There's another idea from Tim Brown's Change by Design I thought was worth writing about. It's the idea of divergence and convergence. Early in a design project (or any project), we want to collect lots of ideas. This is divergence...creating lots of possible choices. Linus Pauling, winner of 2 Nobel prizes, stated "To have a good idea, you must first have lots of ideas." If you're writing user stories, don't try to limit story creation. Just because a story is written doesn't mean it will be delivered but if it's never written it definitely won't be delivered.
Brown provides some ideas for generating ideas
- Have an overarching purpose. I think of Design the Box when I hear this.
- Involve the whole organization (or whole project team, sounds like agile again).
- Don't discard ideas just based on who came up with them
- Allow people room to experiment. This sounds like a spike to me.
Now we get to convergence; making our choices. This is where we take a look at all our ideas and decide which ones to move forward with. It's grooming the backlog, prioritizing the stories, and throwing away the ones that don't fit our goal. Again, we should use our vision to help make these decisions.
Brown points out the design is both art and science. The divergence is about being creative. The convergence is about using more analytical tools to make decisions. Also, don't think of this as a linear process...you may go back and forth between the two steps. For example, you just finished an iteration and are getting ready to plan the next one. You may have a divergent step and you synthesize the information generated in the iteration and demonstration but you need to quickly move to convergence to pick the user stories for the next iteration.