I’m a big fan of questions that are context-revealing. Context, as you’ve probably heard me say before, is probably the most important non-matter matter in software development. It’s sort of like air in that way. You can’t point to ‘air’; it’s just all around us. Context is the same way. Sure we have requirements, deadlines, and budgets, and those are all substantive, but we also have the context behind the requirements, the deadlines, and the budgets, and that context shaped those things without really being contained in those things.
I’ll probably talk more about that in future writings, but currently I just want to focus on two context revealing questions I use — and these aren’t original to me, I learned about them from Seth Godin’s work, and it’s something I understand Carl Richards uses as well.
- Who is this for?
- What does it do?
This is a question that can be used with people, process, or tools; and it can be used in the large sense and the small sense.
For instance, “Who is the process of sending a weekly report of our velocity for?” and “What does this report of our velocity do for them?” are both context-revealing questions about something that’s a microcosm of software development.
Likewise, asking “Who is this staging environment for?” and “What do they do with it?” reveals context about a bigger question.
It’s almost like asking why, without the amygdala hijacking that asking “why?” can have.