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How To Get Requirements From Resistant SMEs Part 1

Eliciting Requirements Like a Curious 2-Year-Old.

Curiosity is not a sin it is a virtue it is a talent.

If you have it, you should continue to hone it. If not, you need to train yourself to be curious. Being curious is what makes us great, finding the right answer–not the easy answer! Curious people uncover truths that others are afraid to face. Here are some techniques that will help you be curious when eliciting requirements.

Let your inner child (2-year-old) come out and play

Unlike babies, two-year-olds are strong enough for them to muscle their way into rooms and cabinets and bookcases, but their judgment and self-control are still immature. This leads to them being notoriously curious. They have no filter because they have no idea that asking the same question over and over again could bother you or make them look dumb. They just want answers, and they are willing to do almost anything to get them!

5 Whys (Follow Up Questions with Other Questions)

I have often wondered if Sakichi Toyoda, the person who developed the 5 Whys technique, was a father of a two-year-old. Kids have been asking this question over and over throughout history.


Asking 5 times seems to give you as complete an answer as possible. It encourages others to provide thoughtful and complete answers. The information you are genuinely seeking seems to rise to the surface. You get more reasons than excuses, more causes than effects, and of course better answers.

You will also find that it also surfaces questions and information that didn’t occur to you initially.

Confirm Requirements by Asking the Same Question Different Ways

What do 2-Year-olds, teachers, and surveys all have in common? They ask the same questions in different ways. It isn’t to trip you up or confuse you. It is the opposite. To make sure your answer is complete or to gauge your confidence in the answer you are giving.

It is also well known that people often answer differently when either asked in a different way or allowed to answer differently (True or False vs. Multiple choice).

Walking In With Little Or No Assumptions

Two-year-olds are often working with little or no background. That is why they are never satisfied with a one-word answer. When they ask ‘what is that?’ A one-word answer will probably not solve their curiosity. After all their question is really: ‘What is that thing called?’, ‘Why is it there?’, ‘What is it used for?’, and probably ‘Can I have it?’ The reason they keep asking the same question, is because you answered as if they only asked what is that thing called?

If you walk in with assumptions, you might miss asking an important question or skew the answers in the wrong direction. Assumptions are from intelligent thinking, but they are not facts.

No Assumptions = No Surprises = No Regrets!