Retrospective on enjoyment and business value

Software development is not all about the business value, you need to enjoy what you are doing as well. And this is a good idea for a retrospective meeting for an agile team. My team decided to test if there is any correlation between enjoying working on a story and its business value.

The source of data were about 20 completed stories from the backlog put on post-it notes. The very latest completed story landed in the middle of a graph, where X axis represented Enjoyment (did we enjoy the work, was it fun, technically challenging, insightful?) and Y axis represented Business Value (how useful do we feel the story was to the business).

value v enjoyment-01


We were thinking in relative terms, so the bottom left part of the graph didn’t mean absolutely no value and absolutely no fun (what Product Owner would allow that anyway?), but the least value and least fun out of all the analysed stories.
Having the first story in the middle of the graph, every other story was judged compare to it – was it more or less valuable/fun?


value v enjoyment-02Having judged the latest completed stories, it was interesting to see where the upcoming stories would be placed. We put them on the graph in orange.

value v enjoyment-03

Best stories

What made some stories landed in the top right corner of the graph? Quoting the team:
  • Larger pieces of work
  • Time to get stuck in
  • Genuinely interesting and novel work
  • Business value is very clear
  • Lots of coding involved
  • Requires creative problem solving
  • No external dependencies on other teams
  • Really positive user feedback
  • Well aligned with the team purpose

Bad stories

A couple of stories landed in the bottom left corner of the chart. Why? Quoting the team again:
  • Repetitive
  • Not sure why we are doing it
  • No feedback or metric that it made any difference
  • Not much coding – think config changes and software upgrades
  • Always blocked on other teams
  • Seemingly simple change but large time investment
  • Delayed business value – no immediate benefit

Is there a correlation?

We discovered that when the business value is clearly communicated and feedback passed on to the team – it definitely influences the enjoyment rate. It was a very important message to me, as the Product Owner.
There are however other factors that have an impact on ‘being in the zone’ while working. There are some great books about it, to mention just a couple:

A good summary of the latter can be found on this youtube video.

Can bad stories be mitigated?

The team believes so. If a bad story can be spotted early enough, we can try removing blockers in advance, automate it, get a better understanding of the purpose, or… maybe not do it at all?
Business value versus enjoyment.jpg

Key benefits

  • You will understand what is really driving the team.
  • You’ll have a chance to improve upcoming stories.
  • It’s always good to discuss the business value.

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