User story mapping games

Play before with your team before the workshop starts

User story mapping is a great technique, if everybody knows what to do, how and what to expect (more in my previous articles about story mapping). If you are worried that the workshop itself could be messy due to lack of knowledge about the user story mapping, start it with quick game. It takes maximum 30 min and it explains the purpose of story mapping more than enough and plus it's fun!

“Wake up in the morning”

Well known game for user story mapping is “Wake up in the morning” where you let people to write on sticky notes what they do in the morning before they go to work. Then they cluster the tasks into groups and they have “unprioritised” user story map. You follow up with challenge that they have only limited time (e.g. 20 minutes) to close the door and go to work. Participants must prioritise what to do and what not.

You can run more rounds of prioritisation, e.g. first they have 45 minutes, in next 30, 20 and they overslept. Try to experiment with the team.

Finally you tell them that they overslept and need to get as soon as possible from home because they have super important meeting at work and again they must prioritise. I recommend to play this game, it's quick, serves the purpose and people are having fun while doing the prioritisation.

If you would like to try some more variations of the game, try some of these:

More variations

Describe existing product

Let the participants to pick one of their favourite product (Spotify, AirBnB, Google maps) and ask them to write the tasks what they do with it — they can write tasks which are not included in the product — make sure you have at least 25–30 tasks. granulate the tasks as much as possible. Cluster the tasks into activities and order them into “backbone”. Then ask them which tasks they do regularly and put them on the top. Next round ask them what they use every time they use the product, in the last round ask them what tasks they would not be able to sacrifice (e.g. playing the music, searching for the place)- without these activities they would not use the product at all.

Planning a vacation

Tell the participants that they have 1 month and to plan their vacation. Participants will write all the tasks they do before they go on vacation, from the phase where they are searching the right place, flights, packing their stuff, planning the trip, searching for interesting places in the are, etc.

In the next round cut the time on half, in second give them only 14 days and in third only 1 day or 1 hour.

Planning a date

Situation: you met a perfect girl / man and you would like to plan the perfect date. What would you do before it starts?

Participants write activities like “pick the dress”, having a shower, pick the place where to go, etc.

Then ask them what would they do, if the girl / man come about hour (or two) earlier?


Of course, feel free to modify the variants, come up with yours, sky is the limit :)

For any of variation, feel free to use this general framework.

How to play — framework

Duration: 30 min
Properties: markers and sticky notes
Number of participants: max 12 (ideally 5–6)

Intro: Introduce the situation to participants

Round 1 (5 minutes)
Participants write all tasks on sticky notes, then they cluster them into groups of activities and put them in logical order.

Round 2 (5 minutes)
Cut the time to do the tasks. Participants must prioritise only the tasks which are manageable to do within the timeframe.

Round 4 (5 minutes)
Cut the time into minimum (define some extreme situation) and let the participants to define the minimum tasks to fulfil the goal.

Notes:

  • You can put the sticky notes either on the wall or just on the table (or floor)
  • Let the participants argue about the priorities — they must agree
  • It should not be one man show, don't let the most powerful participant to define the priorities
  • If participants stuck with ideas for tasks, have some in your pocket in order to trigger the creativity
  • You should have at least 25–30 tasks at the beginning