Friday, May 04, 2007

ideas: quick exercise

After the positive response I had to my last so-called "quick exercise" around competition assessment, I thought I'd herald in the weekend with another gem from my bag of PM tricks.

This last week brought an opportunity for me to do one of my very favorite things - listen to ideas from someone who knows a lot about my product.

I'm not going to tell you how to capture requirements. What I am going to suggest is that when you have an individual with a particular point of view (sales, marketing, executive, accounting, support, etc) who presents to you with a desire to express a requirement, and you really, really want to understand it, do the following:

Schedule a fixed period of time of no more than sixty minutes.

Invite a third party with a very different point of view to sit with you to hear the requirement. By "different point of view" I don't suggest you find someone who disagrees, but someone whose perspective of the product is different. This is important for any discussion of point #5.

Make sure the person who is going to give you the requirement knows that you're inviting a third party.

When the time comes to sit down for your meeting, set the following ground rules:

1. The person with the idea gets to talk first, then there's a short discussion between the person with the idea and the person you invited.
2. Start with the "most important idea".
3. Ask for a single line description of the idea, then some background into where the idea came from and why it's important.
4. Then invite the two other people to talk about the idea. . .and write down everything they say.
5. When you sense the conversation either drifting or starting to cover territory again, summarize what you've heard is the impact of this idea. In other words, if you had this feature, what would you get? Would it accelerate sales? Open a new market? Make your current product break less?
6. Note how much time is left in the meeting then move on to the next one.
7. Repeat steps 1 through 6 until time is up.
8. Forward the notes from the meeting to the two people who attended the meeting, and invite them to comment on what you wrote down before you make what was discussed public.

Once you get feedback, your job is to incorporate this information into whatever mechanism you use to publicize ideas - whether that is an internal discussion group, a wiki, whatever.

I'll let you have a look at this before I tell you why this particular process is so effective - and important. What do you think this would do for you that's different from how you capture ideas and requirements today?

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