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Wanna or Gotta?

Or, “Maslow's hierarchy of requirements”

In this blog post, I will attempt to share some of my current thoughts and related ideas on “Wants and Needs”.


Generally speaking, a “requirement” is simply “something that is wanted or needed”. Further, a “want” is “something that is desired” and a “need” is “something that is necessary (for some particular purpose)”. But, how can you tell if a specific requirement is something that is wanted or needed? And, is the difference important?

To help me determine and decide, I follow a few steps…

1. First, I identify the specific requirement (X)

2. Next, I identify a particular purpose* (Y) for the specific requirement

Thus far, the process is simply a Root Cause Analysis technique – asking “Why” to help determine reason (a cause, explanation, or justification for an action or event). However, another step is added to help further determine and decide if the specific requirement is a “want” or a “need”:

3. Finally, I ask, “Can this particular purpose (Y) be achieved without the specific requirement (X)?”

  • If the answer is “Yes (this particular purpose can be achieved without the specific requirement)”, then the requirement is likely something that is merely wanted/desired.

  • But, if the answer if “No (this particular purpose cannot be achieved without the specific requirement)”, then the requirement is likely something that is absolutely needed/necessary (to accomplish that goal).

In addition, after you’ve followed these steps once, you can follow them again (and again) by using the “particular purpose” identified in step 2 as a new “specific requirement” in step 1. And, if you follow these steps recursively enough times, eventually you’ll end up with a purpose that is philosophical or emotional in nature (like, “Because it is good/right” or “Because it makes me happy”, respectively). And, trying to determine and decide if these philosophical or emotional purposes are things that are wanted or needed is probably unanswerable.

However, following these steps – to a reasonable extent – is important!

In My Experience, determining and deciding if a specific high-level requirement is something that is merely wanted, or something that is absolutely needed, has helped me better understand exactly what is being requested, and how to address it.

I examine and explore “wants and needs” in my talks “The Hidden Requirements” and “Improv(e) Your Requirements!”.

*As with causality (“cause and effect”), there are always multiple purposes for any requirement, whether they are known, stated, or not. However, this process focuses on only one particular purpose for a specific requirement.

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