Little by little...

Little by little...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Your Value is Not in the Tasks that You Do

When I started as a BA, I would fuss over every task that I learned. I completed exception forms to the letter, created detailed incident tickets, and clearly documented detailed requirements. I was new to IT and I thought these tasks were a reflection of my value to the organization.

Then I met my first agile coach. :)

As he challenged our team’s assumptions and taught us leaner ways of working, I began to question my own worth. If no one needed my documentation, then what was I supposed to do?

Then this coach suggested that my value is not in the tasks that I do.

Hmmm. Up until that point, my self-worth was wrapped up completely in my tasks. I had lots of ideas, but pushed them aside in favor of a checklist of deliverables that someone else deemed important. This idea set me free!

I uncovered skills and strengths that I didn’t know I possessed. I learned to facilitate meetings and draw pictures on whiteboards, which added much more value than typing up pages of meeting minutes. I also discovered an ability to collaborate and aid understanding across multiple teams.

Maybe more importantly, I began to see some of my quirks as assets. My openness (a.k.a. big mouth) and lack of a poker face encourages authentic conversations. And my need to understand, which sometimes results in asking lots of “dumb” questions, has emboldened others to admit when they don’t know an answer.

In retrospect, that statement was the first little moment where agile clicked for me. Following a pre-determined checklist can get things done. But using your strengths and those of your team can uncover better ways of doing things and ultimately greater success.


  1. Thank you for this, Diane.

    It's funny. In 2003, I was working at a more ... traditional organization. I thought what each person brought to the project was who they were and their skills, not the title. I remember one manager writing on a whiteboard "BE YOUR ROLE ... KNOW YOUR ROLE!" and repeating it, again and again, in meetings. I'm not sure, but I suspect he thought of my own personal opinion on value as some sort of subversive attack on what management was trying to accomplish in making the process "stable, predictable, and repeatable." In that org, I didn't quite fit in.

    Ten years later, and I go to the agile conference, and I felt the opposite - that I didn't quite fit in because I /*didn't go far enough*/.

    Today, I'm back from the conference, trying to process. Thank you for your blogging; it points us in a good direction, it is helpful. and insightful.



  2. Thanks for the comment. I definitely see management try to keep people in "roles" because they think it gives them more control. I wish they would realize how costly that is. :(

    It was great seeing you again. I'll be bugging you soon about collaborating on some writing! :)