Pro Tip. Use a Dictaphone during specification workshops


During sprint planning or story/specification workshops it can be difficult to capture all the details for the user stories and examples discussed, it’s often tempting to assign a team member as a scribe. Don’t. Assigning a scribe comes with several pitfalls; it can be too much information for one person to capture when writing stories, the discussion has to pause for the scribe to keep up with the pace or information has to be reiterated making lengthier discussions. The biggest pitfall is the participation of the scribe in the discussion is severely limited as they are focused on capturing information.

The simple answer is to use a Dictaphone to record the discussion. The recording can be taken away and immediately written up. This is particularly useful when you are practicing a specification by example technique like BDD that involves many scenarios that need to be captured along with the user story.

The Dictaphone doesn’t have to be an expensive device, it could be someone’s mobile phone using an app, in fact we’ve found the microphone on the iPhone to produce very good recordings in a meeting situation. So we don’t have to rely on someone bringing their mobile phone with them (Phone shouldn’t be out during discussions and causing distractions), we use a £20/$30 Sony Dictaphone that records to the mp3 format and can be transferred to a computer via USB.

If you are going to follow my tip be careful; recorded discussions shouldn’t be used to hold people to account for what was said in the discussion. If it’s used this way a lack of trust amongst the team will evolve and people will hold back in future discussions. To avoid this, I only keep the recording long enough to type up any details before deleting the file.

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