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What you say is not always what you mean. What you mean is not always what you say.

Posted on Thu 7 April 2016
Written by Keith Turkington MD of Fluent Technology, grant management guru, process engineer, frequent flyer, father of 3, ufology geek and keen cook.

I, like many, was saddened to hear of the passing of Ronnie Corbett. I have many happy memories of watching “the Two Ronnies” when I was much younger and my wife and I regularly quote from their famous “four candles/fork handles” sketch. If you have never seen this it is definitely worth a viewing. The humour is smart and effortlessly delivered by two brilliant comedians.

When we talk about processes or requirements with our clients we try to be aware of “fork handle” moments. It is so easy to misinterpret what someone says. What you ask for, what we hear you ask for and what you actually need can be 3 separate things.

If we are speaking with you and trying to understand how you operate and what you need, please bear with us if we ask you to repeat what you’ve just said or walk through it yet another time. A classic model for gathering requirements is to walk through each requirement 3 times:

• The first time we ask you to describe something you will most likely talk at length and give us an unstructured collection of thoughts. This is perfectly natural.
• The second time we ask you to walk through the detail you will assemble your thoughts better and state them easier and quicker than before.
• The third time we will ask you to sum up in a sentence or two what you have been describing to us. By doing this you will focus on what is most important to you which in turn helps us better prioritise what you need.

It might be time consuming and it might seem we are not quickly grasping what you are saying but it is purposeful and it will mean we are far less likely to misinterpret what you mean.

I would like to light a handle in memory of Ronnie. No wait, make that a candle…

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