Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?
The wolf in question for this post being “Requirements”.
In a recent Quickie I presented Phil Crosby’s Four Absolutes of Quality. The first of these four absolutes being:
1. The definition of quality is: conformance to requirements.
Let’s unpack what Phil meant by “requirements”. His meaning was very different from developers’ and software folks’ typical understanding of the term.
Suppliers and Customers All Down the Line
In Phil Crosby’s world, everyone is both a supplier and a customer. “Upstream” folks supply parts, information or other things to their most immediate downstream customer(s). Each such supplier/customer relationship is mediated by a mutual understanding of, and agreement on, what the customer needs, and thus what the supplier recognises they must provide. Hence “Quality”.
And, by the way, reflecting the mental model of an organisation – stretching back upstream into the organisation’s supply chain, and downstream into its distributors and customers – as a “braided river” of value streams (see the image accompanying this post).
Mutually Agreed Interface Standards
It’s this mutual understanding that Phil calls “requirements”. Not some massive document with screeds of tedious detail. Not some specification of the supplier/customer “interface” written and imposed by some more-or-less clueless third party.
In my travels, I’ve seen folks of every stripe run a country mile from “requirements”.
Senior management don’t like the idea because they fear their freedom of action being constrained by such things. (Untrue, by the way).
Developers don’t like the idea because they fear being dumped-on by some requirements weenie who has a different – and often erroneous – idea of what the customer needs.
And most folks fear being corralled by a set of requirements that, even when accurately reflecting the needs of a customer, hem-in their freedom to supply what they like, rather than what’s needed.
How do the folks in your organisation regard the idea of requirements? Do “requirements” in your organisation look anything like the Crosby definition?