Understanding Story Slicing in Scrum

In our last Office Hours, an attendee brought up the struggles of the team understanding how to slice stories into pieces of work small enough so that it fits into a Sprint. 


We like to always refer back to the INVEST criteria when looking at each product backlog item and whether or not it meets a Definition of Ready (DoR). One of the things that the INVEST criteria brings up is the need to slice product backlog items/user stories to ensure that the stories meet the S criteria – that they fit into a sprint. 


The INVEST criteria means a backlog item is:

(I) Immediately actionable;

(N) Negotiable; 

(V) Valuable; 

(E) Estimable (This is a great place to have a reference library and will also tell you how many story points can be added into the sprint);

(S) Small (Making sure this story is small enough to fit into a sprint); and

(T) Testable.


Taking a story out of one of our team’s playbooks, we can use grant writing as an example for story slicing in a way that helps product backlog items meet the INVEST criteria. Writing a grant in its entirety will not fit into our team’s one-week sprint. With this in mind we slice this story into bite-sized parts – V1, V2, V3, and in some cases, V4. We have a universal Definition of Done (DoD) for what each  and acceptance criteria (AC) for those stories. The Acceptance criteria will be the same stretched across all 3-4 stories while the definition of done will be specific to each. This is when the INVEST criteria comes into play. 


Our V1 is the first iteration of opening up the application and inputting any information we have along with sharing this with the client to input what they have at that time. This is valuable, estimable, small and testable along with estimated and negotiable within the team. You then will move V2 into the next sprint, V3 into the following sprint, etc. By the end, we have a full grant proposal completed and ready for submission. Sliced and finished faster than it would have been if we didn’t use the framework.(Curious to know the details behind this? We have the data to show how much faster this approach is than before we sliced stories in this way. Drop a note back and we can talk about the specifics.)


Interested in getting a deeper understanding of the product backlog and product backlog items? I hope you’ll join us for the Scrum Basics for Nonprofits course.


See you there!