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If You’re Not Writing User Stories for Growth, You’re Missing Out

by Fiona Taylor | May 1, 2024 2:00:04 PM

Blog business meetingAt Lift, we believe that user stories are invaluable growth tools that help us zero in on the purpose of every project or implementation. That’s why we lead every engagement by writing them—but we often discover that most clients aren’t familiar with user stories’ benefits. If they are, they usually think of them in terms of software development, where user stories originated. 

However, we’d argue that user stories are invaluable across all RevOps functions for a number of reasons:

  • Reducing the complexity associated with innovation and change 
  • Increasing the velocity and alignment of teams
  • Driving collaboration and creativity
  • Improving the success of a product or service
  • Adding clarity to the process

Did we mention that all that’s accomplished with just a few dozen words?

In this blog, we’ll explain what user stories are, as well as why (and how) Lift uses them to lead every project. We’ll also elaborate on how they can help growth-oriented companies gain more velocity and alignment. 

What are User Stories?

User stories first emerged in the late 1990s as part of extreme programming (XP), an agile software development methodology that improved software quality by increasing responsiveness to constantly shifting customer requirements

To do this effectively, developers decided to write user stories, which are short statements written from the customer's perspective. These stories didn’t focus on specific features or technology; they spelled out the user’s end goal and guided a conversation about the best ways to reach it. 

To do this, developers used the 3C framework:

  • Card: The story had to be short and simple enough to fit on an index card or Post-It.
  • Conversation: Once the story was on the card, the teams discussed it to ensure a shared understanding and began floating potential solutions. 
  • Confirmation: The team eventually settled on an optimal solution, always keeping the card's requirements in mind. 

This technique is still used by software developers today. After a team reads a user story, the members understand who they are building a product or feature for, what the user wants to accomplish, and what value the product or service will provide.

That’s mainly due to the simplicity of the user story template, which lays all these parts out plainly: “As a [user], I want [goal or action] so that [outcome or reason].”

Here is an example of this template in action for a B2C product:

  • As a dog owner who travels with my pet, I want to be able to find dog parks in any area I visit so that my dog can socialize and exercise.

A good user story takes a people-first approach. It shifts the focus away from the technology by clearly expressing the end user’s needs in non-technical language that everyone can understand. Since their inception, user stories have empowered Agile teams to identify the best possible way to build the end product. 

In fact, user stories' customer-centric approach worked so effectively that other types of teams—and even entire organizations—have adopted user stories as a simple but effective method to increase alignment, momentum, and growth. 

The Benefits of User Stories

One reason Agile project management became so popular is that it allows teams to be flexible and nimble. Teams can quickly shift strategies and workflows without derailing an entire project. 

User stories are an integral reason why, so it makes sense that growth-oriented organizations would be interested in a customer-centric methodology that allows them to adjust their strategy and approach as real-time conditions occur.

But that’s not the only way user stories benefit high-growth companies. When done correctly, they:

Focus on people before technology

Most teams and organizations want to jump straight to solutions, which leads to an emphasis on functionality. As a result, the question often becomes which tech to use instead of which user outcome to support with tech. 

User stories help solve this with a people-centered approach, which is crucial for growth organizations. As this McKinsey article points out, growth leaders know their customer “as a person, not a data point.” Successful growth leaders, the article says, put the customers at the forefront of all their decisions. 

One of our favorite sayings at Lift—so much so that we call it The Prime Directive—is, “The business process must drive the technology, not vice versa.” A user story does just that, making it an effective tool for growth organizations.

Define the “job to be done”

Innovation and growth falter when a business doesn’t truly understand what customers want or need. That’s where the jobs-to-be-done framework can help define the outcome.

According to Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, 95 percent of new products fail. However, when companies focus on a problem or need, their chances of success skyrocket.

“If you understand the experiences you need to provide customers, that tells you what you need to integrate and how you have to integrate it in order to provide experiences to get the job done,” Christensen said. “Delivering experiences is done by having a process that delivers those results. You have to organize your company around processes that get the job done, that provide customers the experiences they need.”

Customer stories are invaluable in terms of understanding the job to be done and creating business processes that support the desired outcome. Since these stories are non-technical, they center the end user’s need, problem, or desire, allowing the entire organization to stay focused and aligned.

Provide cross-team clarity

User stories use a simple format to outline what to build, why, and for whom. Stories’ focus on the outcome ensures that all members of an organization—whether technical or not—have the same understanding of the project. 

The straightforward language also eliminates another issue: jargon or technical language. Team members often interpret terms differently, adding a layer of misalignment that increases project risk. The use of simple, accessible language eliminates technical confusion.  

This, in turn, fosters alignment by improving cross-organizational communication and conversation. Every team member can contribute to the project and feels empowered to raise the alarm if it veers off-course.

Eliminate confusion about changes

Even when the job to be done is clear, other project obstacles can emerge. For example, almost every organization has built a seemingly clear roadmap, only to have its implementation derailed by shifting requirements and an onslaught of changes. 

User stories provide an effective way to classify and prioritize these changes by keeping the outcome top of mind. For example, if a feature isn’t necessary for launch or would have cascading effects, it can go on the backlog list. 

User stories can also be used to define what “complete” means because the best stories have clear, measurable outcomes. If additional changes become necessary as a project nears its conclusion, it’s time to write a new user story for the next phase. 

Encourage creativity and collaboration

All project stakeholders should draft their user stories collaboratively. This ensures that any project starts out on the right note—as a conversation that brings multiple viewpoints to the table. 

This discussion, coupled with the story format's simplicity, means that all stakeholders can share their ideas—even if they aren’t sure how to best accomplish them.

After everyone agrees on the outcome, the team collectively decides on the most effective way to meet that goal. The more your team communicates, the greater the resulting alignment, velocity, and growth.  

Incorporate customer feedback

Effective user stories are always based on research and user feedback. This helps ensure customers are happy with the outcome. 

In fact, you can leverage your user story to develop metrics linked to user feedback. This is why simple but specific user stories are especially helpful. For example, if your customers want their pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less, you can create a metric centered around delivery time to measure whether you’re meeting your goals. 

If you want to dive into creating user stories for your organization, here are some things to keep in mind.

5 Essential Components of a High Sales Growth Tech Stack

How User Stories Can Facilitate Growth

Although user stories originated in agile software development and many people still think of them in that context, Lift writes stories for every project because they’re so helpful in setting—and communicating—growth objectives. 

Here are some examples of how user stories work across RevOps functions:


As a sales manager, I want to be able to segment accounts so that I can create better strategies and more effectively deploy my resources for revenue growth.


As a marketing director, I want to easily understand how digital ads are performing so I can optimize the high-performing ads and adjust or pull the low-performing ones.


As a busy service associate inundated with multiple requests, I want to be able to easily create trackable tickets so the right requests quickly reach the right people without anything falling through the cracks, freeing me up to spend more time serving customers.


As a RevOps manager, I want a centralized way for employees in sales, marketing, and customer success to view and update customer data in real time.

As you can see from these examples, it’s clear who the user is, what they want to accomplish, and why.  As an added bonus, once the project's objective has been defined, each story can be used in a more granular way for project management. 

Lift leverages user stories to identify and define requirements. That brings us to the Prime Directive, another core Lift principle. It states that the business process must drive the technology, not vice versa. 

When you start with a user story, you’re laying out the business process in a simple and clear way. Once everyone understands the end result, THEN you can tackle the question of which technology best supports your desired outcome.

Next, those requirements can then be broken down into tasks. In fact, a single story may result in hundreds of tasks to achieve the desired outcome. 

The beauty of this approach is its flexibility. User stories aren’t static, which means they build vitality and resilience into each project or implementation. If a client’s needs evolve during a project—for example, as new information is gathered and priorities change—their requirements and the resulting tasks are easily modified. There’s less time wasted from trying to figure out the next step. 

In addition, a well-written user story defines what “complete” means. In any of the examples we gave, you can take that story and the resulting requirements and develop a QA plan to test whether the outcomes are correct and complete.

Many people underestimate the power of user stories because they look deceptively short and simple—but as you’ve gathered by now, they support every aspect of a project or implementation. 

In fact, well-written user stories aren’t easy. They’re hard! They’re a great example of the inverse friction principle, which states that the ease of a user’s experience has an inverse relationship to the complexity involved in designing a system that makes the experience so easy and effortless.

In other words, a user story can have a great payoff, but you must do a lot of groundwork to distill it down to a small, specific version. You also need a very clear understanding of what user stories are and aren’t.

At Lift, we feel that effort is worth it. We write user stories for every project or implementation because we’ve found they create a high level of clarity for both clients and our internal team—and that clarity pays off with consistently successful outcomes. User stories also provide unmatched flexibility that allows us to pivot when the client has something unexpected crop up (and something unexpected always crops up). 

Writing user stories isn’t easy, but they allow you to work with greater ease during the process. (Remember the inverse friction principle?) In our experience doing hundreds of implementations and projects at Lift, the investment of time and effort is worth it—and we find our clients agree!


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