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Author: Kupe Kupersmith

Be a Good Team Player

Kupe1I have written before about how critical it is to be a good team player.  Regardless of your skills, you limit your growth and potential if you don’t play nice with others. We are taught from an early age to share, listen, use our magic words (yes and please), and never, ever bite.  These basic principles are not just for 3 year olds.  They should stay with you for a lifetime.  I know there are some people who are just bad team players and others that only play nice with people of influence, like a boss or someone signing their paycheck.  Although this post is a good reminder for them, it also relates to everyone. For most of us our intention is to be a good team player, but work stress and life in general get us out of our team player mode.

I teach a one day workshop, Improving Communication through Improvisation, where I facilitate an exercise to highlight the common traps we fall into during projects which make us not-so-good team players.  The exercise is called group juggle.  The group gets in a circle. One ball is tossed around the group with each person catching and throwing the ball to someone else just once.  The ball makes it around to each person crisscrossing the circle depending on where each individual wants to throw the ball. Next, I introduce 2 balls, with each ball going in the same order.  Then a third, fourth and fifth ball is added in. As the balls are flying in the air I encourage the group to move fast because there is not a lot of time for the exercise.  Without fail balls are hitting people in the head, flying way out of reach, or being thrown to the wrong person.  Sometimes a ball gets dropped and just lies at someone’s feet.

Once the exercise is complete the group discusses how the exercise relates to projects. Here are the common points discussed.

  • You may have guessed that the ball represents an activity or task, and my encouragement to move faster is the equivalent to a manager, business stakeholder, or a project manager pushing to get the project completed as fast as possible.
  • The cause for the balls hitting others in the head or flying past them is caused by others just wanting to get a task off their plate.  The person passing the ball (task) was not making sure the receiver was ready for that ball (task). 
  • Balls being left on the ground are like tasks that get forgotten by one teammate or one teammate having too much to do.  No other team member stepped in to pick the ball up.  Being a good team player means you will jump in when necessary to help out a team mate.   

In life and especially on projects we do not accomplish overall objectives in isolation.  With the help of others we come together utilizing each individual’s strengths to achieve the best results.  You need to slow down and make sure your teammates are ready for the hand-off of tasks. You need to make sure your transition of a task is done in a way that works for your teammate.  And when a teammate needs help be there for them.  When you need help they will be there for you. 

Do it for the team,


Do You Get the Attention You Deserve?

Kupe1I attended a presentation given by John Reed of Westreed, a brand consulting group. Mr. Reed provided some great tips to help you connect with people in writing like you connect with them in person. As professionals, we are always trying to get others’ attention in writing. You are probably taking a break from writing an email to read this blog. Most people receive on average 100 to 300 emails a day. And they are not reading every one they receive. What are you doing to make sure people stop, read and respond to your emails? Here are some of the tips Mr. Reed shared.

There are three areas to focus on when writing: 1) get attention, 2) get understood and 3) get a response. Let’s look at each area.

Get Attention

  • Use a headline to catch the reader. Come up with a headline that answers a key question the reader will have; “Why should I care?”
  • Make it easy to read or scan the communication. Don’t have one big paragraph. As an example, use a short introduction paragraph, three to five bullet points for the body, and a short closing paragraph.

With email communication, take time to think about the subject line and make sure it pertains to the content of your email. The subject line should be used like a headline for a newspaper article. Resist hijacking another email string to start a new thought. Start a new email with a new subject line.

Get Understood

Mr. Reed shared a four-step process to get started writing quickly and make sure your points are made. This is very similar to an approach I use to write my blog posts!

1. Start with a brain dump. Just get information down.

2. Throw away the junk. Read through your brain dump and start removing content that is not needed.

3. Box and label the valuable stuff. Group thoughts and give each group a label.

4. Clean up and edit. This is the last step. Resist the urge to edit as you go.

Prior to me learning a similar strategy, I remember feeling paralyzed sometimes and couldn’t even get one word down. Here are some other helpful hints to help you get started.

  • Start with the easy stuff. Don’t feel like you have to write linear. You don’t have to write the intro, then the body, then the closing. Start with what is easiest for you.
  • If you are struggling writing. Write in question-and-answer format. What questions will the reader ask or need to know? You may not want to send a communication that way, although you can. But, at a minimum it will help you get some thoughts down.

Get a response

Some of our communication is for informational purposes only, but much of what we are doing is looking for some action to be taken. It may be you want the reader to make a decision, review a document, provide feedback on the information shared, etc. Always ask for a response and make it easy for the reader to respond. If you want someone to call you, share your phone number…don’t make them have to search for it. If there is a document you want them to read, attach the document or provide a link. Don’t say something like “download the document from our project SharePoint site.”

The final thought shared by Mr. Reed was the 24 rule. Write something and wait 24 hours before you send it. If you don’t have 24 hours, wait 24 minutes. If you don’t have 24 minutes, at least wait 24 seconds. It helps to get something down and re-read it later after you stepped away from it. By the way, I just waited 24 seconds to re-read this!

To better communication,


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Agile is a Fad

July5FeatureAgile is the hottest word in our profession these days. Go to any BA or PM conference and there is at least 1 session dedicated to agile.  Even if the session does not have agile in it, you’ll hear the agile word over and over.  On sites like this one, there are many blogs and articles written about agile.  Here is the article that inspired me to write this post, Four Agile Tips to Eliminate Rework in Application Development .  

The article lists these four tips which are credited to agile methods. 


  1. Collaborate – Involve multiple stakeholders in requirements definition
  2. Be lean – Quote from article – “Agile methods teach us that a 400-page document is not required in order for development to begin. In an agile environment, development can start with high-level user stories with perhaps one layer of detail added.”
  3. Iterate – Approach requirements definition in an iterative process
  4. Visualize – requirements do not have to be written in paragraph form.

I agree 100% with all of these tips not because they are agile tips, but because they are smart practices.  Before the Agile Manifesto was developed, I worked on teams that collaborated, were lean, iterated, and visualized. I wrote about this in a blog post last year, My First Agile Project.  I would guess you have been doing this for some time too. This is why the word agile is a fad.  In the near future we will stop having debates of whether you use agile vs traditional approaches.  We’ll just start doing what is appropriate for projects to drive results.

This spring I saw Scott Ambler speak and he said we don’t need repeatable processes we need repeatable results.  What this says to me, is do what is needed to drive results.  Teams need to come together and determine what will work best to give them the best chance to deliver results.  This is just smart.   

The agile movement shook our community and made us all think about how we were running projects.  It made us make sure we are focusing on business value.  Don’t push for agile over waterfall, push for what is right for the project. Push for what is right for the business in the short and long term.  Even though I think the word agile is a fad, the agile movement is definitely a trend.

All the best,


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Say Goodbye to Your Ego

BAtimes_Kupe_6-14The NBA (National Basketball Association) finals are in full swing here in the United States.  If you are at all familiar with the NBA you know the big story all year has been about LeBron James.  He is viewed as the top player of the league, but his leadership is being questioned during this finals series.  In the series it appears he is playing a more supporting role. He is being accused of not being “the man” of the team. Even though as I type, LeBron’s team is doing pretty well. This just kills me. Our society, at least here in the US, is obsessed with individual achievements.  The last I checked basketball was a team sport. The goal is not to have the best individual statistics; it is to have a higher score then the other team.  If someone else on the team is stepping up and playing a supporting role will help the team win, then that is what a leader should do.

Unfortunately this individual first behavior is rewarded.  I worked in an organization where we had an employee of the month award. 10 out of 12 awards were given to someone that had to work a ton of overtime and come up with a heroic performance to save the project from failure.  This rewards individual accomplishments over team accomplishments.  This incents people to try and be the hero. In my opinion, if that situation occurs the team should be penalized rather than award the individual.      

In a recent CIO magazine article, “How to End an IT Turf”, Cindy Waxer wrote about how the former CIO of Sports Authority stopped the finger pointing and backbiting.  Rob Meilen was looking at his entire organization and realized the teams had competing goals. Individual teams cared more about their accomplishments then the overall accomplishments of the organization as a whole.  In the article Waxer explained how Meilen changed the definition of success. He was quoted as saying, “The message that I was persistent about was that we fail or succeed together. Everything we do involves multiple sets of teams, so discard the illusion that your team could be doing great but the team that sits next to you is messing everything up.”

This is the attitude you need to take as an individual on your team. We all work on teams. The goal should never be about individual accomplishments, over successful team accomplishments.  If you are considered the best Business Analyst and your projects still fail, being the best does not mean much.  Egos have no place on teams; individualism is not welcome. If you see yourself pointing fingers and blaming others for project problems, you need to stop and take a look in the mirror.  Ask yourself what you can be doing to help remove the issues.

All for one…one for all,


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Unleash the Business Analysis Profiler in You

Kupe_May31The moment I sat down at an airport bar the bartender asked me if I’d like to try a Long Island Iced Tea (an adult drink). I declined and ordered my meal.  Later an older gentleman sat down next to me and the bartender asked if he’d like to try a Bloody Mary (another adult drink). I was confused.  I figured she asked me if I wanted a Long Island Iced Tea because that was the drink they were trying to sell that day.  Since I was confused, I had to ask her why she offered us different drinks.  Her answer was superb.

She said I profile my customers.  Older customers tend to like drinks with juices or sodas that help settle the stomach and younger business looking guys like you enjoy Long Island Iced Teas.  Couples with a fresh tan, most likely coming from a beach vacation, enjoy a good beer, younger preppy women like the sweet drinks, classy looking women like a good wine, and large groups go for Margaritas and Jagermeister shots.  I was blown away with the level of detail she had captured over the years.  I told her she would be an unbelievable Business Analyst.  Of course she had no clue what it meant to be a Business Analyst.

You need to approach your stakeholder analysis in this fashion.  Be a BA profiler.  Start to put your stakeholders in categories to determine how best to communicate with them.  As new stakeholders are introduced you can have a starting point of how you may best communicate with them.  Many of you most likely do this already.  For the solution team you know they’ll need a lot of detail while upper management and project sponsors like summaries.  Younger teammates prefer texting and instant messaging, where older teammates prefer phone calls or face to face interactions. Profiling will give you a starting point. You still have to ask to verify how they’d like to communicate. Don’t assume your stakeholders fit neatly into your profile. If I was drinking that afternoon, I would have preferred a Bloody Mary over a Long Island Iced Tea.   

Another thing to highlight from my bartenders profiling is how people may order differently when in a group as opposed to being on their own. It is important to realize your stakeholders may act differently in a group.  Don’t assume every stakeholder will want to interact the same when working one-on-one and in a group setting.  Individuals that may be very opinionated and comfortable opening up one-on-one, may be very quiet in a group.  Don’t assume those individuals just have nothing to say during a group meeting.  Follow-up with them after the meeting to check-in. 

Profiling does help, but don’t solely rely on your profiles.  The best way to ensure you’ll be communicating and interacting with your stakeholders the way they prefer is simple.  Just ask.

All the best,


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