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Author: Deena Chadwick

Collaboration – Shared Documentation

I think one of my favorite collaboration techniques is the idea of a shared deliverable, I call this co-ownership.

Today’s technology has grown so much that almost every application you work on has some type of collaborative or shared capability. These applications can reduce the amount of time to take it takes to get things done in a big way. You no longer have to wait to get something reviewed or looked at. Someone can review a part of your document from their phone. There’s no need to wait until someone’s time is available on their calendar and you don’t have to book the conference room with the television that you can present on. The days of waiting until the document is perfect before you print it out and hand it to others is gone.


This is the ability for multiple people to edit the same document at the same time. This allows for great collaborative techniques like co-authoring & co-ownership.

One person can own the scope statement, another person can own the business rules, and yet another person can own the activity diagram. Here is what makes this great, they can all be editing the same document at the exact same time. You thought two heads were better than one, imagine two keyboards or three or four or however many make sense to get the task done quickly and efficiently.

Whether you are in the same meeting, working on the same document, or just taking the time to get sign off. The most important part about collaboration is that everyone is involved in some way. It is almost the opposite of compromise. In compromise everyone gives something up, in collaboration everyone contributes.

Talking Is Easy Listening Is Hard

Did you know there is more than one way to listen?

For years, I thought there were at most three, Regular Listening, Active Listening, and Selective Hearing (as my mother would say). As I was researching and studying how to be a better active listener, I discovered that there are more than 20 types of listening.

Why are there so many different types of listening, and how can there be so many?

Let’s start with the basics; just as there are different ways to convey information, there are various ways to take it in as well. How attentive were you when someone read you a bedtime story? Were you that attentive at the dinner table or when you were being lectured? Think about the difference between listening to the radio vs. listening to a news report. How different is it when you listened to yesterday’s news vs. the news during the 911 attacks.


Experts in relationship building, human science, education, and even marketing have shared what they have learned about effective communication through listening. I like to group these into four categories: Active Listening, Empathic Listening, Critical Listening, and Inactive Listening.

Active Listening is where you put most of your effort in understanding what the other person is trying to convey. Empathic Listening is where you put most of your energy into understanding how someone is feeling emotionally. Critical Listening is where you are analyzing, studying, or editing what someone is saying. Inactive Listening is where you are putting little to no effort into the context, but not actively shutting it out.

BA Feb19 20 1 

A New Twist On The Stakeholder Matrix

Did you know that the word stakeholder is mentioned 1202 times in the PMBoK Sixth Edition and 1208 times in the BABoK v3?

It is mentioned this many times because building and maintaining a good relationship with stakeholders is one of the most important parts of any Project Manager, Scrum Master, Product Owner, or Business Analyst’s job. One of the key techniques for managing that relationship is the Stakeholder Matrix. It is also referred to in the PMBoK as the Power/Interest Grid, Power/Influence Grid, or Impact/Influence Grid.

Whether you actually draw it out or you do the math in your head, the purpose of this diagram is to help a BA, SM, PO, or PM understand how they should be interacting with or what they should be providing to a stakeholder.

High Influence And High Impact >>> You are told to engage this group regularly


High Influence But Low Impact >>> You are told to consult with them

Low Influence But High Impact >>> You are told to show interest in their needs

Low Influence And Low Impact >>> You are told to just keep them informed

Identifying what you should do for your stakeholders is only one part of the equation. You should also understand what they can do for you and your team. Let’s add a twist or a little “Disruptive Thinking” to the stakeholder matrix. How are these stakeholders or key people likely to add value to your project or tasks?

BA Dec4 1

Improve Collaboration by Understanding Natural Human Instincts

Last January, I was lucky to have an article posted right here at BA Times.

How To Get Requirements From Resistant SMEs Part 3. It is about what to do when your SMEs clam up. It mentions using a person’s natural human instincts to get them talking. One of the hardest things to do as a professional is to put theory into practice. I have been asked several times this year to elaborate on what I shared, by giving examples or case studies on How.

First let’s do a quick refresher, the FBI and Homeland Security states that these are the natural human instincts that trigger people to share information.

  • A desire to appear well informed, especially about our profession
  • A desire to feel appreciated and believe we are contributing to something important
  • A tendency to expand on a topic when given praise or encouragement; to show off
  • A tendency to correct others
  • A desire to convert someone to our opinion

Part of the reason people struggle with practical application is because you have to create a scenario that triggers someone to act on their instincts. I will share several examples or case studies that show you how others have successfully applied these techniques.

A Desire To Appear Well Informed

1. In larger groups, meetings, or messages

  1. “Jack, it has been a few weeks since our last show and tell, before our developer shows you wants coming up, why don’t you give us a quick summary of how our last release helped your team?”
  2. “Today is all about coming up with new ways to help our production support team reduce their backlog of support tickets, before we get started, Harry can you tell us what solutions or bandaids your team is already using?”

2. In small group conversations

  1. “James, have you met Nicki? Nicki you can explain what your team does better than I can…”
  2. “Ok I include the two of you in a half an hour meeting before the brain storming session. I was hoping that the two of you, who have a vast amount of knowledge, would mind talking through the most important points before the team got here, so that the meeting has a bit of a head start.”
  3. “Milly, we are about to go into another grooming session…which is going to end in you having to make all of the decisions any way. Can you do a quick pass before the meeting so that we don’t waste time going into detailed conversation for something you already know the priority for?”


A Desire To Contribute or Be Appreciated

  1. “Jonas, I just got out of a planning meeting and they finally approved us to start working on the improvements you guys have been asking for. Would you mind being my goto expert? I need someone who can help me focus on this from a user’s point of view.”
  2. Meeting Invite: I know we normally have James, Calvin, and Sanya in our kick off meetings but I have also added Stacey. I have noticed that when a lead from UX is involved from the beginning, we spend less time reworking usability issues from user acceptance.

A Tendency to Expand On A Topic

  1. “Greg that seems important to talk about, but not here in stand up. Why don’t we finish up the daily meeting and then can most of you guys stay on the line so Greg can explain the issue in detail and we can decide as a team what to do.”
  2. “Jeremy, let’s switch gears for just a minute. Instead of starting with a list of changes, can you tell me a little about what your team has accomplished recently and what they are looking to accomplish and improve on in the next cycle?”…”Ok now can we map those goals and accomplishments to the items in the list to see which ones should float to the top?”

A Tendency to Correct Others

  1. “So I hear your team would rather start from scratch learning a new system, than deal with the issues you are dealing with today.”
  2. “I am telling you the report is wrong, everytime I rerun it, it looks exactly the same!” “Oh so you are saying the report should always change each time you run it?”
  3. “James, can you do me a favor? Can you job shadow Erica and then share with me what she could do in her processes to be more efficient?”

A desire to convert someone to our opinion

  1. “Harry, can you tell Madu what you told us the other day. I may not have explained it right, but Madu completely disagreed with us.”
  2.  “Why is this so important that my team has to work 10 hours plus a day and work on the weekends?”

These are just a few examples, but I hope they inspire you to engage that reluctant SME or Stakeholder by triggering their Natural Human Instincts.

How To Get Requirements From Resistant SMEs Part 3

Eliciting Requirements Like an FBI Agent.

Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) prefer conversation to interrogation.

Have you ever seen the cartoons that compare requirements gathering to torture? People are hesitant and even uncomfortable answering a series of direct question. The FBI and CIA gather almost all of their information without using interrogation techniques.

Like an FBI Agent

Common Sense tells us to listen to the experts. When it comes to getting information, the FBI tops the list. They train their agents how to gather information overtly and discretely. They also teach people, with classified or secret information, how to recognize when someone is trying to elicit information. Here are a few tips and tricks from that training.

Take Advantage of Natural Human Instincts

A good business analyst knows that people have certain natural instincts. Understanding these instincts can help you when eliciting requirements.

Natural tendencies include:

  • A desire to appear well informed, especially about our profession
  • A desire to feel appreciated and believe we are contributing to something important
  • A tendency to expand on a topic when given praise or encouragement; to show off
  • A tendency to correct others
  • A desire to convert someone to our opinion


Techniques Used By FBI Agents

There are many different techniques that can be used for elicitation and requirements gathering. Many can be used in tandem. Here are a few and their descriptions.

Assumed Knowledge: Using knowledge or associations in common with a person.

Bracketing: Provide a high and low estimate in order to entice a more specific number.

Can you top this? Tell an extreme story in hopes the person will want to top it.

Deliberate False Statements / Denial of the Obvious: Say something wrong in the hopes that the person will correct your statement with true information.

Feigned Ignorance: Pretend to be ignorant of a topic in order to exploit the person’s tendency to educate.

The Leading Question: Ask a question to which the answer is “yes” or “no,” but which contains at least one presumption.

Oblique Reference: Discuss one topic that may provide insight into a different topic.

Word Repetition: Repeat core words or concepts to encourage a person to expand on what he/she already said.

Identify When Someone Is Resisting

Every business analyst has experienced the brush off. It is easier to handle when it is obvious, but people are not always straightforward, sometimes it isn’t easy to recognize when someone is trying to avoid answering your questions or giving you information. If you experience any of these, you might be working with someone who is resistant to requirements gathering and elicitation.

  • Refer you to someone else or documentation
  • Ignore a question or statement you make
  • They responded with questions of their own
  • Give nondescript answers
  • Questioning why you are asking
  • Saying they aren’t sure if they should share or saying they cannot discuss
  • Saying they don’t have time…when you know they do

Common Sense tells us not to waste our time. Avoid SMEs who are not forthcoming with information, if you can. If that person is the only person, who has what you need, then get creative. I hope your inner child – Part 1, Maternal/paternal instincts – Part 2, or FBI training can help.