Monday, 2 March 2009

Need speed? Add another reviewing group!

A long time ago I was asked to lead a requirement reviewing process. The requirements defined an IT-solution. Well, at least that was the plan.

There were many requirements (1000+) from very detailed to very general. It was not a well defined set of requirements. Any attempt to change the requirements ended up as failure. The client had decided that THIS was THE set of requirements to be used. Period.

We started off with a reviewing group to work through the set. Every requirement was discussed in detail. Information lacking. And the group really could not do its job efficiently. It was hard to see what requirement to focus on - and where more information was needed.
We kept going for a few weeks. And managed to just confuse ourselves with more questions and more details. No real progress.

I then suggested to add another group to help us. And with that setup we suddenly started to move. We now had two reviewing groups running. Slightly different focus. And it seemed that the groups now could focus better, since there also was another group supporting the process.
I was not sure why though at this point.

A week later we introduced two more groups. Now having four groups - more or less running in parallel reviewing the whole set. All groups reviewed all requirements. But of course with different perspectives.

Now the real magic kicked in. The process ran faster and faster. Seemed that four groups reviewing all requirements was a more efficient setup than having one.
And what happened seemed to be that each reviewing group now focused on what was really important. And creating TWO models of what was going on. Something like:

1. This group, i.e. my group, is the first group reviewing. So, we only need to focus on whats important for us. And if we make a mistake someone at a later stage will correct it.

but at the same time they also seemed to think:

2. This group is the last in the chain. So, we only need to focus on whats really important. All the other stuff has already been dealt with. And if all the other groups are done and happy we should also be.

When we started using four groups I told everyone that we did work in parallel. But it seems that they anyhow all saw the process as a chain of reviewing groups.

Having these two perspectives in mind all groups relaxed and focused on their perspective. And they were confident that all other groups also did. This group thinking worked miracles with the process. All groups only focused on the really important requirements. Endless discussions about spelling for example were gone.

So, if the process is slow. Maybe you need to add another reviewing group? Creating some focus.

How about the quality of the work? Well, considering the quality of requirements we had to start with we did ok.

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