The BA Practice Lead Handbook 4 – So You Want to be a BA Practice Lead? Are You Ready?
In previous articles in this series, we have discussed the need for mature Business Analysis practices, what value key stakeholders can expect from BA, and the need for a holistic approach to implementation of Business Analysis. In this article, we discuss how you as BA Practice Lead/BA Manager can ensure you are ready to lead the effort to implement and sustain a BA Practice.
Diagnose your Leadership Capability
Building a new business process such as Business Analysis is a challenging endeavor. Your initial challenge is to gain executive sponsorship and organizational alignment up front. Do you have the power and influence skills to take a comprehensive view that is aligned with your environment and decision-making practices?
Your Power and Influence
According to D. Bell, author, educator, social media producer: business + politics = power. Make no mistake: organizational politics will influence your BA practice in multiple ways. Politics are defined as the collection of internal structures of an organization that deal with power, influence, and decision making. We all say we hate politics because it is often a negative influence in our lives. Actually, politics is neither good nor bad, it just is. Think of positive politics, positive power and influence. Things happen when politics works. Decisions are made. Projects move forward. Deals are cut. Goals are met. How can that be bad? Your power is directly related to how well you negotiate the politics of your organization.
The positive politician uses influence rather than authority or manipulation to achieve tasks or goals. Your ability to act as a positive politician will result in beneficial results for your team, for your organization, and ultimately for you. As a positive politician, start from a solid foundation from which to influence including: status, reputation, credibility, trust, integrity, consistency, knowledge. Business analysts possessing these characteristics emerge as leaders. People want to follow natural leaders.
Devise strategies to negotiate your organization’s politics by building your influence capabilities. Capture the strategies and tasks to achieve the strategies in your Political Management Plan. Your plan might be a simple table like the one below. Strategies may include:
- Enlist the help of an executive sponsor
- Organize and chair your steering committees
- Make yourself an expert, increase your credibility
- Promote yourself and Business Analysis
- Manage BA benefits (ROI)
- Manage virtual alliances
- Facilitate, negotiate, and build consensus
- Manage conflict
- Facilitate consensus and confront issues head on
To build a positive network of supporters within your organization, identify your customers and stakeholders that: provide budget to your BA practice implementation project, provide oversight, provide requirements, provide input, get output, depend on your deliverables, benefit from your BA Practice success, and/or suffer from its success. For each key customer/stakeholder, capture the following information:
- Current level of support
- Level of support needed
- Identify the issues and concerns regarding the BA Practice that are important to each stakeholder
o What’s in it for them?
o What do they need to view the BA Practice positively and actively support it?
- What actions will you take to increase the support of your most important stakeholders?
- Devise strategies to negotiate your organization’s politics by building and sustaining a strong supportive stakeholder network. Capture the strategies and tasks to achieve the strategies in your Political Management Plan. It might look something like the simple table below.
- Devise your strategies to lessen the impact of those who may negatively influence your BA Practice and leverage those who are positive about you and Business Analysis.
Assess the Environment
Lastly, identify organizational and cultural risks to your success, and devise strategies to manage the risks. Update your Political Management Plan accordingly.
Assess the landscape…
- Environmental/organizational issues that are constantly at play
- The amount of change the organization is undergoing
- Political games/maneuvers that are underway; power bases and power struggles
- Recent leadership changes and those that are anticipated
…and How Business Analysis fits
- Is the business case for your project and/or for a BA Practice solid?
- Is implementation politically sensitive?
- Are there major political implications?
- Is there impact to the core mission?
- Do you have a strong executive sponsor?
- What are the unspoken expectations?
- What is the decision-making process?
- What are the cultural norms?
- Is the communication and coordination effort challenging?
How can Consultants help?
If they have been where you are, bring in consultants to:
- Help assess organizational readiness and support
- Review your plans
- Do a risk assessment
- Coach you through the process
- Gain approval and consensus on the way forward
- Form a guidance team/steering committee to involve upper management in the effort
Putting it all Together
So what does this mean for the Business Analyst?
If you are trying to implement BA best practices, methodologies, frameworks, and enabling technologies on your project, good for you! The influence capabilities described in this article apply to you as well as to your
BA Practice Lead. Work with the key leaders on your project to examine your collective power and influence, and the landscape within which you are operating, and develop a Political Management Plan.
So what does this mean for the BA Practice Lead?
This article presents the case for a BA Practice Lead to examine political implications including your influence, power, support, and environmental issues. Diagnose your political strengths and gaps. You need strong influence skills to get people to want to support your effort. Develop a Political Management Plan to increase your ability to negotiate the organizational politics and your personal power and influence to achieve your goals.
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