Monday, 10 November 2014 00:00

Less Talk, More Walk

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Analysts are thinking people and don’t always realize the power of the physical body to implement best BA behaviors. We sometimes believe that our thinking can walk us to requirements success; I propose a different, compatible approach – you can walk your way into better thinking.

Let your model do the talking:

Have you ever been a part of the meeting that never ends, the discussion that goes in circles, the misunderstanding that becomes the decision, and the ego clash that kills collaboration?

As a young BA I often tried to hold my own in these discussions, and always felt that I could see the way to resolution, if only they would listen to ME. In trying to talk others into the BA walk, the BA just becomes another loud voice in a chaotic room.

Nowadays when I hear a complex, ongoing discussion, I keep my mouth shut (OK, I try) and work hard outside the meetings to MODEL the issues. Just writing them down can help, because it simplifies REMEMBERING everything.

Even better is to characterize the discussion in BA terms (goals, objectives, business needs, capability gaps, strategic solutions approaches, and scope and business case. Showing these things in pictures AND words means that visual and textual cognition is covered.

What about “hands on” cognition?

Do walk-throughs where the group does the work:

No model helps if no one “reads” it. One of the funniest things you will ever see is a confused group suddenly presented with a “pretty” diagram. “Oh, I understand that better” they will say, often oohing and aahing UNTIL YOU ASK A QUESTION about the concepts in the diagram. If you watch closely you will see them look back at the diagram for answers, not having really looked at it closely before, and not having read any of the words on the picture.

When working in any group, walk them through the model, step by step, letting THEM explain it. This process will far exceed the ability of YOUR thinking to move people, will give them REAL involvement, and will position them to explain the concepts to others.

What about bad ideas wasting time – doesn’t the BA have to stop this?

Be the “yes” woman:

Anytime a facilitator (as a BA, you see yourself as a facilitator instead of a decidadator, yes?) tries to stifle an idea before it is worked out by the group, the idea can become “locked” in the mind of the proposers.

A classic example is Roe v. Wade – most states were (slowly) moving towards freedom of choice (no letters or comments – this is NOT advocacy – prove you can read by finishing the paragraph) for women, recognizing that childbirth was a serious commitment and physical risk for women. When the Supreme Court stepped in and interrupted the state-by-state debate, the debate became locked in place, to this day.

Compare Roe v. Wade with the recent Supreme Court decision to let the state courts and legislatures keep working on the gay marriage issue. If we get to the point where 50 states have all decided that equal opportunity actually matters, THEN IT WILL MATTER, and the court will have let the country decide.

Whatever your political opinions, if you say “yes” to stakeholder ideas, and THEN MODEL, the strength or weakness of the ideas becomes visible and easier to understand. The group is then able to make good decisions OR shoot themselves in the foot ON PURPOSE, with the best information available, since no ideas are discouraged.

Stop telling everyone about your knowing – seek the facts:

We all know what’s going on, until we look. Anytime there is a disagreement about facts, it is a sign the facts aren’t know. Stop promoting your opinion, and recruit help in finding the facts.

Facts are harder work than opinion. You can add value to the group by being willing to admit what is known AND what is NOT known. Much of the info might even be in the current system – get IT involved.

Drive requirements from process, not data (nor interface, which is slow listing of data):

Ever seen the system full of data that no one can use? Some reporting systems are like that – you can choose ANYTHING to include in your report, with NO CLUE as to WHY you would ever care.

Data is STATIC – a list of data has NO BEHAVIOR – not even if listed on a GUI mockup. The behavior is process, and the only processes that count are the ones that get work done, NOT the ones that “draw screens”.

When work processes drive requirements, the requirements tend to lead to accomplishing the work of the organization.

If this is wanted, it is a big win. What if it isn’t wanted?

Don’t confuse your attitude with your stakeholder’s attitude:

As a change agent, BAs love change. Even stakeholders who want change don’t love change (mostly). Remember that the work you enjoy is painful for your stakeholders, and join them in the pain, even as you offer slivers of hope.

Explore with your stakeholders instead of talking at them, and you will BE the BA.

Be Patient:

One reason that you are a BA is because you are good at understanding and organizing ideas. Don’t be upset or impatient that it takes others longer – at best you become the “superhero” that delivers things faster than a group can, so the group can RIP ON THE WORK after the fact instead of before (expensive). At worst you will be so frustrated that you will not be welcome at all.

The walk to perform is to continually return to the highest-level descriptions, over and over, even as you drill into the next levels down. Repetition of the “main message” is not a waste of time but actually creates bonding at the common level of understanding (a good complement to this blog is “The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive” by John Lencioni).

When the top-level descriptions are better understood, the next level discussions are much more productive.

Take leadership (and other) training and give leadership (and other) training.

A BA who has nothing to learn also has nothing to teach. Stop it now. If you get a chance to teach, take it, it will open your eyes about what you REALLY know (not much) and what you can offer others (a lot).

Thanks for being a reader – the world is your oyster!

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Marcos Ferrer

Marcos Ferrer, CBAP has over 20 years experience in the practice of business analysis and the application of Information Technology for process improvement. Following graduation in 1983 from the University of Chicago, Mr. Ferrer joined IBM in Chicago, where he worked on requirements and systems implementations in diverse industries. His recent projects include working requirements for the Veteran's Administration, introducing BA practices at the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, and creating bowling industry models for NRG Bowl LLC. In November 2006, Marcos Ferrer is one of the first CBAPs certified by the IIBA. He has served as an elected member of the DC-Metro chapter of the IIBA, most recently as President, and assisted in the writing of the BOK 2.0 test.

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