More than a shared understanding is required

To be very successful in new product development, more than a shared understanding is required.

A Common Perspective on Shared Understanding

In some cases, a shared understanding is facilitated during ideation (brain storming) sessions with a diverse group of individuals guided by a facilitator. The progress toward agreement may be managed by creating and arranging sticky notes and voting. In some cases, ‘shared understanding’ implies consensus. In some cases, certain opinions are promoted by the most dominant personality in the room or the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion (HiPPO).

This type of shared understanding facilitates progress in a Big Design Up Front (BDUF) context. A shared understanding promotes a feeling of confidence when requirements are written.

Note: For this post, I am not addressing the benefits of project artifacts such as style sheets, templates, and processes. These tend to promote consistency. They do not drive shared understanding.

Shared Understanding and User Stories

Recently, I have noted that the meme of ‘shared understanding’ is being associated with the requirements for user stories. The assumption seemed to be that ‘when there is a shared understanding within the development team, requirements can inform the writing of user stories.’

Challenging Shared Understanding

A shared understanding is problematic when it is incorrect or insufficient. Memes that are incorrect or insufficient are insidious.

Better Understanding

Instead of a shared understanding that may be insidious, strive to develop a network-informed, self-correcting understanding. Strive to improve the capability to detect mismatches.

Mismatch: the difference between the phenomena that is observed and the conceptual description of that situation.

A better understanding improves through cycles of synthesis, testing, and observing interactions between proposed solutions and stakeholders (such as customers, sales representatives,…). Development networks that can deliver and test prototypes are positioned to appreciate the trends that emerge and adapt to provide better solutions more efficiently.

A development network can achieve a shared understanding or, better yet, they can improve their capability for a better understanding. Shared understanding can be achieved in the isolation of a conference room. The capability for better understanding can be accelerated through interaction between stakeholders (including potential customers) and prototypes. Instead of prematurely accepting requirements, hypotheses can be validated.

Impact on Development Experience

When a development network has ample potential to improve capabilities that they value, individuals (such as designers, engineers, subject matter experts, …) are more likely to be motivated. The development environment facilitates the improvement of factors such as autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Such environments promote a culture where the quality of the Development Experience [DX] enables multiple successes.