Monday, 02 June 2014 09:52

Work of the Future - Answers and Prize Award

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The responses to last February’s challenge were excellent (thanks to my excellent readers) that we share them here. A winner has been chosen, even though reasonable people can and will disagree. Prize choices are listed at bottom* – the winner (don’t peek) will choose for himself or herself.

Case Study <click here>:

Questions and Answers: (ranked as):

UNO: Best based on my experience
DOS: Good first instinct, if there is no time for best answer UNO
TRES: Anything might work, and if TRES works best I SHOULD be embarrassed.
QUATTRO: No explanation or else ambiguous / unclear to this reader / writer?

Here we go – DRUM ROLL….

1. The best first “action” you could take would be to:

  1. Understand the farmer’s “root” cause more deeply
  2. Introduce yourself to the farmers for rapport
  3. Interview the blacksmith
  4. Start a project to invent steel
  5. Understand how you might be perceived by others

Debbie 2014-03-25 14:53
DOS 1. B

Ravi 2014-03-25 17:23
DOS 1. B
Since rapport is needed for either A, C or E. D is really solutioning, even before the problem is understood.

Mohsin 2014-03-26 00:26
DOS 1. A

Teri 2014-03-26 07:18
TRES 1. C
Figure out how the blacksmith is fixing the points, sharper edges may break the soil better

Dan 2014-03-31 16:00
DOS 1. B
The farmer will reject your foolish waste of time trying to understand why the soil is hard, or iron is soft. You must first be his friend to elicit deeper issues. The blacksmith will be defensive and say that he is working as fast as he can doing everything his father taught him, and no one will support you in creating steel unless other farmers and blacksmiths can relate to how you are solving their problems.

Ramya 2014-04-01 10:40
DOS 1. B
Human psychology, which has not changed with ages, wants a reliable solution. So I would first build rapport before jumping into solutions. Agile manifesto says - People over practices.

Bob F 2014-04-08 21:27
UNO 1. E
Until you at least try to understand how you will be perceived, you shouldn't introduce yourself (<that would come> 2nd).

Asif Jehangir 2014-04-20 02:41
DOS 1. A
You may find something that may help in softening the soil.

Marcos supports Bob’s answer:

A BA who is comfortable with establishing rapport in the modern world (or in the U.S., for that matter) should probably not assume that they know anything about establishing rapport with rural farmers of the past (or anyone not from the U.S.).

For that matter, minus actual experience, a sharp BA should not assume they know how to rapport with doctors, sewer engineers, bankers, or with distant people on a teleconference, past or present. Best is to keep a low profile before jumping in with a “standard” approach of any kind, people or technical. Consider the following questions:

  • Are the farmers of French, German, Dutch or British ancestry?
  • Are they Catholic or Protestant or Quaker or Amish?
  • Are they Jeffersonians, Adams-sians, Simians, what?
  • Are they educated and in what ways?
  • How many people does the community:
    • Hang every year?
    • Shoot every year?
    • And for what violations of local protocol?
    • No dancing?
    • Too much debt?
    • Wrong color, creed, gender, or approach to life?
    • Offending the sheriff?
    • ...?
  • Do you even have any local currency in your pocket?
  • In an economy where barter is still important, do you have anything to offer besides insane thoughts about the future?
  • How can you position yourself to learn and watch and see how the community treats others before interacting with them in a more serious relationship that is none of your business as a general rule?
  • Are farmers more powerful than merchants? Blacksmiths? Bankers? Archer Midland?
  • Is there a library in town?
  • Are there any teachers you could hire or barter with?
  • Are there any charities that might be sympathetic to a slightly deranged outsider from the future until she recovers from a concussion?

2. The best way to learn what solutions could address the farmer’s concerns would be:

  1. Get a job as a farmer
  2. Get a job as a blacksmith
  3. Get a job in Manchester, England
  4. Google the specifics
  5. Join the farmer’s cooperative

Debbie 2014-03-25 14:53
UNO 2.E

Ravi 2014-03-25 17:23
UNO 2.E
<Best> since cooperative will allow us to get various perspectives. D is not valid since there is no Google at that time. A and B only provide limited perspective. Not sure what value C provides.

Mohsin 2014-03-26 00:26
UNO 2.E

Teri 2014-03-26 07:18
UNO 2.E
More perspective, you don't need to be the expert, just surround yourself with experts

Dan 2014-03-31 16:00
UNO 2.E
If you become the farmer or the blacksmith you will spend years learning how they do it, by hearing from others in the cooperative you can tap the experience of many.

Ramya 2014-04-01 10:40
UNO 2.E
Join the cooperative to have a better collaboration.

Bob F 2014-04-08 21:27
DOS 2. A
Nothing beats first-hand knowledge. Second best is listening to them at the cooperative.

Asif Jehangir 2014-04-20 02:41
UNO 2.E
Understand all the stakeholders

Marcos supports everyone with small caveat for Bob’s answer:

The first hand knowledge about hard soil and iron plow tips is probably as advanced as it is going to get in rural Virginia.

Look up Manchester, England for first hand knowledge that MIGHT make some difference IF it could be researched and developed in the Virginia of the time).

To figure out the best approach for the Virginia community, more voices matter more, not less, we think.

3. The most immediate way (from the following) to influence the farmers would be to:

  1. Explain the advantages of a steel plow
  2. Get a job as a blacksmith
  3. Listen for a few weeks before saying anything
  4. Get a job as a banker
  5. Beat them at farming using steel tools

Debbie 2014-03-25 14:53
QUATTRO 3.C

Ravi 2014-03-25 17:23
TRES 3.E
Provided you have steel tools <we don’t, even in Manchester> since demo provides the best influence <excellent thought>. However, if the steel tools aren't available C would be the next best alternative followed by A. B and D wouldn't be major influences in my opinion.

Mohsin 2014-03-26 00:26
DOS 3. C

Teri 2014-03-26 07:18
DOS 3. C
They are the experts, they don't want to immediately hear an outsider giving their "opinion", gain buy in and trust, build credibility

Dan 2014-03-31 16:00
UNO 3. B
Become the Blacksmith. This way you can temporarily provide the most evident need of the farmers by giving them additional plow heads. You can then implement the steam engine in your work showing them the benefits of automation and explaining how this could help them too.

Ramya 2014-04-01 10:40
DOS 3. C
Listening is important more than solution. This ensures that all are on the same page.

Bob F 2014-04-08 21:27
DOS 3. C
Listening is also good. Second best is the job as a blacksmith.

Asif Jehangir 2014-04-20 02:41
DOS 3. C
You can have all the viewpoints before making any decision

Marcos is torn, but believes in / is backing Dan (with or without steam) (why is Marcos writing about himself in the third person - medic? Medic?! MEDIC!!!):

A productive apprentice blacksmith (were you going to start at the top?), who belongs to the cooperative, and has knowledge of modern technology, could have enough influence (friendship) to eventually bring improvements to local (eventually world) plows. More importantly to the farmers, they get more plow tips immediately, even though they wear like iron.

Key phrase in the question: “Most immediate way”. Answer B is also good because no one is upset (except MAYBE the blacksmith, if an apprentice is not wanted.

Can you pull this off without apprenticing, or fist-fighting the blacksmith? If so, “Let ‘im whine” say the farmers, and off we go.

Changing the world can only work if the analyst succeeds in improving the plow (i.e., they must become the DEVELOPER, or frankly, the GENIUS).

A smaller success (for the farmer stakeholders and overall community) would be if the analyst resigns herself to making iron plow points (everyone has to eat).

By the way, a banker with an eye on the future and money to lend just MIGHT have much more LONG TERM influence, but less immediate influence (and impact). Anyone who can produce the next plow tip NOW might win friends quickly.

4. The most likely acceptable (and successful) solution for this time and place in Virginia would be:

  1. Mass production of plow tips
  2. Acceleration of the invention of steel tips
  3. Development of the first all iron plows
  4. Adding more animals for more power
  5. If you would just keep working as a blacksmith

Debbie 2014-03-25 14:53
TRES 4. D

Ravi 2014-03-25 17:23
DOS 4. A
Mass production would alleviate the delays in receiving plows allowing (D) more animals to be added. With B and D there is no guarantee that the problem will be addressed and in a reasonable time frame. E is not a good option since I can only produce so many plows.

Mohsin 2014-03-26 00:26
DOS 4. A

Teri 2014-03-26 07:18
DOS 4. A
<IF> Workers are available to produce. More animals require more equipment

Dan 2014-03-31 16:00
QUATTRO 4. B
Both Animals and Iron were scarce in 1714 so the solution of building an all iron plow, or mass producing plow heads would not have solved the blacksmith's problem, and if you told poor settlers to "just go get more animals" you would be scoffed at. The best solution is better use of the resources you have <high temp coke ovens or you, the apprentice who can help rework dull plow tips?>.

Ramya 2014-04-01 10:40
TRES 4. D
Adding more animals [in a state rich in animal resource]. All others take significant money to initiate. Working as a blacksmith might be working but not by a BA who is actually there to provide a solution.

Bob F 2014-04-08 21:27
DOS 4. A
Quantity would always help; the sharper tips could become dull quickly esp. if due to rocks (and could break off if too sharp). More power might help (2nd).

Asif Jehangir 2014-04-20 02:41
TRES 4. D
Rest of the options will take too much time and effort.

Marcos says nice try everyone  (no hate mail please, question asked for the “most likely acceptable solution for this time and place in Virginia”):

UNO 4. E
Most likely acceptable. If YOU don’t apprentice to or become the blacksmith, someone else is bound to, no? While they build plow tips you can invent steel first, but I would go to Manchester, and I would NOT expect to get credit for the invention (since history shows that you didn’t )

5. The most “technologically accessible” solution offering improvement in plow performance would be:

  1. Mass production of plow tips
  2. Acceleration of the invention of steel tips
  3. Development of the first all iron plows
  4. Adding more animals for more power
  5. Making plow points sharper

Debbie 2014-03-25 14:53
TRES 5. C

Ravi 2014-03-25 17:23
UNO 5. A
<This> is the most practical option. D is not a technical solution. B, C and E are options with unknown benefits.

Mohsin 2014-03-26 00:26
TRES 5. E

Teri 2014-03-26 07:18
TRES 5. E
See my answer to number 1, re-designing the plow tip

Dan 2014-03-31 16:00
TRES 5.E
Making sharper blades would have been the most technologically accessible solution, but it would not create long-term value since the plow heads were dulling too quickly already. A sharper point would just dull even quicker.

Ramya 2014-04-01 10:40
UNO 5. A
Initial problem was that the blacksmith is producing plow tips slow, so mass production. But then root cause may be known only after analyzing the soil, etc scenarios.

Bob F 2014-04-08 21:27
UNO 5. A
Mass production is doable assuming materials available - more blacksmiths sharing, around-the clock, in nearby towns. More power is definitely accessible but may not help – may not be a solution (so I wouldn’t call it a most-feasible solution).

Asif Jehangir 2014-04-20 02:41
TRES 5.E
Will ease out plowing.

Ravi, Ramya, Bob F. and Marcos all recommend mass production.

Iron and its sharpening has been around long enough that you need a breakthrough beyond the obvious. If you aren’t going for steel (sharpens better, AND it’s a little early, and you would probably want to move to Manchester, England, the “silicon valley” of the industrial revolution), mass production is most feasible. Can you organize a team of Virginians around process improvement?

AND mass production is much harder than you think – are you a natural leader, or maybe a metallurgist? Metallurgy has been around for at least 1200 years. Is it possible that there ARE limits to mass production of iron (never mind steel) and its needed forms - in Virginia if not in Manchester?

If you ARE a metallurgist, just get on with creating steel already and leave us BAs alone until you need to track your steel . We welcome HELP from any metallurgists in the house? Could steel be invented before the industrial revolution if one “knew the formula”, or are the temperatures and cauldrons and coke quality and air/oxygen needs not within reach of Virginian technology?

As a blacksmith apprentice it is conceivable that you could learn the limits of ironworking in Virginia (what about elsewhere?) and what (if anything) could increase productivity more than simply adding blacksmiths.

I (Marcos) just realized something! In Spanish, one would add Ferrers (Latin root “Ferrum” – Iron). Oh crud, Marcos’ subconscious having more influence than his conscious – where is that medic, anyway?

6. The most likely way to get your project off the ground would be:

  1. Convince all the farmers
  2. Convince the blacksmith
  3. Convince the competition
  4. All of the above
  5. Convince a banker

Debbie 2014-03-25 14:53
TRES 6. A

Ravi 2014-03-25 17:23
DOS 6. B
Since the best option identified is mass production of plows.

Mohsin 2014-03-26 00:26
TRES 6. A

Teri 2014-03-26 07:18
DOS 6. D
Farmers and blacksmiths need to be on the same page, competition encourages changes

Dan 2014-03-31 16:00
DOS 6. B
Once a better process/product exists adaption is easy as long as it is cost effective. With steel plows you are working with materials that the smiths are already using so additional funds aren't needed, but convincing the blacksmith to change their process is going to be hard.

Ramya 2014-04-01 10:40
DOS 6. D
All the people [farmers and blacksmith should agree on mass production. then the competitors to accelerate the process.

Bob F 2014-04-08 21:27
UNO 6. E
Convince a banker to get a loan to hire/employ more blacksmiths is creative thinking. Next would be the "all of the above" answer (great and necessary to get everyone in line, but usually can't get going without cash).

Asif Jehangir 2014-04-20 02:41
DOS 6. D

Bob F knows that Money Rules (while Marcos drools?)
(On the medic?)
(I/we think):

Any project will “get off the ground” if money is thrown at it – not always because everyone wants it (want does NOT hurt a project’s chances of funding and clearly doesn’t guarantee it).

IF you have influence with Bankers, you can use it to do lots of things, even if poorly. Best of all is to (of course) have the wide consensus AND the money – all stakeholders mattering can make for a really BIG win.

7. How did you explain your answers?

Just in case someone else is as brilliant as you, your explanation could be the tiebreaker.

<Explanations above speak for themselves>

8. AND, just for FUN theyouwehimermemarcoses ask (there are dozens of us now, we are explaining this to first responders without getting through, they think we are delirious, come in socraMarcos, come in…?):

You are in the present, and a person appears from the future and lets you know that the BA job has changed because …. ???

Ravi
…Every problem has been resolved and all processes are running as efficiently as they can.

Teri
…The world never runs out of issues/problems , but new ways to analyze them and come up with solutions will always evolve.

Dan
…Software became intelligent enough to eliminate QC issues, User Interfaces were so intuitive anyone could create good reports, and someone developed a program to make database integration seamless.

Ramya
…BA work is automated and business analysis now involves something great and innovative as usual.

Bob F
…Solution-Deliver-ers (used to be called programs) are so flexible / powerful / voice-instruction-driven now that you just communicate with the SD rules-reactor and it spits out the solution. So it is like RAD on steroids - a prototype is almost instantly available - you help guide the discussion to keep it on-topic and the job is all but done except for the inevitable “This is what I asked for but now that I see it, it, it, it,…

….DRUM ROLL….
….
….Hold It….
….
….
….Wait For It…
….
….Here It Comes…
….”It”….
….”It”….
….”It”….
….
….
….It isn’t what I want”.

Human nature hasn’t changed.

Thanks, numero UNO Bob F, for the last word, and for your winning entry. Thanks to everyone else for showing great thinking and instincts. Any DOS, TRES or Quattro’s were my confusion, bias from experience, or missed facts in the case study presented in February.

(Was it March? Marchos? Narchos? Wake up man, blink if you can hear us…).

Bob F. PLEASE choose your prize (list at bottom) and preferred mode of delivery.

I will contact you via BA Times comment mail and/or you can:

Best wishes to all my fearless readers (and creators, updaters and deleters)!

* PRIZES:

  • A chance to co-author a future blog in this space
  • A chunk of Silly Putty larger than a chicken egg
  • Free BABOK study charts
  • OR $20 of MY MONEY (sterilized, of course)
  • BA Times has NO liability for these prizes 

Don't forget to leave your comments below.

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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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