Thursday, December 20, 2012

If I had asked people what they wanted...they would have expressed a requirement

Henry Ford is supposed to have said once

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”.

It is not really important if he had said this sentence for true, as is not very important the context in which this sentence would have been said.

What really matters is that many project managers, from time to time,  feel like saying that about their stakeholders. Such a statement implies two things

  • A lack of trust in the stakeholders' insight and vision of the project.
  • A lack of trust in the stakeholders' capability to express solid requirements.

This attitude could potentially lead to grave consequences in the long run, like stakeholders disengagement and failure in managing stakeholders' expectations.

The funny thing is that many times it is true.

Stakeholders do have limited insight into the project and yes, sometimes, they are not able to express requirements efficiently.
This lack of clarity is because they look at particular aspects of the project and not to the project as a whole.

In fact, they rely on project managers for activities such as the gathering of requirements, the definition of the scope, integration...

It is a project manager duty to provide the right degree of expertise, insight, and vision on the project. It is a project manager obligation managing stakeholders expectations and distilling requirements from necessities.

As Michelangelo Buonarroti wrote

"Non ha l'ottimo artista alcun concetto 
ch'un marmo solo in sé non circoscriva

col suo soverchio, e solo a quello arriva

la man che ubbidisce all'intelletto."

That is to say that the statue lives inside the marble block; the artist just removes the excess.

The sentence “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” is an expression of a necessity that hides an implicit requirement.
The requirement is the need for a faster and more reliable transport.

Understand the best way to satisfy this requirement, respectful of the project's constraints, is a part of our job.

Licenza Creative Commons

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