How to Facilitate Requirements Gathering (Primer Only)


Purpose

To support any type of descriptive or prescriptive build-out of a process or series of activities, and to prevent omissions.

Rationale

Groups have a tendency to forget activities or events that occur less frequently, particularly activities that support planning and control.  The following helps to squeeze out potential omissions.

Method

The developmental support steps are:

  • Determine the business purpose of the process or functional area.  Strongly suggest using the “Purpose is to . . . “ tool.
  • Next is the first activity of the brainstorming method—List.  Label the top of the flip chart with “VERB NOUN” and ask the group to identify all the activities that do or would support the business purpose created in the prior step.  Enforce the listing and capture them only as Verb-Noun pairings.
  • Use the Plan➠Acquire➠Operate➠Control life cycle to help stimulate thinking about what activities may be missing.
  • You should find one to two planning, one to two acquiring, bunches of operating, and at least one to two controlling activities for each business process or scope of work.
  • After identifying the various activities (sometimes called “sub-processes” by others), convert the verb-noun pairings into “use cases” or some form of input-process-output.  Build one use-case for each pairing.
  • Consider assigning the SIPOC tables (a form of use case) to sub-teams.  Demonstrate one in its entirety with the whole group and then break them out into two or three groups.
  • For each activity, build a narrative statement that captures the purpose of the activity, why it is being performed, then:
  1. Continue to identify the specific outputs or what changes as a result of having completed the activity.
  2. Link the outputs with the customer or client of each; ie, who is using each output.
  3. Next identify the inputs required to perform the activity.
  4. Finally identify the sources of the inputs.

An illustrative SIPOC chart is shown below.  SIPOC stands for the Source of the input, Input(s) required to complete the activity, Process (ie, our activity), Output resulting from the activity, and Customer or client of the output.

Summary of steps to be included in this sequence 

  1. Identify the activity (ie, process) and its purpose or WHY it is performed.
  2. Detail HOW it is or should be performed.
  3. List the outputs from the completed activity.
  4. Link the outputs to the respective clients or customers.
  5. List the inputs needed to complete the activity.
  6. Identify the source(s) for each of the inputs.

Success Keys

Keys to success building clear definition of “requirements” mandate using a visual illustration or template.  Additionally,

  • Have the group pre-build all the potential sources and customers of the process and code them so that when you build the SIPOC tables; the group can refer to the code letter/ number instead of the full name (thus substantially speeding up the method).  As you discover new sources or customers, simply add them.
  • Learn to ‘shut up’ after asking questions and seek to understand rather than be understood.
  • Write down participant response immediately and fully.
  • Provide visual feedback, preferably through modeling.
  • Advance from activity identification to the inputs and outputs required to support the activity; then associate each with its sources and clients (SIPOC).
  • Separate the WHAT from the HOW.

Simple Agenda

You may consider using this method with a simple agenda that could look like:

  • Introduction
  • Purpose of __________
  • Activities (NOTE: Take each “Thing” and ask—“What do you do with this thing ?”—forcing “Verb-Noun” pairings.  Test for omissions using the Plan ➺ Acquire ➺ Operate ➺ Control prompting)
  • Value-Add (ie, SIPOC)
  • Walkthrough
  • Wrap

Let us know what you think by commenting below. For additional methodology and team-based meeting support for your change initiative, refer to “Change or Die, a Business Process Improvement Manual” for much of the support you might need.

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills

The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership training workshop offered around the world (see MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).

Do not forget to order Change or Die if you’re working on a business process improvement project. It provides detailed workshop agendas and detailed tools to make your role easier and your team’s performance a lot more effective—daring you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.

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