps to achieving the outcome

With clarity on who this is for, (the persona,) and the outcome they want, (the purpose,) we can map out the steps they would take to acheive that outcome.

1. Diverge to collect as many inputs as possible

This is a good time to diverge, you want to gather as many ideas about what steps the person using this product or service might need to complete on their way to the outcome.

Ask everyone in your Story Mapping Workshop to capture the steps they individually think the customer would take in their journey through this product or service.

Let people know that this is a high level set of steps that tells the story of the person completing the steps, there should be a logical flow to these steps in chronological order, but don't worry too much if a step is not perfectly described, we'll improve what we have when we converge together again and review what we have created.

2. Converge to bring everyone's inputs together

Form workshop participants into small groups to discuss what they individually created and bring their inputs together into one more effective backbone.  Some steps identified during the individual thinking step may need to be split into multiple steps and some steps can be combined into one, it is the conversation that emerges that is important, this will uplift everyone's empathy for the customer's situation and improve their understanding of the customer's journey.

3. Bring everything together into a single backbone

Next bring the entire workshop together to repeat the process with the backbones created by each small group.  Once again, it is the conversation that matters most.

You are creating the ‘Backbone’ of your story map, – a single line of high-level steps in chronological order, left to right. Use a different coloured card or Post-it note to make your backbone visibly different to the other story map elements and place this in a single row under the purpose.  Leave enough space to fit in the feature csrds later if this is a large or complex story map. 

Example: getting ready for work

Sally staff member

Arrive happy and fresh

Get out of bed

Shower and dress

Breakfast

Catch the bus

Arrive at work

PRO TIP!

Timebox each step to 10 or 15 minute blocks of time.

The first thoughts people have are the best, given too much time they will start second-guessing themselves and agonising over details that don't matter.

Break each step down into deliverables

Having mapped out the steps the customer would take in order to receive the outcome they seek, we can break each step down into the individual deliverables that will allow the customer to that step.

Ideally, each step is represented as a "user story" which is just a format for agreeing the details of what needs to be delivered.

If you're not familiar with user stories, don't worry, for the purposes of this workshop, just think of them as small discreet deliverables that your team can deliver that contribute to the step and the overall outcome.

There are lots of good resources out there to help you learn about user story formats.

The conversation is what matters.

Ask your participants, "What would need to be in place for the customer to be able to complete this step?"

Allow the conversation to flow, but keep it to the subject.  No idea should be discounted and try to avoid shooting down contributions that seem misaligned.

Capture each deliverable on its own Post-it note.

Prioritise wiht common sense

When you feel you have captured most of what would need to be delivered, you can prioritise the user stories by simply positioning them so that the highest priorities are at the top with the rest vertically in descending order of priority.

Sally staff member

Arrive happy and fresh

Get out of bed

Shower and dress

Breakfast

Catch the bus

Arrive at work

Audible alarm

Shower

Cereal

Snooze feature

Soap

Choose music

Shampoo

Towel

Clothing

Wardrobe

Define Releases

Sally staff member

Arrive happy and fresh

Get out of bed

Shower and dress

Breakfast

Catch the bus

Arrive at work

Audible alarm

Shower

Soap

Now that you have the basic story map in place, you can use it to plan what your releases.

Some people recommend drawing a line that represents the first release and dropping everything that is not included in that release below the line.

My suggestion is to do the opposite, create some space between your backbone and your stories
and draw the line above the stories.  You can now
bring the things that must be included in the first release above the line.

It is a subtle but important difference and supports a more critical thinking process when you're deciding what should go into a release.  Ideally your releases should be as small as possible so you reduce risk and get things into the customer's hands sooner and learn faster.

Release 1

Towel

Clothing

Release 2

Snooze feature

Shampoo

Cereal

Release 3

Choose music

Wardrobe

Using your Story Map

Congratulations! You're done! Or are you...?

While there's enormous value in the conversations we had and the deeper understanding we now have over the customer context and what we need to do, the real value comes when we use the story map we created.

  • Make sure it is accessible and visible to your team and stakeholders. A Story Map should be visible so it can be referenced by the team to enable other conversations, bring it out for events like Backlog Refinement and Sprint Planning.

  • Share it. It is a Story Map, so tell the story!  Share that story with customers colleagues, collaborators, and leaders.

  • Continue to refine it.  A Story Map is a living artefact: use what you learn every time you release value to make it better. Embellish it with ancillary information if useful, and decorate it to give it your team’s personal touch.

  • Create a backlog.  Translate each note on your map into User Stories.

  • Reference it. Use it in your team’s ceremonies and in day-to-day discussions about the current and future state of your product/service. 

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