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User Stories Represent Outcomes
When used properly, user stories represent the outcomes you’re trying to reach with your product. Jenny Martin describes the OOPSI model which provides a way to find the “highest value outcomes (expressed in user stories), then the highest value outputs that achieve those outcomes, then the highest value processes that deliver those outputs, then the highest value scenarios and examples that help clarify the required implementation.”
If you’re looking for a way to keep your user stories confined to as small of a scope as possible, you may want to try a technique that John Cutler uses. He works backwards from a theoretical discussion with his users post-release to consider “how to de-scope, thin out, split, batch, and divide work.”
If you’d like a deeper understanding of how user stories came about and how they should be used in the broader activity of delivering a specific outcome, take a look at this quick reference put together by Jeff Patton. You’ll find out how to use stories as the “tokens for the conversations you’ll use to plan, design, describe, construct, and validate your product.”
Mike Cohn literally wrote the (first) book on user stories which became the basis for the industry standard view of stories. He compiled this overview of information about user stories that provides a good introduction to the technique and includes access to a couple hundred example user stories to get you started.