Agile 2006: Agile Requirements Workshop: Essentials for Planning, Design, and Facilitation – Ellen Gottesdiener

Tuesday 13:30-17:00

Abstract

Facilitating an agile requirements workshop requires a great deal of preparation and particular facilitation skills.

Summary

Workshops are different from meetings. They require more pre-work, and anything that must be decided in the workshop should be clarified beforehand. Workshops often encourage “serious play” rather than just discussion.

For Agile Requirements workshops, it may be necessary to hold one or more per release or iteration. The whole team participates, including customers, QA/testing, and developers. The customer can help to identify who needs to be represented. Good workshops should have no more than fifteen participants at the most. Surrogate users are not ideal – the customer’s needs can’t be guessed. If it can’t be avoided, get more training for the surrogate users.

The facilitator needs to use tools to jump-start workshops, e.g. for a workshop to produce use cases, provide a list of good verbs to use and some examples. The facilitator also needs to manage the “chaos”, and bring out the introverts. One of the greatest skills in facilitation is observation.

When designing a workshop, the purpose must be clear – why is this workshop being held? It may be necessary to consult with the participants prior to the workshop to ensure the purpose is correct. It must be linked to the project purpose, and for requirements workshops, the higher level scope should have already been agreed on.

It may be necessary to create a workshop planning team. If the workshop goes off target or isn’t working, the planning team can call a break and discuss how to adjust the process. The workshop facilitator must be neutral. The workshop should have defined behavioural rules – ensure the team know them, and call out if they are broken.

It must be clear what “done enough” means in the workshop. When are the models good enough, or complete enough? How precise must each deliverable be? The facilitator must know this in advance. The workshop products should be listed in components – models should be broken down to lead the group in tasks to get to them.

The workshop space is important – the room needs to be set up ahead of time, food is important – don’t work through lunch.

Kickstart the workshop activities – begin with an image – “imagine you are a user trying to … [fill in the blanks] – what pieces of information do you need to input?”

Always complete the workshop with a retrospective on the workshop – how did it go?

Key points

  • Prepare properly for agile requirements workshops.
  • Use energizer activities to get people involved at the beginning.
  • Define outcomes of workshops more clearly.

Recommended further reading

Decide how to decide – http://www.ebgconsulting.com/pubs/Articles/DecideHowToDecide-Gottesdiener.pdf
Ground rules resources – Roger Schwarz http://www.schwarzassociates.com/facilitator/37/Products/
Team Retrospectives for better Iterations Assessment – Ellen Gottesdiener
http://www.ebgconsulting.com/pubs/Articles/TeamRetrospectives-Gottesdiener.pdf
The powerpoint provides a great deal of further information and examples.