Decisions create requirements

I have two wonderful grandsons, Luke (4) and Eli (2).   They are a joy to watch, but extremely curious.  So I’m preparing myself for the day when Luke hops into my lap and asks the birds and the bees question, “Grandpa, where do requirements come from?”.

I’m sure I’ll first have to dispel some half-truths passed on by sincere, but sincerely wrong individuals.  They will probably have learned in Sunday School that everything reproduces “after its own kind”.  Sheep produce sheep.   Plants produce plants.  Sharks produce sharks.  So Luke may try to answer his own question and proudly proclaim, “requirements create requirements!”  And he will be wrong.

No requirement has ever cloned itself or split itself into 2.  No group of 3, 5, or 17 requirements have ever gotten together and said, “Let’s reproduce after our own kind” and created some child requirements.  That honor falls to a different kind of creature; DECISIONS alone have the power to create requirements.

Stated another way, “Every requirement can be traced to one or more upstream decisions”.  This is both universally true without exception (you can confirm this with a thought experiment) and extremely useful.  You’ll never come across a requirement whose very existence and identity wasn’t dependent on the answer (committed alternative) in a prior decision.  If the upstream decision-makers change their minds and commit to a different alternative, then this requirement could go “poof” or at least be modified in some way.  A “derived requirement” is an inherent consequence that flows from the definition of a committed alternative.  If the alternative is to be implemented, then the derived requirement becomes a constraint on the other decisions that define the strategy, system, product or life.

This makes decision-to-requirement traceability an extremely valuable capability.  It highlights that requirement-to-requirement traceability is of dubious value unless the hidden “decision in the middle” is made visible.

Decisions also consume requirements.  More on that later …

Trace your requirements from the decisions that created them. Capture these decisions using the decision management capabilities of the Decision Driven® Solutions Framework (DDSF). Get started with your free trial of DDSF by contacting the Decision Driven® Solutions team at or

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