When I coach product teams in the corporate world I always ask them to show me how they define requirements, user stories or other pieces of work that go into the development process.
What I find in most of the cases is a lack of visualization. Requirements are written down in epic documents but very few manage to visualize what they actually want to see on the screen. This leads to the fact that requirements are discussed and agreed but the visual end result is based on interpretation of each individual. As an outcome the development team delivers a version of the product which more or less meets the define requirements but most likely does not meet the expectation of the product owner. What follows is a flood of change request, hotfixes and other tweaks in order to get the product right. At the end the result might be great but the way of getting there was damn expensive.
What has happened here?
Everyone understood the requirements and everyone was aligned on what the new version of the product should be able to do. The mismatch was on HOW the user would experience the new product. Its obvious that visualizing the requirement would have done the trick to align expectations and to avoid different interpretations. So why don’t people do it?
Studies show that people remember 10% of what they hear and 20% of what they read, but about 80 percent of what they see and do.
We all know people are different and some feel more confident about sketching and drawing than others. But to be efficient in this domain I believe it’s crucial.
Just do it!
Here is 5 simple things I recommend you to do:
When discussing ideas, requirements or user stories sketch them out during the meeting together with your team. Use a piece of paper, a whiteboard or the virtual drawing board that comes with most online meeting tools.
Draw the first line
Even if you think you really suck at sketching make the first step. Once you have started to visualize your idea others will automatically jump in and take over to show their point of view. It’s not about the beauty of your sketch it about starting a visual discussion.
Motivate others to visualize
If someone talks about his point of view regarding a feature or requirements ask him to sketch it out for you. “Sorry, I don’t know if I fully understood your concept, can you draw that for me?” And off you go!
Capture the results
Always take pictures of your sketches and share them with your team after a meeting. Since everyone is equipped with multi-mega-pixel camera these days – this is a zero effort and more valuable than any meeting minutes ever written.
Advance your skills
There are a lot of good books and articles out there that teach you how to advance your visualization skills. Here are a few that I can recommend:
- Blah Blah Blah: What To Do When Words Don’t Work
- Back of the napkin
- Sketching: The visual thinking power tool
- Why we sketch
By the way you can also practice by sketching in your daily life. When you plan your next vacation draw a map and highlight the places you want to visit, the things you want to take along or when planning your next birthday party sketch out a todo list, the layout of the party location, the guest list … planning will become more fun.
Start visualizing and I promise you will see the impact in no time. You don’t have to be a designer. Just do it!