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Working practices

This section discusses how we, as a team, structure our work.


The fundamental unit of work is a "story". A story is a defined task which is focussed on a particular outcome. Stories have work estimates associated with them; Work estimates are given in units of "days".

Examples of stories:

  • Add a "plusOneCount" to the "FeatureRequest" resource which reflects the number of times the feature request has been plus-oned by a user. 1 day.
  • Investigate integrating the Sphinx documentation generator into the car park visitor space booking application. 1 day. Spike.
  • Rename the "doubleplusgood" project on GitHub to "newthink". Chore.

Some terminology:

  • A "spike" is a story which is typically an investigation and is used when the team don't have enough information to tackle a story. This type of story will always be timeboxed. In the example above, after a day of work, the person doing the story stops and updates the rest of the team on progress. This can be at the daily standup or via a written report on, e.g., a GitHub issue.
  • A "chore" is a story where no new work is envisaged and are likely to take significantly less than a day. We add them to the list of stories so that we can track their progress but we expect them to be so small that they do not need to contribute to the total work estimate for a sprint.


We organise work into two week "sprints". Each sprint consists of a set of stories for that sprint which are to be tackled and an associated GitHub project which tracks GitHub issues/pull requests for those stories. A story can be in the following states:

  • Backlog. Not yet started.
  • Rework. Changes have been requested by a reviewer.
  • Doing. Being tackled by someone.
  • Review queue. Development work has been completed and the work is ready for code review.
  • Review. Being code reviewed by someone.
  • Test queue. The work has passed code review and is ready for testing.
  • Test. Being tested by someone.
  • Done. The work has been completed. For code changes, this usually implies having been merged to the master branch.

Daily standup meetings

Each workday morning at around 9:45am we have a standup meeting around the current sprint board. At this meeting we each update the team on what we did on the previous work day, what we're working on that day and anything which has arisen which stops work proceeding. (These are termed "blockers".)

We have also taken to having brief informal discussions on stories or on wider institutional matters in the washup of the meeting.

Standups rarely last more than 15 minutes.