Last year, I wrote about my Lessons from a Bad Haircut. I’m please to say I finally have a lesson from a good haircut.
How did I finally get a good haircut?
It was what the stylist did after I explained what I wanted. She drew a quick sketch. It took about 15 seconds. And, with that sketch, I was able to say “No, that’s not what I want.” 60 seconds more of discussing what I wanted while pointing at the sketch, and she’d refined the sketch until both of us were confident that we were talking about the same thing. The sketch was very crude and would never be confused with a work of art. But, that wasn’t the purpose. The purpose was to convey an idea. And it did. And, I got a good haircut.
So, what does this have to do with requirements?
Most people relate to pictures much more easily than to words. “Pictures” are all of the diagrams included in the RML®, such as process flows, wire frames, BDDs, etc.
One of the major things to remember about creating these diagrams is that they don’t have to be perfect to be useful. They simply have to be sufficient to convey the idea. And, once a model of the idea is out there, the discussion becomes very productive. If you can project the diagram or sketch it on a white board, people will point at it and discuss—what’s right? How do we make fix what isn’t? At the end the discussion, with an updated diagram, you’re ready to move forward with all parties confident they are headed down the same path.
When working with a client who wants me to skip the model and go straight to the words, I’ve found they react well to the statement “If we’re not in agreement about the model, we won’t get the words right.” They get it: it’s a matter of being more efficient and synching up our understanding as rapidly as possible, rather than wasting time on misunderstanding.
If I revert to my hair style of ten years ago–all one length and all I need is a trim–I can skip the sketch or picture. Otherwise, a picture or sketch will be a prerequisite to any haircut I get. I similarly recommend that requirements models be a prerequisite to any requirements you write.