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A traditional approach to planning is the creation of work breakdown structures (WBS). A WBS decomposes activities into smaller and smaller units, with dependencies between them creating critical paths for planning. Although a WBS is a useful way of understanding what might need to be done it encourages false accuracy across chains of WBS items and removes responsibility for problem solving from team members into the hands of an elitist planner or Project Manager.

A common dysfunction we have observed in teams adopting Backlogs and User Stories is to adopt the terminology but actually still do WBS planning using these terms. A symptom of this approach is a backlog that is comprised of a hierarchical structure of "Epics" with child "Stories" (sometimes multiple levels of each) and finally child "tasks". This obscures the purpose and clarity of a genuine backlog and also makes the classic WBS harder to see devaluing both approaches.

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