Improving Elicitation Sessions: Using A Parking Lot

As much as elicitation sessions stand to benefit from the creativity and ideas of stakeholders, not every suggestion raised will be valid, within scope or even practical. 

Should the BA dismiss every impractical idea on the spot and risk impeding free-flowing ideas? How best can the BA manage the situation? How can one ensure that good ideas that are not immediately recognisable as such have a chance of survival? 

The parking lot, also called issue list or issue bin, can be extremely useful at meetings when ideas that are out of scope are proffered. These ideas can be “parked” for discussion at a later time and further explored for their value.  

How can BAs avoid misusing the parking lot?

This piece provides tips for using the parking lot in elicitation sessions.

1) Explain the purpose of the parking lot before the meeting begins. If the issues on the parking lot are abandoned after the meeting, stakeholders might question your intentions the next time you suggest using it. If participants understand that it is not a black hole into which their ideas will disappear, they will be encouraged to contribute ideas.

2) The issues should be written where everyone can clearly see to avoid duplication/repetition of ideas. You can use the white board to list down these ideas.

3) For large elicitation sessions, you may employ someone to write down the issues for you.

4) Once the meeting draws to an end, review the issues on the parking lot. Some may already have been discussed, or found to be irrelevant by this time. Draw a line across these and focus on those that are still valid.

5) The parking lot can serve as breeding ground for action points. Convert these issues into tasks for relevant people and follow up to ensure that they are appropriately closed. 

6) Don’t place issues in the parking lot if you do not plan to re-visit them. Re-visiting them may however, result in cancelling them or exploring them further. Participants will however, remember their ideas and wonder what happened to them. Communicate the outcome of each item on the parking list to stakeholders so that they are carried along. 

Though having an agenda can help to reduce distraction in meetings, discussions can veer off into unintended directions and should therefore be kept on track with the use of a parking lot to save time and energy. If properly used, the parking lot can help the BA in achieving the objectives of elicitation sessions with minimal disruption.

Picture Attribution: “Parking Sign” by fantasista/