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Craig Brown writes a blog at BetterProjects.net. Craig and I are regular readers of each other’s sites and now we are having a conversation from site to site.
Thanks for your opinion on why you think my requirements keep on changing. I agree with you on all accounts. You left me with three reasons for the changing requirements and asked me in return:
“What do you think are the key drivers of these three ‘controllable’ issues?”
Photography by t3rmin4t0r.
Many books have been writing about the subject. I am going to take a shot at them in a single blog post. So, this is a “shooting from the hip” and a “tongue and cheek” version of my answer. I will answer each reason separately, and will start with listing the argument you provided.
“Clients jump into their solution work before they properly understand their problem.”
The most common reason to start a project is that people want to get rid of a problem. People hate uncertainty. By putting instantly a cause to their problem, with associated solution, they have eliminated a big question mark in their mind. Sadly, business situations are getting more and more complex and cause-effect chains can become almost invisible.
Another reason is what I call the “busy beaver syndrome“. People that take immediate action are considered “good managers”. You see a fire, and you take out the old hose instantly. It’s business ethics from the 80s (last century!) but still in fashion all over the globe. If you want to gain respect and get ahead in an environment thriving on “busy beavers” you find yourself building dams in no time. However, sometimes you may find that building dams is not always the best solution.
The answer lies in educating managers in assessing problems in complex and global situations. Showing them how quick fixes can backfire and make matters worse. Learning clients to inhale-exhale before shooting from the hip.
“In multi-stakeholder environments (i.e. large organizations) there is rarely one clear voice singing the requirements tune.”
I must admit that this is normally the point where I start comparing management layers with Baboon Hill, where the one with the red ass wins. Perhaps I have seen too many situations in which disagreement was used simply to disagree. This is office politics in its purest form. This is about power and status. By emphasizing the difference with others, people try to place themselves above others in some kind of invisible office game ranking system.
There is of course also the possibility that they really see the situation differently. It is like the story of the blind men and the elephant. They all touch the same animal, but “see” things differently: one the trunk, another the tail and someone a leg. The solution to this problem is equal to item ONE.
Putting a stop to the negative effects of the pursuit of power is a whole different ballgame and consists of a wide range of social skills.
“The people you put into project management and requirements management roles don’t have the right skills and knowledge.”
Project Management and Requirements Management are real professions. I am amazed why people still think it is some kind of neat trick that you can master with a “full day of training”. It is no rocket science, but it’s still a real job. I think it’s a problem with the role of “management” in general. It’s being regarded as “chatting with other managers”, “telling the little people what to do”, and “making some vague decisions”. So with the generic image being “everyone can be a manager” it’s not hard to see why these roles are quickly filled.
Project Management and Requirement Management have a “branding” problem. It should be promoted as real and proper skills.
To summarize, I see as key drivers
- lack of knowledge about true cause-effect-chains, and
- mimicking the behavior of a certain group of people to be associated with that group.
Is this something you recognize? You live down under, so people should be more relaxed..
Bas and Craig have a weekly conversation, back and forth on their respective blogs, Project Shrink and Better Projects. With blog titles like that, you don’t have to guess what the topic will be. Feel free to join in.