Do you recognize the situation in which a walkthrough is organized where the author talks a group of attendees through a document, turning pages and explaining what already is written down? Where the attendees are more focused on their smart phones and laptops instead of trying to concentrate on the topic at hand? Maybe it’s time to reverse roles instead of turning pages.
A walkthrough is defined by IEEE (1028-1997, IEEE Standard for Software Reviews) as a form of review “in which a designer or programmer leads members of the development team and other interested parties through a software product, and the participants ask questions and make comments about possible errors, violation of development standards, and other problems“.
When well-organized and well-prepared, this form of review certainly can be effective. The reality however is that only the author is partly prepared and the attendees play a passive role or just start thinking about the subject at the time the author mentions it. This leads to a situation in which a passive attitude overrules the active.
What would happen when we reverse roles? The reviewers explain the author what he wrote in the document. This requires an active participation of the reviewers (in preparation and presentation) and leaves no option for the author who needs to be active as well at least during the presentations.
This method is called a “reverse walkthrough”. The definition is not described by IEEE, so I took the liberty to define it as follows: “A reverse walkthrough is a form of review in which the development team and other interested parties lead the designer through it’s own product, and the designer asks questions, makes comments and provides clarification on misinterpretations and ambiguities.”
A reverse walkthrough should be performed when the product has a high risk of being misunderstood. For example when it’s written in an other language, when a lot of slang is used, when it’s placed within a very specific context or when it concerns a very complex matter. One or more reviewers summarize their view on the document in a short presentation, as seen from their own role. The moderator makes sure reviewers get time to give their view, keeping discussions short but allowing short explanations and exchanges of ideas.
I will spend some time on writing down the process and guidelines for the reversed walkthrough on this website, so you can try it out yourself!
Update 06-10-2016: the description of the process and guidelines can be found here.