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Your Requirements Best Practices Are Not Your Reality

To begin with an analogy: I have a friend that can be unreliable sometimes and show up late when we have plans to meet. This is especially difficult to manage when we are meeting to see a movie – if she shows up 30 minutes late, then the movie date is off because the show has already started by the time she gets there. She’s a great person to be around, just difficult to manage at times. We agree that we need to meet 15-30 minutes before the show time (best practices), yet something happens and she shows up after the movie starts.

If our plan to see a movie was instead a project for which I was the requirements expert and she was the project lead, then the concept of showing up 15-30 minutes before show time would be a recognized best practice. So what to do when an acknowledged best practice conflicts with what the project lead wants (the right to show up late in the case of the movie example)? The lead wants the benefit of the best practice (seeing the movie), but things happen or constraints are in place that create a situation where this cannot be done.

What I should do (Best Practices) ? What I’m going to do (Reality)

The first step I take in these situations is to first fully understand the project lead’s reasons for not being able to apply the best practice. From the movie example: perhaps my friend is taking college classes at night, and they end right before the movie meeting time. In that case, we could just meet for a later movie, or wait until the weekend. Can the lead and I find a “movie time” that works for everyone where we can still apply the best practices?

In the very rare case that the project lead is simply in disagreement with the use of the best practices, then I determine if it is something worth arguing for. How will the project be affected if we do not apply the best practices in question? If the impact is minimal or can be easily negated and/or managed, then it makes sense to apply the practice that the project lead is requesting. If the impact is too great to ignore, then I work to convince the lead to trust me and let me demonstrate the benefits of applying the best practice.

By the end of the project, we are laughing and munching on the last of the popcorn together as we exit the theater.
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