People don´t understand or listen properly to me. Should I be mad?

My Webex extravaganza…

Last week I had the opportunity to host a Webex with the provocative title “Start over and do it right! The art of writing high quality requirements”.

It went super and the audience listen to me talking about human behavior, the art to write a statement in natural language that is clear, correct, complete and consistent within its context. I did not ONCE talk about how you go about and develop the System solution, but I did the “mistake” of showing that your goal is to go from A (a user need) to B (a System that fulfills A) with a time lime between. So, I got feedback stating:

“This is waterfall and that’s not very Lean. I expected to hear something new”.

Or what I think is the best comment of them all:

“The presenter stated that you shall write the requirement in the beginning and that’s not Agile. We do many short sprints in my project and do not need to spend useless time in the beginning on writing requirements that no one reads anyway. We focus on the customer instead”.


For me the above feedback given to me shows that:

  1. People are still in the Waterfall vs. Agile development war. Why? If you use a waterfall model correctly, plan your tasks and iterate accordingly, this can be both Lean and Agile. Why have we not come further? I have heard this debate for 20 years now and it’s not taking us anywhere. Give it a rest!
  2. I did a mistake to present a straight time line (with an arrow I might add) from A to B and instantly people thought that I meant that you do thing once and you never go back, EVER? I did not once said that, so Why is the interpreted like that?

The art and science of  NPL

But again, it just proves me right in the first place.. I talked in my WebEx on human behavior and how our brain interprets information (written or spoken). There is a fascinating field of Neuro linguistic programming (NLP) that encompasses the three most influential components involved in producing human experience: neurology, language and programming. The neurological system regulates how our bodies function, language determines how we interface and communicate with other people and our programming determines the kinds of models of the world we create.


So, what happened in the WebEx? Since the body language where minimized to just showing my face, the spoken information was a one way street with no interaction with the auidience, the listeners “programming” caused problems. Even if I NEVER said the things mentioned in the feedback, the listeners clearly THOUGHT that was what I was trying to say. One of the most prominent flaws we humans have is to first fit new information into our existing (old) belief system to verify that we are still correct.

The fun thing is really that this was EXACTLY my point in the Webex! We need to be better at stating requirements in the first place (and itterate of cause) so that the reader  don’t end up having to interpret, misunderstand or read between the lines. We need requirements that are CORRECT, COMPLETE (as a set of requirements) and CONSISTENT within its environment/context.

But, I shouldn´t be that angry or hurt. The problem is still mine if I go back to the WebEx in this case. I cannot blame the audience for not understanding me. They were both as intelligent and experiences as me (ok, almost.). BUT I did not reach them with my ideas or intentions. I was not clear enough with my information and did not adopt it to audience!

And by the way. It does not matter if you write requirements in natural language or write use-cases, personas, scenarios, diagrams, drawings, SysML-models, SCRUM back logs, test cases (or even WebEx feedback to a grumpy old fart)….. The problem may occur regardless the PACKAGING of the information!

Stay tuned and for god sake. Give me some feedback!

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