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There isn’t just one way

On a recent international trip, our team of requirements engineers had some amusing adventures. I’m going to share the story simply because it’s fun, and then I’m going to actually tie it into requirements, so stick with me on this one!

Our team consisted of resources that we’ll call RE1, RE2, etc. Now, RE1, RE2, RE5, RE6, RE7 and RE8 depart location A. They stop over in location B on the way to the location C in foreign country and pick up RE 3 and RE4.

After arriving in foreign country location C the full team heads to a hotel by bus. RE1 leaves a coat on the bus to the hotel in location C. RE1 tells someone at the hotel of the problem, but unfortunately has to leave the city to take a train to location D, 4 hours away the next day. But….3 days later is he back in location C. And, lo and behold, so is his coat! What are the odds? In a kind country like Japan, very good apparently. But wait, it gets better…

The team headed back to location C for a relaxing weekend (where the coat was found!). However on Sunday, the team prepared to head to the customer’s site in location D. At the train station, RE1 puts luggage on a train in location C. RE1 gets off the train to buy a Coke. 2 minutes later, the train leaves. RE1 is not on the train. Good news – it’s not the train RE1 is supposed to be on! Bad news – RE1’s luggage is on it and we have no idea where RE1’s luggage is traveling to. RE1 runs off in the foreign train station to find help. The rest of the team boards the correct train and departs for location E (which will then connect to location D). Except, RE2 volunteers to stay behind in location C to make sure RE1 has money and a train pass to get to location D.

Paths diverging:
Path A: RE7 leaves 3 hours early to go to location D to go skiing.
Path B: The team including RE3 through RE8 travel on train to mid-route city location E. However, 30 minutes in, their train stops due to 90mph winds at random location F. The team cannot get off the train in location F because none of them know the language to understand when the train is re-boarding for departure. 4 hours later, the train moves on again from location F to location E. The team is very happy to make it to location E, fearing they’d have to return to location C for the night.
Path C: RE2 determines RE1 is ok and decides to leave location C to catch the next train to location E. From location C, RE1 travels to a ski resort in location G to find luggage in a train station. RE1 takes taxi to the correct station in location G, to actually find the luggage. From location G, RE1 finds a train to return to an original-route mid-route city location F. RE1 boards train in location F to get back on the path to mid-route city location E en route to location D.

Paths converging:
The team of RE3 through RE8 gets off of the train in location E to board another train to location D. While in the bathroom RE6 hears a familiar voice outside. RE6 rushes outside and finds out that it is RE1!
RE1 somehow manages to meet up with the team of RE3 through RE8 in location E to catch the next train to location D. Amazingly, this time RE1’s luggage is along for the ride.

But where is the 1 helpful RE2 who stayed behind? A train behind we hoped, arriving at location E in time to catch the last train of the night to location D. Unfortunately, the trains in location C going to location E did not show up at the platform. RE1 waited as the hours went by. The trains were canceled due to the high winds the rest of the team experienced. RE2 was stuck in location C. RE2 could not leave the platform because again, RE2 couldn’t understand the announcements if the train did show up. RE2 waited for 4 hours in freezing temperatures before giving up and going to the hotel in location C.

RE7 just managed to get caught in the winds minutes away from location E and although RE7 left 3 hours earlier, arrived too late to go skiing.

By noon on Monday, we were all back in location D, including RE2.

So what is the moral of the story? There are so many you can pick from, but RE1 was a fan of this one: “Do not assume you are not taking the fast path that something is necessarily wrong!” So actually, just because it seems like someone is taking you way out of the way to get from point C to point D, reality may strike and you will learn that going through point G is just as fast as the direct path.

Now applying this to requirements…back in location D on that same Monday, I was running some requirements sessions to gather use cases and business rules on a particular topic. My group was in a groove by midday, we had an approach on how we would get from blank slate to requirements on the topics. However, a co-worker wanders out of his session and into ours and starts to ask some questions in the middle of our conversation. He asks what the goal of our current topic is and starts to make suggestions on how to approach it.

Often you should respond with “Great! Someone new to identify things we might have missed?” I am always welcoming of new ideas, especially around an approach. But in this case, I was truly surprised by how disruptive it was to our flow.

Frankly, his ideas were great. Arguably they may have been more efficient even. However, the reality is that our approach was working for our SMEs and to change it was going to slow us down.

The real moral of the story – just because you take two different paths does not mean you will end up in two different places. There is a lot of requirements experience out there and we should all welcome the opportunity to look at different “paths” to get to the right requirements and just apply the best practices that work for the given situation.

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