Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Requirements Whisperer: Getting Requirements to a Calm, Submissive State

You may not be a huge fan of reality TV, but if you are a dog lover who watches TV at all, you've probably heard of the Dog Whisperer.  You know...the guy who takes on what seems to be the most extreme "dogs behaving badly" situations and usually resolves them in a way that's good for the dog, the owner, family members, visitors, other family pets, the mail carrier, and anyone else who comes in contact with the said dog. 

When you first started watching the show, you probably thought it was a show all about taming the dog, right? But after a few episodes, you realized the show is as much about training the owners as it is about taming the dog.  While the Dog Whisper uses many techniques to modify the dog's behavior, one of the key components of his approach is to teach the owner how to respect the nature of the dog - in order to gain the dog's respect.  This key principle is what supports the owner in helping the dog achieve what the Dog Whisperer calls a “calm, submissive” state.

As business analysis and project management practitioners, we can learn a lot from the Dog Whisperer's approach.  When we find ourselves in this type of situation - where we are trying to tame a pack of wild requirements - we need to first make sure we have the right mindset.  That is, we must respect the nature of requirements in order to get those requirements to a calm, submissive state.   

When thinking about the nature of requirements, one characteristic discussed often amongst practitioners is that requirements naturally change.  Some requirements sets change more than others, but as business processes, stakeholders, the actual problem, or simply the collective understanding of these components change, so may the requirements. Although we should be careful to avoid unnecessary change, we must operate in a fashion that properly facilitates meaningful change - instead of trying to prevent it (or ignoring it altogether).  If you recall from the show, the Dog Whisper encourages the playfulness of an energetic dog by planning ahead for that playfulness (with walks down the street, time at the dog park, and so forth).  Similarly, when we can foresee that requirements change will be more prevalent for a specific environment or initiative, there are certain actions we can take. 

One way to properly facilitate requirements change is to apply a more agile, change-driven approach versus a more predictive, plan-driven approach.  Agile approaches encourage practitioners to build a back log in which requirements are iteratively groomed to a calm, submissive state, as they become more pertinent to the increment at hand.  Practitioners taking a more agile, change-driven approach are better positioned to embrace change.  

Are you ready to learn more about agile approaches that can help you get requirements to a calm, submissive state?  Do you want to learn about adapting to change (in general)?  If you are interested in either, you don’t want to miss the 2013 Project World & World Congress for Business Analysts.  Join me there to gain (or enhance) related skills that will benefit you, your organization, and your stakeholders.  Register today at  I hope to see you in Orlando!

Belinda Henderson, CBAP, PSM
Senior Consultant and Business Analysis Blogger, Cardinal Solutions Group
Guest Blogger, 2013 Project World & World Congress for Business Analysts



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