Is it ok to have Placeholder Stories?

by admin on October 16th, 2009


  1. place-holder-story-scrum-agile-slackA placeholder story is a sign of sloppy planning
  2. All work should be known ahead of time and planned during sprint planning
  3. Yes, this allows the Product Owner to dump things into the sprint as needed.
  4. Sometimes we have a history of unexpected bugs/issues of handle it now. This allows us to track how much of that is showing up and leave some slack for when it does.
  5. We often have work we know we will have to do but, don’t know what it is yet.

Comment: This is a way to track how much unknown work is showing up and manage the amount by triggering a conversation when needed. One of the most common issues for scrum teams is what to do about work that we expect to have to do during a Sprint, but don’t actually know the details about yet, such as bugs we have to fix in existing systems, or expected sales support efforts. Using Place holder stories is a a method to manage these “known unknowns”.

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From FAQ

  1. It depends!

    Of course our lives would all be MUCH easier if we could plan everything in advance…!

    In reality, this is not always possible – particularly if your Scrum team is also your BAU team.

    I’ve written quite a few posts on this subject (see below).

    1) Lean, Scrum, Scrum of Scrums and Epic Boards

    2) Minimising the Impact of Sprint Disruptions

    3) Managing Scrum Projects alongside BAU

  2. I’m reminded of the amusing Donald Rumsfeld quote

    “Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

    As a developer on the losing end of an over-committed (and sometimes lazy) product owner, I dislike placeholders because they have a way of finding their way into a sprint. So I would lean toward option #1.

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