Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.
~Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince, 1943
If you ever interact with children, you will be amazed by their undying spirit to ask a string of questions. And they will ask with such confidence and assertiveness that one cannot shy away from giving the right information. I interact with my six-and-a-half-year-old niece who just does not leave me until I answer all her questions, and she has a knack for asking connected questions. Her questions will start as soon as I’m done making a statement, which can be as simple as ‘I love stars.’ She will make sure that she gets the complete information on all that I love, how the whole planet works, why I hate something and how to differentiate between love and hate.
We all have this great and unique skill of asking questions, but this gets diluted as we grow. We are just so conscious of asking questions, but the situation is not ideal if we were to interview a prospective client. Before any requirement workshop or session, Business Analysts will be prepared with all the preparations/review sessions, drafts, list of questions, must have rehearsed the session in their minds many times, and so on and so forth. Hence, in a way we have prepared our mind to receive specific answers in a specific environment. This will work perfectly in an ideal environment, but we all know we don’t live in a perfect world and there will be surprises and challenges. So, how do we deal with a situation where we show up prepared for a requirement session but the client has completely messed up our preparation? Is it the client’s fault? I propose three things that can be done to handle the surprises and deal with the challenges head on.
As we grow and evolve, we absorb a lot of information, which we keep layering over time. So, when we go into these requirement sessions we go with assumptions, preconceived notions that are hard to break. There are also times when one is embarrassed, shy or conscious of asking a question. So, I say unlearn and see things from the eyes of a child and suddenly you will realize you are as curious and oblivious as a child can be, and this way you will probe your client/partners such that they not only provide you with the stated fact but will also provide you with unsaid/unstated facts.
Be a little naïve
As adults we always want to exhibit that we know everything and we have a lot of experience that certifies our skills. However, for a change try to be a little naïve and say you do not know a lot of things. I have tried this and believe me, the results are amazing.
Have innocence and add a little bit of humor
Have you ever realized why you as an adult, are tempted and responsible to reply to the 100th question a kid has asked in an hour. It is because kids have a sense of humor and are extremely innocent when they are asking these questions, and their questions are direct from their heart. So, imagine the requirements you will elicit if you were to apply all these attributes to your requirement workshops. And with a little bit of humor, it will definitely ease up the tension/uncomfortable feeling that sometimes builds up during these sessions.
Having said these things, I am not saying that we should not do any preparations or ground work that must be done before any requirement session. On the contrary, I am requesting that you bring the child in you before you enter or start any requirement session. This way you will be able to bring the best of both worlds together, and your client/partners will love you. But most importantly the requirements that you gather will represent the true business need.
So, try it out and let me know how the results look.
Cheers to the child in you!
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