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Product Managers Shouldn't Write User Stories

Toby Rogers
Toby Rogers
Hello fellow punks! 
Welcome to the 105 of you who have signed up for this since the last issue. It’s great to have you on board. Hopefully you’ll stick with me while I figure out what this newsletter is all about.
Here’s this week’s issue ⬇️

What's the user story, morning glory?
User stories are the lifeblood of agile product development. They help you define your product with clarity and articulate its functionality in a language everyone can understand.
Well-written user stories are a powerful tool for communication and collaboration, enabling everyone on the product team to focus on what matters most—creating meaningful value for your customers. 
But who’s job is it to create them? 
The standard Scrum approach is for the product manager (or owner) to write the initial user stories then work on them with the team in their review sessions. It’s part of the ceremony, but it’s a hugely inefficient way to define what you’re going to build. Done badly, it even risks reinventing the Waterfall-style approach of writing requirements to throw over the wall to development. 
So what’s a better way? 
Allen Holub sums it up perfectly with this tweet:
Allen Holub
User stories are discovered, not invented or "written." Have a conversation with your customer/users about their work—what they do and why they do it. Take notes on a card. That’s your story.

A PO sitting alone at a desk "writing stories" is dysfunction, plain and simple.
User stories evolve through a process of discovery and ideation. 
Great user stories act as signposts to all the work that’s already taken place to draw them out.
Creating user stories isn’t about making sure your engineers have a list of features to build—it’s about empowering the team to figure out the value a product can bring to its customers. 
That’s not something that can be done in isolation.
Toby Rogers 🚀🤘
Creating user stories is a collaborative process.

If you're a product manager writing them to hand over to engineering, you've got a problem.
What I've been reading 📚
The coronavirus pandemic ushered in a seismic shift in the way we do work.
No longer are businesses tied to offices or cities or even countries. Truly global-first companies can emerge from anywhere, but the infrastructure to support them is going to need to catch up:
The Company of the Future is Default Global | Andreessen Horowitz
As a product manager, your product is decisions. Not just the decisions you make, but all the decisions that get made about your product.
What’s critical is making sure you’ve got a process in place to optimise the pace and quality of decision-making within your organisation:
Sustainable Decision Making
In the old days, stakeholders communicated needs to PMs, who wrote requirements and handed them over to design, then everything was wrapped up in a ticket for development.
The problem with this approach, though, is that context is lost at every stage. One of the biggest benefits of continuous product discovery is there are no (or very few) hand-offs:
Discovery Hand-Offs Kill Momentum: Here’s What to Do Instead - Product Talk
What I've been writing ✍️
A year ago I was using Twitter mostly for entertainment with a couple of thousand followers I’d acquired when I was still a freelance music journalist.
Fast-forward 365 days and my follower count is nearly 18,000, and I’ve built some incredible online relationships, simply by making it a habit to tweet about product management every day.
Here’s what I’ve learned along the way:
Toby Rogers 🚀🤘
I've tweeted about product management every day for the last 365 days.

In that time I've grown from 2k to 17.5k followers.

Here's what I've learned:
Product discovery is hard, but there are ways you can make it easier.
Here are some of my favourite threads about doing product discovery that you can add to your toolkit:
Toby Rogers 🚀🤘
11 threads guaranteed to help every product manager get better at product discovery:
I’m a huge fan of utilising mental models to think through problems. My favourite is the OODA Loop, but there are plenty of others that have helped me as a product manager.
Here’s a thread with nine of them:
Toby Rogers 🚀🤘
9 mental models every product manager should know:
That’s it! 
See you next week (probably). 
Toby 
The Punk PM 
P.S. Feel free to share this with anyone else you think would find it interesting.
I’m still playing around with ideas for content and format for this newsletter, so I’d love to hear your thoughts. Go ahead and shoot me an email with ways you think I can make it better.
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Toby Rogers
Toby Rogers @tobiasrogers

Product management musings from your favourite Punk PM

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