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See Dick See Dick the PM Run

See Dick.
See Dick run.
Run Dick run.

See Jane.
See Jane run.
Run Jane run.

You get the idea.

When I was in the first grade, those were the first sentences I remember reading.  I remember being frustrated by this because this isn’t really how we talk.  Well, actually, it isn’t how I talk.

I suffer from a self-described affliction called over-descriptivitis.  I can’t help but elaborate on any and every idea I’m trying to articulate.  I never thought it was a problem.  I merely communicate the greatest level of granular detail to my recipient and allowed them to filter out the extraneous information.  If my wife asks me what I did at work today, I will tell her everything in chronological order.  TMI?

My wife is very forgiving when it comes to me offering more than she asks for.  Sometimes she just puts her hand up and asks, “can I have the abridged version?”  My over-descriptivitis was even addressed in our wedding vows.

I promise I will tell you the time, not how the clock was built.

So,what’s the point I’m trying to get across? It’s about articulating requirements.  It doesn’t matter if you’re using shall statements or user stories.  You need to go into enough detail that the person reading it understands your need(s).  After you decide on your format, try to be consistent.

Formal shall statement format:
The [activity] shall [desired outcome]

Standard user story format:
As a [perspective], I want to [activity], so I can [desired outcome]

Though it may be my over-descriptivitis acting up, I prefer using user stories.  I like the fact that it paints a clearer picture.

How about you?  Do you prefer formal shall statements or user stories? Why?

About Derek Huether

I'm Vice President of Enterprise Engagements at LeadingAgile. I'm super focused on results. But I also take the hand waving out of organizational transformations. I come from a traditional PM background but I don't give points for stuff done behind the scenes. The only thing that counts is what you get done and delivered. Author of Zombie Project Management (available on Amazon)

12 Responses to “See Dick See Dick the PM Run”

  1. June 9, 2010 at 9:44 am

    Cool… veeeery interesting how first grade books used to be so similar… I could swear I had such sentences in my first class reading book in Greece too :-)

    Now to the topic… Well I guess it depends on the complexity of the desired outcome. If a shall statement is enough, why bothering writing it in a standard user story format, otherwise I am with you.

    • Derek Huether
      June 9, 2010 at 11:19 am

      Vicky, thank you for the insights. I felt a little old but very nostalgic when I saw the pic from the school book. The book would probably now state something like See GenY. See Geny Text. Text GenY text.

      Perhaps I just like to write superfluous information. Perhaps I just wanted to use the word superfluous in a post. I still like painting a picture from a structured format. If I said shall all of the time, in real life, you’d think I was Data from Star Trek TNG.

  2. June 9, 2010 at 2:44 am

    Cool… veeeery interesting how first grade books used to be so similar… I could swear I had such sentences in my first class reading book in Greece too :-)

    Now to the topic… Well I guess it depends on the complexity of the desired outcome. If a shall statement is enough, why bothering writing it in a standard user story format, otherwise I am with you.

    • Derek Huether
      June 9, 2010 at 4:19 am

      Vicky, thank you for the insights. I felt a little old but very nostalgic when I saw the pic from the school book. The book would probably now state something like See GenY. See Geny Text. Text GenY text.

      Perhaps I just like to write superfluous information. Perhaps I just wanted to use the word superfluous in a post. I still like painting a picture from a structured format. If I said shall all of the time, in real life, you’d think I was Data from Star Trek TNG.

  3. Paul Boos
    June 9, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Derek,

    I really like the Use-case format from the ReadySet templates: http://readyset.tigris.org Short, concise, and descriptive, very much like the user story format you have above. (i.e. No use-case diagram, but a structured worded format. I’d only add a diagram if it helped make things clearer; that may be more often than some would like, but as an ex-aviator type, pictures allow me to more readily see how things should be organized.) I would avoid shall statements like the plague.

    • Derek Huether
      June 9, 2010 at 11:59 am

      Paul, very nice resource! I’m certainly one of those picture-worth-a-thousand-words types. I’m also an ex-aviator. US Marines CH53A/D 1987-1991

  4. Paul Boos
    June 9, 2010 at 4:51 am

    Derek,

    I really like the Use-case format from the ReadySet templates: http://readyset.tigris.org Short, concise, and descriptive, very much like the user story format you have above. (i.e. No use-case diagram, but a structured worded format. I’d only add a diagram if it helped make things clearer; that may be more often than some would like, but as an ex-aviator type, pictures allow me to more readily see how things should be organized.) I would avoid shall statements like the plague.

    • Derek Huether
      June 9, 2010 at 4:59 am

      Paul, very nice resource! I’m certainly one of those picture-worth-a-thousand-words types. I’m also an ex-aviator. US Marines CH53A/D 1987-1991

  5. June 11, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    See Dick the PM run.
    See Dick the PM reach into his medicine cabinet for another Ativan.
    See Dick the PM drool on his EVA sheets.

    I like this post. A very smart woman said to me once, when I got verbal diarrhea in an executive briefing, “Geoff, there were two possible answers to that question: ‘yes’ and ‘no’. You picked one and could have stopped there but boy you just kept right on going, didn’t you?”

    I got the message. LOL

    • Derek Huether
      June 11, 2010 at 7:15 pm

      There is rarely a meeting that I don’t go off into left field, trying to make a point. I then see smiles in the room and someone slowly makes a time out sign. I ask if they want me to make this long story shorter. Several will then nervously nod yes. Oops

  6. June 12, 2010 at 1:49 am

    See Dick the PM run.
    See Dick the PM reach into his medicine cabinet for another Ativan.
    See Dick the PM drool on his EVA sheets.

    I like this post. A very smart woman said to me once, when I got verbal diarrhea in an executive briefing, “Geoff, there were two possible answers to that question: ‘yes’ and ‘no’. You picked one and could have stopped there but boy you just kept right on going, didn’t you?”

    I got the message. LOL

    • Derek Huether
      June 12, 2010 at 2:15 am

      There is rarely a meeting that I don’t go off into left field, trying to make a point. I then see smiles in the room and someone slowly makes a time out sign. I ask if they want me to make this long story shorter. Several will then nervously nod yes. Oops

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