Understanding before documentation

One of the most important principles I use in all the agile and lean software development or cross functional teams I run is ‘understanding first’. This means that teams must first seek to understand and only then write that up. My default form of this is to take two very different groups — perhaps IT and the business or product management and producers or finance and a budget owner — and get them to each explain their viewpoint to the other. They talk until the other group can explain their viewpoint to their own satisfaction. Then they sit together and write it up.

The longer that the groups work together the more rapport that they build. Talking is many times quicker than writing and this is many times quicker again than waiting for an email response. Once understanding is reached the last crinkles can be ironed out by writing together.

Often the business will ask IT to do the write up so that they can review at their leisure. This is a mistake. It confuses the time spent as support with the total time needed. A little feedback in the first write up can be the difference that makes the difference so that only one iteration is needed.



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