Wednesday, 24 April 2019 09:07

It's Time to Put Genuine Care for People and Empathy Back into Business Analysis

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I recently accepted a new business analysis position because too many days were filled of dread for work.

I couldn’t figure out the reason for my boredom and lack of fulfillment, until one day, it dawned on me. 

I missed people. 

I know that sounds silly – in business analysis you are often surrounded by people in meetings or requirement elicitation sessions with stakeholders. Even though I worked with a great team of people each day, I took too many calls rather than sitting face-to-face, collaborating in meetings. I often didn’t have the time to really get to know the stakeholder and feared key requirements and details were missing because of this lack of relationship between me and other team members. 

If my children, friends or family members came to me only when they needed something – I would be resentful and our relationship would suffer. Work shouldn’t be any different. Whether it’s the developer who will be building the user story you wrote on the website, the QA tester trying to break the new feature or the marketing manager with the vision for the functionality, the more we become real people to one another, the better. I’m not saying we need to sit and chat all day or learn each other’s deep dark secrets, but having a genuine interest in getting to know your team members can be invaluable. 


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You don’t have to be a manager to ask how someone’s day is going or how things are going. I believe it’s all of our responsibility to do whatever we can to make sure the team is rowing in the same direction. At the first marketing company I worked at, we grew extremely fast. The two owners of the company tried as hard as possible to usher us through the transition but also needed to focus on sales to keep the company thriving. 

At only 26-years-old, without a lick of management experience, I went desk to desk at least 1-2 times per month to a staff of almost 50 and asked people how they were doing. “How’s life?” I’d say. At first, people were thrown back by the question, something to this day still puts a tear in my eye. People often commented I was the only one who ever asked them that question and soon opened up and told me about troubles at work or funny stories about their kids. I would then see if there was anything within my control to help the troubles they mentioned in terms of workflow, process or communication. If they needed someone to help go to bat for them with management, I would help facilitate the tough discussions. I also remembered the details about my co-workers lives because I truly care about them as people. 

A developer once confided in me I was the only business analyst or project manager who made them feel like a person and not just an employee hired to just write code as fast as possible. I’ve dined with wealthy business executives that I needed requirements and ideas from accustomed to small talk and everyone agreeing with everything he or she said. I’ll tell you, it seemed at times I was one of few to really talk to them like a person and even – gasp – not just nod my head in politeness. I know, deep down, my candor (though oftentimes even a little more reserved than I would like) led to better project requirements and follow-on business. 

I once worked for a company called Sherpa CRM, a content relationship management tool for senior living. Each day, sales counselors would use Sherpa not only to gather information about prospective residents, but to learn about the senior citizen’s reason for staying in their homes – hopes, fears and hesitations. A psychology exists behind every interaction in business, big or small. My time at Sherpa taught me the difference between sympathy and empathy and how being able to truly put yourselves in someone’s shoes can be invaluable no matter your career path. 

At the end of the day, people are people, and the more we start treating each other that way, the happier we all will be.

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Stephanie Warden

Stephanie Warden has practiced business analysis, user experience and project management for more than 12 years in St. Louis, Mo, from Wells Fargo Advisors and Bayer Corporation to the top St. Louis marketing firms and even in the non-profit sector for Ronald McDonald House Charities. Day-to-day she balances project, business and user goals resulting in happy clients, elated users and motivated team members. Stephanie loves wearing multiple hats including business requirements gathering, wireframe/prototyping, user story creation and testing. She truly cares about the success of her projects and the contentment of her clients and team – believing if you put people first in business, you’ll always go far.

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