3 C's

3 C's

What are the 3Cs of User Stories?

The 3Cs is a method stating that user stories have have three critical aspects, Card, Conversation, and Confirmation. User stories and the 3Cs were developed roughly by the same people and at the same time as the Agile Manifesto. In 1998 Alistair Cockburn stated that "A user story is a promise for a conversation", and in 2001 Ron Jeffries came up with the "Three C's" for working with user stories.

The idea is that increments to a product can be described as user stories, specifically split into:

  • Card. This comes from the fact that in the beginning the user stories were written on index cards. It is a shorthand description, often expressed by something like: "As a [role], I can [capability], so that [benefit]". Comparing to the use case, this format corresponds to something like a combination of the Use Case Title and the Primary Actor, with an additional point on why the story is relevant.
  • Conversation. This represents everything that is said about the story as it is being refined. Ideally everyone will be in the same room, but since that is rarely the case, it often means this will have to be written down. Comparing to the use case, this is where the scenarios would be captured, but also other decisions and details - in text, as designs, through data.
  • Confirmation. This is the end point of refinement, a commonly agreed expression of what it will mean for this user story to be fulfilled. It often comes in the form of acceptance criteria or as reference designs. Comparing to the use case, this most closely corresponds to the Guarantee, but other factors could also be added, such as performance, design fidelity, and more.

The 3Cs are mainly used during the Refinement part of the product management process.

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