Hey there! I’m Sonya: CEO and founder of Nave. For the last 5 years, I’ve made it my mission to help managers hit their targets and streamline their processes to work smarter, not harder. Today we’re following up on a recent conversation I had with a client, and what it reveals about how you should (and shouldn’t) split your work.

Last week I told you about a client of mine with a well-meaning but really risky idea.

She had approached me, asking me to provide some “industry standards” that she and her team could compare herself against. She had good intentions, but my response to her was probably not the one she expected.

Now, I’m going to tell you the rest of the story – and the second lesson that comes with it.

After explaining the rationale for her request, my client immediately jumped into “solution mode,” telling me how her team intended to make it work.

The solution?

Breaking their work items up into pieces that wouldn’t take more than a day each to complete.

I could see where she was coming from. In order to fit within the industry standard, it made sense to them to split their work into the tiniest pieces possible.

There was just one big problem with this approach:

It wasn’t designed with the intention of bringing any real value to their customer.

Instead, it was focused on making their metrics look better.

Let’s take a step back and remind ourselves why we need flow metrics and analytics in the first place.

The data is there at our disposal to bring more visibility, more awareness. We need that transparency to be able to make reliable decisions. Not the other way around.

You shouldn’t split your work items into pieces that fit within a timebox or a benchmark.

This is an incorrect approach. It’s arbitrary and artificial.

When you’re slicing your stories, each and every piece should be meaningful to your customer.

Splitting your work items into pieces is a good thing. In fact, the smaller the pieces, the better – as long as it still delivers value to your client.

What is customer value, you might ask? Great question!

Here is how I like to define it:

Put yourself in their shoes and ask, “Where does the pain come from? What’s the actual problem we are dealing with here?”

And then, when you split your work, ask yourself, “What’s the most feasible option that will solve this specific problem?”

Try to come up with the easiest and fastest way to provide a deliverable to your client.

The main goal is to deliver results and collect their feedback sooner so you can adjust your course accordingly.

So, what this approach looks like and how does it work?

No matter how big or small, each piece of work should be something that the customer can take, play around with, and provide feedback on.

Here’s an example:

If the development of your next feature requires different expertise, instead splitting it into a front end, back end and database development, think about how to logically separate the functionality so that it’s still meaningful to your client.

Could you provide a few static pages to showcase what the interaction would look like? Is it possible to build the basic functions that they will be able to use to see whether this is exactly what their expectations are?

Remember, the smaller the piece, the better, as long as it’s still meaningful to your customer.

If you’re interested in putting the practices to right-sizing your stories into action and building a delivery system that is specifically designed to improve your performance, I’d be thrilled to welcome you to our Sustainable Predictability program.

Want a sneak peek? This week we’re giving away the first module of our program for free. Request your access now

Here is what I want you to remember:

  • Splitting your work items into smaller pieces is a good thing, as long as you don’t compromise the concept of customer value
  • When splitting your work, always think about it from the customer’s point of view. Ask yourself, “Would this piece of work still solve our customer’s problem?”
  • Your client should be able to take the results you’ve delivered, evaluate them, and provide feedback to enable you to adjust your course accordingly.

Well, my friend, I hope that you’re now able to look into story splitting from a different perspective. The more points of view you collect, the more reliable decisions you’ll be able to make. That’s my bottom line message.

If you found this article valuable, share it on your social channels. My aim is to reach more people who need a different perspective; it would mean the world if you helped me spread the word.

For now, I wish you a productive day ahead and I’ll see you next week, same time, same place for more managerial goodness.

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