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7 Habits of Highly Effective BA People

When I was 17, I stumbled upon the fascinating world of audiobooks. The first audiobook that I ever heard was the life changing “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People“, read by the author himself. The riveting real-life examples, practical advice, and the passion in delivery made this book have a huge impact in my life.

In this post I would like to summarize the seven habits, and provide a parallel of how business analysts can adapt them to be more effective with 2 key BA lessons per habit. These habits have a universal appeal, and could be observed as a common theme with highly effective people.

Let us see what BA lessons we can derive out of them.

 Related Article: The 11th Powerful Business Analyst Lesson from the Life of Pi – This Will Surprise You!

1) Be Proactive

In Summary: I still remember the depth of meaning in this simple statement that I felt when Dr. Covey explained what it means to be proactive as human beings. Owning up to the responsibility for our own lives and the actions we take is the essence of this habit. When you dissect the word “responsibility”, it splits to mean “the ability” to choose a “response”. Being proactive means that you exercise this ability consciously without being reactive to changing stimuli and situations.

2 BA Lessons:

  • Be proactive with your career – decide where you want to go this year, and for the next few years in terms of career growth. Make growth happen, don’t expect it to happen on its own.
  • Be proactive with your work – for any business analysis work, planning, and monitoring are key aspects and often ignored. There should be a definite meaning in the BABOK having the “Business Analysis Planning and Monitoring” as the biggest knowledge area. Explore this area, learn more and implement it in your work.

The Flip Side: If you are not proactive, you will be reactive. A victim of the forces and circumstances surrounding you. Decide to act, and not be acted upon.

2) Begin with The End in Mind

In Summary: Mental visualization is extremely important. Covey says that all things are created twice: first, the mental conceptualization and visualization and a second physical, actual creation. Becoming your own creator means to plan and visualize what you’re going to do and what you’re setting out to accomplish and then go out and creating it. As a part of this habit, Covey adds: “The personal mission statement gives us a changeless core from which we can deal with external change.”

2 BA Lessons:

  • Set professional goals and milestones – if you are planning on a CBAP or PBA certification or completion of a course, set them as goals. Track your progress by marking milestones on a calendar.
  • Visualize success in your current project – conceive and believe that you will make your current project or endeavor successful. Visualize it.

The Flip Side: Lack of goals and milestones causes lesser focus and can lead to doing less than ordinary work.

3) Put First Things First

In Summary: With your power of independent will, you can create the ending you want to have. Part of that comes with effective time management, starting with matters of importance. Then tasks should be completed based on urgency after you deal with all the important matters. If you deal with crises, pressing problems and deadline-driven projects first, your life will be a lot easier. The essence of time management is to organize and execute around priorities.

2 BA Lessons:

  • Prioritize the sequence of analysis work – when analyzing needs of the stakeholders and assessing solution options, prioritize the resolution of core issues and needs first. One of my favorite mantras has been “an hour of effectively prioritized business analysis now, will save two hours of project management later.”
  • Read and apply “getting things done” – I would highly recommend you read “getting things done” by David Allen to start understanding the core principles of productivity.

The Flip Side: Not having priority causes you to do easy things first and may jeopardize the time that you would have available for more important things.

4) Think Win-Win

In Summary: If you believe in a better way to accomplish goals that is mutually beneficial to all sides, that is a win-win situation. “All parties feel good about the decision and feel committed to the action plan,” Covey wrote. “One person’s success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of the success of others.” If you have integrity and maturity, there’s no reason win-win situations can’t happen all the time.

2 BA Lessons:

  • Always think of win-win for the business and the IT – ask yourself, how can you make a given situation a win/win for your team and the business? Even if doing a small thing can change the way business or your team feels about a decision or an outcome, you have achieved win/win.
  • Build effective relationships with your stakeholders – to understand win-win properly it is imperative that you know the real expectations and attitudes of various stakeholders.

The Flip Side: You will fall into a win-lose, lose-win, or a lose-lose situation, which is not the best outcome.

5) Seek First to Understand, Then To Be Understood

In Summary: If you’re a good listener and you take the time to understand a concept, it will help you convey your opinions, plans and goals to others. It starts with communication and strong listening skills, followed by diagnosing the situation and then communicating your solution to others.

2 BA Lessons:

  • Practice listening skills – leave some silence when needed. Listen with an intent to paraphrase, act like a news reporter where every detail from the person you are listening to, matter.
  • Diagnose before you prescribe – do the ground work for any situation that you encounter. Explore the various facets of a fact or truth and then arrive at a conclusion. Sometimes it’s best to park your ego.

The Flip Side: Missing out on the true intentions and ideas from others (by not giving them a chance to be understood first), can cause apprehension within the team.

6) Synergize

In Summary: Synergistic communication, according to Covey, is “opening your mind and heart to new possibilities, new alternatives, new options” This applies to the classroom, the business world and wherever you could apply openness and communication. It’s all about building cooperation and trust.

2 BA Lessons:

  • Focus on building strong relationships with your team and stakeholders. Build trust, deliver what you promise – build cycles of promising and delivering on your promise.
  • Buy lunch or coffee for a team member or a key stakeholder – if you haven’t done that yet; do it.

The Flip Side: You cannot succeed as a business analyst without adequate cooperation and trust.

7) Sharpen The Saw

In Summary: Sometimes you’re working so hard on the other six habits that you forget about re-energizing and renewing yourself to sharpen yourself for the tasks in front of you. Some sharpening techniques include exercise and nutrition, reading, planning and writing, service and empathy and commitment, study and meditation.

2 BA Lessons:

  • Sharpen your hard skills – learn more about a technique that you already know by applying it to a different fictional scenario or problem.
  • Sharpen your soft skills – join a Toastmasters club, read books and attend workshops that will help you become a better writer, speaker, and listener. Listen to the podcasts, read blogs, etc. to learn real tips on how to improve your hard and soft skills.

The Flip Side: If you don’t sharpen your skills and keep yourself rejuvenated you won’t be in an optimal state of performance.

Have you read “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People?”

Which is your favourite habit? Do you have any additional BA lessons to add?

Please use the comment space below to add your comments and thoughts.