Do You Clearly See What You Need?

Or are you too busy looking?

Kate Dames
Teal Times


I recently received a job specification from a job placement consultancy looking for an agile business analyst. It was three pages long and started with something that sounded like “The Business Analyst works alongside the Business Owner, Product Owner and Project Manager.”

This reminded me how flawed agile implementations are in so many places simply because companies don’t know what they are looking for when it comes to resources and rely on generic job descriptions and skills matrixes rather than identifying the need within the company and the values that they are looking for. They look for credentials and words on paper to help them decide on a suitable candidate rather than reading between the lines to see potential and talent based on the complete profile of the candidate.

Eyes Wide Shut

When I responded back to the consultant telling him that the position is too junior for me and that there wouldn’t be enough authority in the role to help the company transition towards more agile practices, which is clearly what they are looking for and what I really want to do, the answer quickly came back that the company is actually looking for a senior resource based on feedback from previous candidates.

“It’s not what you look at, it’s what you see that matters”

This anonymous quote came to mind as I again felt the frustration of not being seen for the value I bring to a company in the world of software development, and on the other hand the employers’ frustration not finding the resources they are looking for even though it is right in front of them.

What are they looking for?

What this company, like so many other companies are looking for, is someone autonomous that will be able to translate the business needs into techie-talk chunks of requirements that is implementable by developers. Someone that has adequate vision and judgement to decide on the priority and realize the impact of changes without adding any risks. Someone that has the ability to help the developers focus on the right things, while ensuring that they are delivering value to the customers.

What are they asking for?

However what they are asking for is someone that is able to write extensive documents, in this case a BRS (business requirement specification), a FRS (functional requirement specification) as well as user stories, without any autonomy in decision making as there is not only a Project Manager, but also a Product Owner as well as a Business Owner to consult on any work done.

What they are really asking for, respectfully said, is an intern, coated in sugar and paid more. Someone that will follow instructions obediently, while being clever enough not to require too much supervision. Basically, an extra pair of hands to help out what the Product Owner can’t get around to do.

What do they need?

What they really need is to resolve the breakdown in communication between different teams. The lack of functional communication between the teams causes trust issues, which in turn results in a need for more proof in the form of extensive documents, which in turn requires more resources to do the work and deliver.

Realistically however the communication issue is as a result of years and probably decades of small errors, so it will probably take a while to resolve and they need something more immediate and concrete to work with right now.

The immediate need I would recommend is to get a hands-on agile coach that can work with the Product Owner and Business Owner to help them better articulate the business needs in actionable tasks for the developers.

Requirements are the bottleneck stopping the team from delivering and adding more people to create yet more documents, are the opposite of what they need to do, even though it seems like the obvious solution to the problem and the immediate need to alleviate the pressure on the Product Owner.

They should rather however be looking at someone that can help them identify how to get rid of documents without risking losing any intellectual property while they slowly rebuild the bridges of communication between the teams. They need to learn to trust. Trust their people, trust their customers, trust their decisions.

They need someone to help the Product Owner compile user stories in a granular enough format that both business and developers will understand, while keeping the vision and roadmap in mind.

Less is More

“More” is mostly a symptom of a bottleneck in your delivery chain and is rarely an indication of a lack of resources. When you are constantly struggling in an area and keep adding more, whether it is documents, people or process, you’ve hit your bottleneck and need to declutter.

Start questioning who needs the documents and why, and work with all the key identified stakeholders to systematically get rid of only one thing per sprint, until you reach a point where all the stakeholders have exactly what they need, without any extra weight to carry around.

Extra means slower

When you have more than what you need, it means you need to search longer for what you are looking for, which in turn means less time for being productive. It means you need more time to develop the artifacts, which means less time to deliver value.

When you have anything extra, you are not fully agile.


Knowing what you want and knowing what you need are not always that obvious or easy to spot. The best question to ask next time you consider adding more, is “Will more speed me up or slow me down?” and “Will this cost me less than the value it will bring me?”.

Are you looking for more clarity on your organizational problems or a different perspective?

Help me spread agile awareness by sending me your questions and problem at for a different perspective of what your organization needs.

Originally published at



Kate Dames
Teal Times

A cup of fresh ideas for old problems. Integrating technology, agile, gamification & lean to make workplaces more human, productive & fun.