Thursday, July 10, 2008

Purple Monkey Dishwasher

Back when I was little, we used to play a game called "Chinese whispers". I'm sure you know the game, everybody sits in a circle and someone starts whispering a message into another persons ear. This message then gets relayed to the next person and so on until the message finally gets back to the last person. Quite often, by the time the last person received the message, it was garbled, changed, lost information or had new information added. This happened consistently even when the message was very simple (hey, we were only kids..)..

For me, I learned that the more people who are involved in a chain of communications, the higher the risk of information being incorrect when it reaches it's target.

Unfortunately, I still see this type of thing happening in my day to day work. It's not uncommon for developers to be 3-4 times removed from the users of a system. Now what makes this worse is that the information being passed around tends to be a lot more complicated than when we were we little kids. Complicated business requirements, processes, legal requirements. None of this is particularly easy on the best of days, but after it's been through the process, it's almost guaranteed to be incorrect when it gets to the developer. The only question is how incorrect.

Now, don't try and read behind the lines here for any hidden messages about Business Analysts, expert users etc.. There is none of that. They are all an important part of the process. So is keeping the developers in the loop on communications. There are a hundred different ways to do this, from the simple CC on an email through to using forums for all requirements gathering etc.

Think about the Chinese whispers situation at your work and see if you can't do something to help the message get to the developers in a clearer way.

*Yes, the title is a classic line from the Simpson's where a message was passed through a crowd at a protest rally. The message made it to the Edna, complete with Purple Monkey Dishwasher at the end. "We'll show them, especially for the Purple Monkey Dishwasher comment!"

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