How to elude the congruent mishap?

It is summer! Time to get home improvement projects done. I came across a social media post that caught my attention. One of my neighbors shared pictures of their recently painted cabinets. The posting included before and after images plus the contractor name (XYZ Company). Impressed, I reached out to the same contractor and requested a painting estimate. In the interim, I reached out to my neighbor to check if I could look at the painted cabinets in person.

Me: The backsplash looks great!
Neighbor: Thanks! XYZ Company did a splendid job!
Me (Surprised): The contractor mentioned to me that they do not do a backsplash.
And the conversation kept continuing. More discrepancies popped up between services communicated to both of us. Nevertheless, we kept discussing the details like the colors, rates, and such.

Light bulb moment:
Me: Is the XYZ Company located in suburb A?
Neighbor: Oh no, they are in suburb B.
There you go! We were talking about two different contractors that have the same name (XYZ Company)!

Bringing this together in the business analysis world:

There are numerous instances when one term may have different meanings. The meaning of these terms can vary depending on the project/stakeholder/organization. Here are a few steps we can take as a business analyst (BA) to avoid going down a rabbit hole in a conversation:

1. Never make assumptions: At the start of a meeting, confirm the facts gathered are accurate. Take this a step further to define the terms or acronyms within the project context.
Example: Part and Product might mean the same for a project. A Part might be a component; A Product might be a finished product in another instance.

2. Ask the right questions: You hear a term come up multiple times in meetings. You know what this term means. Do not stop there! Ask questions. Use your BA skills to draw out contextual details during conversations. Build a complete picture of this term and its significance.
Example: Is this a term that is popular in your organization? Is this a term used in discussions relevant to a specific system? Is this a term used in day-to-day conversations?
In my scenario above, if only I had asked more questions at the beginning. If only I had confirmed the name of the contractor plus the address! It would have saved some time for both of us.

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3. Check-in: Introduce checkpoints to ensure all the team members are on the same page.
Example: Say you see a demonstration of new functionality for a system. A new term has emerged during the meeting. Add this to a dictionary with a definition (definition does not have to be perfect!). Encourage the stakeholders to validate this dictionary at regular intervals. Reviewing these terms towards the end of the project is too late.

4. Highlight it: When sharing meeting notes, include a section for terms and definitions. Add another section for acronyms and their abbreviations. Color code any new terms/words. Highlight updated definitions. Create a list of slang phrases used within the team.
Example: Who knew GOAT did not mean an animal but “Greatest of all time”? Same term but different meaning.

Conclusion:
Have you encountered a situation where the communication was relating to 1-2-3? But the team understood it as 3-2-1? What steps did you take to clear the confusion and get everyone on the same page?

Paraphrasing a quote based on my experience stated above:
XYZ Company was like two sites in the same business, but with different services. So different, yet so similar in their offering


Divya Kishore

Business Systems Analyst for a medical device company. Certifications: CSCP CPO