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The value of pennies

Something that I have talked about in the past, but recently it has come back home how alien my thinking is to some people.

Many discussions with Product Owners go along the lines of:

Me: “We need to break this story down into smaller parts; it is too big at the moment.”

PO: “No. If you break it down, I won’t get the functionality I need.”

Me: “Once we’ve done all the stories, you’ll end up with the same functionality. We just can’t keep all this in our head at once.”

PO: “What you are suggesting isn’t giving me enough value. I need all of it.”

Pennies make pounds

In the UK, the base unit of currency is the penny. The US and Europe have cents; we like to be different.

I, and I am sure many other people, don’t particularly like pennies. They get thrown into any nearby charity box when I am given them. Or donated to my sons; watching a two-year-old trying to buy sweets with 3p always brings a smile to my face.

This is a value decision; pennies aren’t worth much to me, certainly not for the weight in my pocket.

However, if I was saving up for something, in particular, say a kayak, roughly £800, pennies would become more attractive. Again, a value decision.

They aren’t worth much, but they are worth something. Every penny I save is one small step closer to my goal.

Would I like to save £100 at a time? Yes.

Am I likely to find £100 down the back of the sofa? No. I’ll take the penny; thank you. Or a pound.

No matter how small, each coin saved is one more step I do not need to take.

Even small stories have value

Like the penny, even the smallest story has value as long as it moves you in the right direction.

Not necessarily much value. Maybe not even enough to call for beers for the team. But some.

Don’t discard breaking stories down. An extra index card or line in an Excel spreadsheet is not a huge overhead. If it helps the team deliver, the minor cost is worth it.

Over time enough small pieces of value will come together and give you something great – like a new kayak.

For more on product breakdown, check out our article Premature Estimation

Take a look at the Scrum Alliance’s Tips for product backlog refinement

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