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Live from RE’10: REET’10 Workshop Summary

Our 5th Requirements Engineering Education and Training (REET) workshop was a huge success! Honestly, this workshop is just fun – of course we can be serious and have smart discussions, but really I feel like we have found a nice blend of keeping it informal and comfortable while also productive. And I truly do mean “we”  – all Ljerka and I did was decide which papers to accept and to put together an agenda around those. The essence of a successful workshop is really in the group of participants – their attitude, their desires for the workshop, and their willingness to engage. And once again, all 14 of the 2010 REET participants were just outstanding!
The workshop agenda is in another post so you can see how we laid out the day. We had originally accepted 7 papers, but 2 had to drop out, so we had 5 that were presented in the workshop. That left us plenty of time to have discussions and interactive activities throughout the day.
At the beginning of the day, we started with a brainstorming activity where the participants worked in groups of 2 to draw pictures (no words!) of what “success” would look like for them at the end of the workshop. That was good fun – got our creative minds collaborating to create pictures to explain it.
After lunch we did a “chair” activity led by Martin Mahaux, where in essence we had 1 more chairs than we had people, and Martin played the role of walking around the room trying to sit in the empty chair – the rest of us had the challenge of trying to keep him from sitting in an empty chair by moving around. It was an interesting exercise in how a large group works together – starting with complete chaos and tripping over each other, moving to a bit more of an attempt at organization, but really just a bit of miscommunicating with one another, and lastly we landed in a space that wasn’t great, but we were starting to work as a team to work against Martin’s role.
Late afternoon I led an activity called “No Value” , where you take any topic (we used “business objectives”) and you ask students to talk about how you can use that topic to add no value on your project. For example, I could ignore stakeholders and make up the project’s business objectives on my own – then they’d add no value. So we did this as a group and then took all the “no value” statements and turned them into positive statements of how to use the topic to add value.
Near the end of the day, Birgit Penzenstadler led an activity where we had to use rich pictures only to convey our business user’s needs for an automatic refrigerator system. That was funny because we all really wanted to use words in our diagrams – and particularly our engineers in the groups wanted to use more formal models.
And then we had a neat activity where Anja Wever asked questions and we all wrote anonymous answers on paper, which she then read. Things like “What was your most embarrassing moment?” She was demonstrating how this is a nice ice break for the right type of group because it lets everyone know that everyone else in the group is just like them  – human and personable.
We had very good discussions sprinkled throughout the day as well that were often off-topic from the papers. I had asked participants to send questions ahead of time, so that sparked some of the discussion. The questions that inspired much of our conversation include:
  • What’s the best way to get a new college grad with no software training up to speed as an RE?
  • Are companies willing to spend the money on RE training?
  • What do we do in our university programs to ensure that our graduates have the professional attitude of a requirements engineer – and what is that professional attitude?
  • How do I change RE training if my company or customers decided to use cloud computing services?
  • Does preparation for creativity and collaboration differ according to the region where you come from? How do they value intellectualism in comparison with pragmatism? How well are people prepared for this in your country? How do you prepare well for it?
  • How do you excite students/developers about RE?
  • How do you make small groups engage better when confronted with very quiet people.
  • What are some techniques to prevent course participants from taking long break at the wrong time?
  • My company can’t afford RE training, what can we do?
  • If our CHAOS report results keep showing us that requirements have been the root cause of software failure for so many years, why do we still have so many problems in requirements? Are we getting better?
If all goes well, I hope to see you at REET’11 in Trento, Italy!
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