Explore a Focus Group Approach for Difficulties with Requirements

By Jeff Jorvig, NPD Management Corner Blog

If new product requirements are a challenge for your team, and they are for many, it may time to consider a focus group or workshop type approach. Most of the problems I see with requirements are related to a lack in focus across the multiple levels of requirements needed for a new product. During this process there tends to be a lot of waiting going on, either for another level to be completed or a decision to be made.

A focus group approach brings all those concerned into a planned and well-facilitated set of requirements sessions. The sole purpose of the group is reaching consensus on a suite of requirements for a new product. You’re thinking that this sounds like a lot of work, aren’t you? In reality it’s not much more work for the team itself; actually it could be less due to improved preparation and focus. Only the person responsible for making the workshop happen will be burdened with extra work.

The alternative to this approach is to continue dealing with the disruptions caused by confusion, poor quality and frequent changes. I might suggest putting a price tag on the present, unfocused effort as a justification for exploring this alternative. You will be surprised to find how much requirements confusion costs in rework and delays.

Below are some considerations for utilizing a focus group approach to create the proper emphasis on requirements. Planning is critical for success and will typically consume 3-4x as much time as the workshop sessions, if done properly.