A Useful Substitution Algorithm + A Reframe

From Jerry Weinberg on his SHAPE forum:

Don Gause taught me the wonderful substitution algorithm:

Whenever you see “should” in a requirement, change it to “probably won’t.”

(Don Gause and Jerry are co-authors of Exploring Requirements: Quality Before Design, which is IMHO one of the best books on requirements around. The concepts in this book are useful in both agile and more traditional development approaches. It’s been around for a while, so I guess we can call it a classic.)

This algorithm applies not only to requirements, but to life in general:

I spend much of the fall and early winter of 2003 traveling. I felt like I didn’t have much time to write because I was either on the road, with a client, or preparing for the next engagement.

When the new year started, and I had an entire month booked to be in my office. An incredible luxury of time to reflect and write!

Every day I headed for my office and said “I should write today.” And then I didn’t.

This is a distressing state of affairs for a writer in any case, and worse when deadlines loom (they did).

Finally, I overthrew the tyranny of “the should.”

Instead of saying “I should write today,” I looked at the outcome I wanted to create and said:

“Today I want to create a workbook that will be helpful to the students in my Retrospective Workshop when I’m gone and they prepare to facilitate their first retrospective.”


“Today I want to create an article that will show readers the value of team based planning.”

And then it became easy to write.

So what should you do today? And how can you shift the “should” into creating a useful and desirable outcome?