Coordination and collective mind in software requirements development

Publication Type:

Journal Article


IBM Systems Journal, Volume 37, Issue 2, Number 2, p.227–245 (1998)


Software Development


The purpose of this study was to understand how the group processes of teams of software requirements analysts led to problems and to suggest possible solutions. Requirements definition is important to establish the framework for a development project. Researchers have proposed numerous requirements development techniques, but less has been done on managing teams of requirements analysts. To learn more about group processes within such teams, we studied two teams of analysts developing requirements for large, complex real-time systems. These teams had problems ensuring that requirements documents were complete, consistent, and correct; fixing those problems required additional time and effort. To identify sources of problems, we applied two theories of collective action, coordination theory and collective mind theory. Coordination theory suggests that a key problem in requirement analysis is identifying and managing dependencies between requirements and among tasks. Most requirements methods and tools reflect this perspective, focusing on better representation and communication of requirements. The collective mind perspective complements these suggestions by explaining how individuals come to understand how their work contributes to the work of the group. This perspective suggests that deficiencies in actors' representations of the process and subordination to collective goals limit the value of their contributions.


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