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Refining the Big Scary Story

Firstly, let’s get two things straight:

  • Refinement == Design
  • Design == Drawing

Secondly, you might have noticed that a whiteboard session doesn’t need to use an actual whiteboard anymore.

You can collaborate via ‘whiteboard’ in Teams, you can do it in Zoom, you can get plugins for miro and figma or mural or clickup. There are many options and many overlapping tools – but how often do you actually use them?

How often do you sit down with a backlog for example and discuss a single, scary story and elaborate it in a refinement session across your entire product?

Often we get obsessed with ticking off lists, whether they be in Jira or Azure DevOps or wherever they are. We get obsessed with the tool driving our habits. We get lazy or we get impassive and we just want the lists to go away so we Click Click Click.

What about flipping this all on its head? Try taking the work out of the tool for a change and using the whiteboard (whether in person or virtual) to elaborate.

Take a single story, a big one, one that your team has been dreading doing, and refine it fully.

Draw it out on your favourite collaboration tool – the design, the architecture, the understanding that you have. Discuss the implications of the choices you have made in the past and the ones you might make in the future.

Do not fear refinement. Do not fear the whiteboard. Do not fear the mistakes you made in the past or the ones you will undoubtedly make in the future. Instead, be bold, discuss ideas, dare to dream.

Those big scary stories need writing down, they need drawing out, they need you to spend some time with them. And they don’t need to be so scary anymore.

Collaboration isn’t the software engineer or designer’s default mode. However we have the tools. We have the ability to share. We have very few excuses not to do something different.

So just try it. And be sure to let me know how you get on.