The Agilist Network

Tales and Tips from Agile Software Projects

Requirements Anti-Pattern #267: Unknown Knowns

Posted by kenhoward on August 19, 2008

A perfect engineering storm happened in Warsaw this week. The project was carefully chunked into separate well bounded smaller projects, which would all be integrated near the end of implementation. Team 1 built the train tunnel, and team 2 was responsible for the train tracks. It wasn’t really necessary for the tunnel builders to talk to the track builders, after all, they had all done similar projects many times before. After construction was complete, inspectors discovered that the newly engineered tracks are taller than previous installations, therefore, the tunnel is not tall enough to fit a train.

Thanks to Rumsfeld, we’ve all heard of Known Knowns, Known Unknowns, and Unknown Unknowns. This Polish project fiasco introduces another phenomena I refer to as Unknown Knowns – Requirements folks make assumptions based on what they think they already know, but due to change, they’re wrong.

So what are the engineers in Warsaw to do? Raise the roof? Lower the tunnel base? Reengineer the track height? I suggest they look into building smaller trains. 😉


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