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How to: Facilitating a Story Elaboration Workshop

Updated: April 6, 2022

How well does your team understand the intent behind each user story and how it will be implemented?

High performing teams have an aligned understanding and effective discussion about the scope of each story and how it will be implemented. For me, it always comes down to a quality conversation. The easiest way to achieve this is by inviting the entire team to a story elaboration workshop where we can create a shared understanding.

In this article, I share our approach to facilitating a high-impact story elaboration workshop.


Before we begin: Backlog grooming

To be ready for a User Story Workshop, you need a well-maintained and groomed backlog.


What does this mean exactly?

  • removing user stories that no longer appear relevant
  • creating new user stories in response to newly discovered needs
  • re-assessing the relative priority of stories
  • assigning estimates to stories that have yet to receive one
  • correcting estimates in light of newly discovered information
  • splitting user stories which are a high priority but too coarse-grained to fit in an upcoming iteration


When is this done? 

Usually 30 minutes once a sprint by the PO and any other interested parties. This is likely significantly higher at the start of a product increment/project.


Leading a User Story Elaboration workshop

AKA: User Story Review, User Story Requirements

Objectives of the session: Fundamentally create a shared understanding of each story across the team in order to draw on the collective mindset, transfer knowledge across the team and enable any team member to kick the story off.

When: Teams tend to do this twice weekly for 30 minutes, depending on the velocity of the team.



STEP 1: Bring User Stories

Select the next few stories for development based on priority and

bring them to the session.

Assigned to: PO



Draw this to a wall to review the stories, adding the first one for review:

Assigned to: PO/ Analyst



Step through each item, moving fast by time boxing discussions and parking items quickly to be problem solved offline. You should end up with something like the below. Note, if you have UX designs, bring them along for the discussion!

Assigned to: Anyone



Before moving onto the next story, look into the next steps:

  • Does the estimate need to be changed?
  • Are all of the questions owned or ready for whoever kicks off the story?
  • What tasks are needed to deliver this story? Do we need to card them up?
  • Do we need to touch base with any stakeholders?

Assigned to: Team


Where does this ceremony exist within the scheme of things?