In a couple of weeks, Kupe and I are excited to be conducting a workshop titled Micro Certification in Negotiation, Strategic, Analytical Thinking. We developed this in an effort to provide business analysis insight that will help our students overcome a few key obstacles that those performing analysis are commonly faced with, including decision-making, conflict, gaining consensus and applying analytical and critical thinking to solve problems. In this week’s #AskAnAnalyst episode, we are discussing some highlights of each aspect of our workshop. (For in-depth training, join us for our workshop!)
Episode 14 | July 5, 2016 Business Analysis Podcast Transcript
Jacqueline: Hello. This is Jacqueline Sanders-Blackman. Excited to be with you here. This is the 5th of July; just had our Independence celebration, and ready to move forward and continue conversation here with Kupe. Hello Kupe. How are you today?
Kupe: Hello. Doing great. Ready to go!
Jacqueline: Awesome! Well, you and I have been crisscrossing each other’s paths out there doing the good work of Business Analysis, spreading the good word, so it’s good to be back together and talk to you on air.
Kupe: I know. It’s a combination of summer vacations and busy road schedules for both of us. I’ve said multiple times that I can’t wait to make this my full-time job, me and you doing the radio show together. When you listen to local radio, Sirius XM, one of the main hosts are off around this time of the year, especially in the US, because of the summer vacations and other things. So, it feels like we’re just patterning the big-time radio shows. For our little thing, I’m excited it’s getting closer and closer to them.
Jacqueline: Absolutely. It’s good to be back. I know we had some other guests on, including Hans who I know well around Atlanta; a great supporter and great mind in the business analysis world. It was wonderful that he also had the opportunity to join us, and I look forward to having him back on the show in the future. We’ve been making it work, and I’m excited about that.
One of the other things that is about to come up, which I want to spend some time-sharing with our audience, is you and I will be together live in Atlanta doing a one-day webinar/seminar; a live, in-person workshop that will be simultaneously with the BDPA Conference that will be in Atlanta. The Conference itself takes place August 10-13. We specifically on the 12th, the Friday, will be doing the workshop. It’s open to the public and is not just limited to BDPA members or conference-goers. You can pay for it separately without paying for the conference.
It’s going to be hands-on, interactive, taking a case-study. We’re going to be focusing on decision-making, negotiating, strategic thinking, and analytical thinking. Some of the things that are things that not just business analysts but that people on the project team have to use and have in their toolkit and anther disposal throughout the life cycle regardless of what your role is: that’s one of the things we’re going to emphasize at the workshop. People will do different role-playing but will see how everybody has a part in it. I wanted to spend today’s show with you and I having the chance to prep the audience for why we even picked that topic for the 1-day workshop and why each one of these is so important. First, let me ask you Kupe, when we were talking about doing the workshop, the thought process and evolution, what came to mind, and what are you excited about?
Kupe: When we talked about the main chunks of the workshop, it doesn’t matter what project you’re on, what size, what type, whether it’s brand new development, all these skills we’re going to talk about apply to every kind of position. When you think of negotiation skills, strategic thinking, and down into the nitty-gritty of coming up with the solution and the analytical thinking that goes into that, the decision thinking that goes into all parts and pieces, there’s nothing in there that doesn’t apply to everybody. There are certain workshops, webinars, and other things we do that are specific for a type of initiative, a type of person, or a roll, and I felt that this was so much broader. That’s what was exciting about it.
Jacqueline: People take some of these areas for granted. We all do decision-making and negotiation, but when it’s on the job and when you’re dealing with different personality types and even different titles, roles, and the culture you work in. You and I, we kind of talked about this as we were prepping for the show. We take students, for example, in the training class and we tell them different things they need to do; we tell them next steps and action items, but then they get back into their natural habitat. We find that they don’t feel comfortable executing these things. It helps to practice and learn different techniques, and with the workshop, it helps to do the role playing. Sometimes it’s easier said than done. What are your thoughts?
Kupe: Like most things, you have to actually do it and experience it to get a feel and realize “I can do it and it’s not going to kill me if I try; it’s not as intense as I thought it would be.” It gives you that confidence to try it in-house. Doing it solidifies the concept. I think most adult learners learn by touching and doing. You can tell somebody over and over. It’s like driving a car. You can tell someone, “Ok, here’s how you drive a car.” My daughter just got her permit, and we were in the car the other day. There was a blinking red light where I was, and she’s treating it like a stop sign, looking both ways. She was recalling all the things she had to learn to get her permit test. It was a multiple-choice test, but she hadn’t started driving yet. I told her, “Now that you have that, you have to actually get in the car and experience it. See what it’s like when you get up to that light, and what do you do. Then, it’s really going to solidify all that stuff.”
It’s the same thing with the work we teach. You can understand the concept, you can read an article, you can read the book, you can hear somebody talk about it, but until you put the pen to paper, when you do that role play, that’s when it hits. You start to get a feeling of all the different variables that come into play.
In the work that we do, we’re dealing with different personalities, different people with different knowledge and experience. If you just hear or read about it, it’s not going to really sink in how you react to all these different situations unless you get chances to try it and feel comfortable. Two things we’re going to try to do is 1: give people enough confidence that they have enough knowledge of the skill so that they can go out and try it in the real-world and 2: give them chances to try it in the workshop.
Jacqueline: In our essential skills class at B2T, there’s a part we call the ‘Shark Tank’ where we have different scenarios. One of the things I like to emphasize with the different participants is I often say that you can’t say “I’m going to escalate it.” Not everything is just passing it up or passing it off. Sometimes you have to at least make an attempt to try to resolve it, address it, or facilitate, whether that’s through the negotiations or the decisions you’re making. I found that some people got really comfortable with saying, “I’ll just escalate it.” I watched the students react when I said, “You cannot escalate it. Not right away. I want you to come up with a way to be the change.”
That’s one of the things everyone has to embrace: the world of change agent. Especially in the world of agile, whether it’s informal or formal agile, every member needs to be empowered to see something, say something, and do something. I think that’s so important. It goes back to people being cross-trained. A lot of times when you hear about cross-train, you’re thinking a developer will learn some BA skills or a BA might learn to test. Also it’s some of these other skills, these soft skills about helping to facilitate the group to the decision-making process. There’s something for everyone in every role.
Kupe: People are always trying to figure out how they can add more value to their team, or at least they should be thinking it. If you add value to the team, then you’re going to be a sought-after team member, and that just helps if you want to make more money or if you want to get on certain projects. It gives you the option to do that. In the end, facilitating through conflict is one of those key skills that you add value. I know we’ve all had experiences calling customer services for a product/service that we were having, and at every point there’s a conflict, they’re like, “I have to bring my supervisor into it” or “I’m going to have to escalate that to my manager. Hold on,” then you’re no longer adding value. What’s the point in you being there, and why isn’t the manager just in the conversation?
I’ve been on customer service calls where my first thing, because I know in an organization, the first line of customer service, I know how certain organizations are set up. The people who are first-line support are not empowered to do anything, so my first comment is I need to talk to a manager, because I know there’s going to be a difference. It’s not like “Oh, I just need to check my order status,” or, “When is this thing being shipped?” I know there’s going to be ‘conflict’ so I’m like, “Let me talk to a manager.” You don’t want to be that type of support person. You want to be a person that doesn’t just escalate. If you want to add value, you have to figure out ways. That’s what we’re going to be talking about in the workshop.
By escalating, you’re actually putting your manager or whoever you’re escalating to, you’re putting them in a bad situation because they don’t have all the information. You’re putting them into a situation where they’re going to have to make a decision without having all the data. Conflict is not always conflict in the bad sense. It could be a difference of opinion or can’t make a decision. There’s not conflict like there’s bad stuff going on, but there’s conflict on thoughts on how to move forward or a difference of opinion.
If you then escalate, now here’s a person coming into the conversation that doesn’t have all the facts, background, or knowledge that everyone else in that room had. They’re put in a position to make a decision, and they’re going to do that. There could be some backlash because other people don’t think that’s the right decision, or, “Why’d they make that decision? Here’s all the information,” even though they never had all the information to make that decision. I’m not saying you never escalate, but, to your point Jacqueline, you have to try. You have to try something. You have to have some tools in your toolbox to try to get to a resolution before escalation.
Jacqueline: Exactly. To your point, I totally agree because you really need to read and understand the situation. At that point when you choose to escalate, you have to understand what the repercussions might be or how that might be taken. That could be a way of building up a wall. “Ok, that person went to my manager. Either I’m going to sit down or I’m going to know I have to keep my opinion to myself because they’ll escalate on me.” You don’t want to be that person that is looked upon like that, because it could also be seen as shutting down the creative process.
Conflict doesn’t have to be a bad word. We want to stay professional about the way we do it, but having different opinions and perspectives are good. This is where that skill set of helping people with negotiation and setting up the room to make sure people don’t feel like winners, losers, and that type of thing. That’s so important. You want to be that facilitator that can take people with difference of opinion and keep them focused on what we’re all here for and what we’re trying to achieve overall. When you decide to push the escalate button, just make sure that you have exhausted all other possibilities, because there are connotations that come with it.
Kupe: Yeah. That’s kind of funny: the escalation button. It’s like a nuclear weapon. You have to have two people to turn the keys at the same time. You might’ve hit on a little tip. One person doesn’t escalate. Two people in a group have to agree that it’s time to escalate. It might take away some of the points that you were making, that you get viewed as an escalator. It’s not one person deciding to escalate. That could be ground rules of a group: 2-3 people have to hit the escalate button at the same time for us to escalate; if not, we’re going to find a way to work through this.
Jacqueline: Absolutely. I wanted to give you a chance to speak about 3 different areas that we’re going to cover during the workshop. It’s going to be broken up, really, into 4 different sections. Let’s talk about each of those chunks. Let’s start with decision-making, because you had some really good views about decision-making, and you even do a workshop about it. Why don’t you give the context of the decision-making topic?
Kupe: Yeah, I’d love to. I can’t talk about this enough. Last week, someone on Twitter just posted a quote I had that said “Most people think decision-making is like a tool that you have in your role, but I actually think it is your role.” It’s to facilitate decisions. Nothing happens on an initiative unless decisions get made. People talk about who a good leader is. A good leader is decisive. They make decisions. They get as much information as they can. They make decisions at the right time. They learn from those and continue. If that happened on projects more frequently, that our focus became decision-making, then a lot of other things fall into place. People should view their role, specifically in the business analysis space, they should view their role as helping to facilitate decisions. We can argue about, “Does the business analyst make decisions or are they just helping to facilitate?” I think it’s a combination of stuff.
The main piece is that they help facilitate decisions throughout the project. One of the things I share in my workshop is a decision path for projects. One of the decisions that has to be made, and we were just talking about this before the show, is you have to get agreement on what problem we’re going after. What are the objectives? What’s the purpose? Why are we doing whatever we’re working on? A group has to make a decision on what problem we’re going after, what opportunity we’re going after. What are the objectives that we’re going to focus on? If you don’t make decisions at that point, then everything else on the project is shooting in the dark. You might do some good things, but there’s a risk that you could be totally off the wall. I walk through what the decision-making process is and how you can help do that.
There are really two pieces:
- You have to determine what decisions need to be made throughout the initiative
- You need to know who the decision makers are for each of those decisions. That could be one person or it could be a group. One person might be the person making a decision, but they might need feedback from a larger group. If you know who the people are, then you have to know what their criteria is for making decisions. If you know who the people are, you know their decision, and you know what their criteria is, that is the information you have to go illicit and gather, compile and analyze, and then communicate back with to that person with options and ways they can go.
In the analysis space, there’s a view of ‘just enough’ analysis. You should be, especially with the influx of agile, it was like “analysis paralysis has to die, so we have to do just enough analysis.” However, no one can answer the question of “How do I know I’ve did just enough?” The way you know you did just enough is if a decision could be made. So you’re doing this work to make decisions, and if decisions get made, then you move on; stop analyzing and stop thinking about it. Move on to the next thing. You might have to regroup and evaluate to see “Did we make the right decision,” “Was that a good decision?” “With the new information we have today, do we need to adjust our decision?” At that moment, you need to move on and keep going.
The piece where BAs also make decisions is they make decisions on what work they do. Why should they do one thing over another thing? If they focus on those decisions that they have to help people make, and if they know the criteria that the people need, that’s what drives their decisions on what type of work they should do and what’s most important. If it’s helping you get to decisions, then you should be doing it. If it’s not, you need to question why you are doing it. That’s my 3-minute overview of decision-making. I don’t know if you have questions, Jacqueline, or people on the line can feel free to call in. Never forget to call in.
Jacqueline: If you are interested in the workshop, you can sign up at the BDPA.org website. You can sign up for the workshop and get all 4 of those components. We do a breakdown of the components so you’ll know the topics covered, but you’ll see how they all dovetail into each other. We’re going to do one case-study, role playing, and it’s really going to be interactive instead of lecture-based. We’re going to show you some techniques and have you actually try them within your group. We’ll be there to coach you through it and answer questions. The topics will include decision-making, negotiation, strategic thinking, and analytical thinking.
I want to piggyback off of what you said about the decision-making. Sometimes people take it for granted, but there are different techniques and different ways of thinking about it. People were saying that sometimes we think a decision has to be made when in actuality we may need to see, “Do we have more time to collect more data before that decision has to be made?” Find out when it is absolutely critical that you have to make that decision. Don’t put yourself under that pressure and that rush to judgment. I flipped that: there are times where some decisions have to be made and you have to say, “Based on the information and what we know right now, this is the best decision for this moment.” Accept that as we learn things and as we peel things back, we may have to revisit those.
Being so much in the agile world, it’s so important that we stay open that we may learn and discover new things. The biggest mistake when you make that decision is when you become rigid, like, “We’ve got to stick to this no matter what new information surfaces,” and that’s where things start to fall apart. Sometimes, depending on the timing, “Is it too soon? Is it too late? Do I have more time? Do I need to make this decision but with the caveat that if we learn new stuff, we have to be willing to come back to the table.” That’s my thoughts on the topic of decision-making.
Kupe: Yeah. That’s great. Somebody asked me this a few weeks ago. I would say if you have all the data, if you provided the data, then someone can make a decision and move on. Stop analyzing. They’re like, “Well, what if we get the data on a Monday and we don’t have to make the decision until Friday. Should we make the decision on Monday?” My thought is no. Don’t make the decision until the point that you need to, which is the Friday, but you don’t keep working on it until Friday. If you have all the information, that’s great, but now Monday-Friday new information might come up. You don’t have to actively work it, but if new information pops up in the conversation, then include that in the conversation to make the decision on Friday.
That’s where it helps to allocate your time. If you have all the information on Monday, move on to the next thing that you could be working on. As new data comes in, then on Friday you make the decision with all that information, but you don’t have to actively be working on it. That’s where I think this whole mindset helps people think about their daily work. You always say that there’s more requirements than there is time, so you have to be conscientious with your time and what you’re working on, and working on your highest value thing. This is a way to help you, a mindset, a tool to focus your effort in a way that you’re working on the highest valued thing at all times.
Jacqueline: Absolutely. Highest value. You have to keep your mind focused on that. So important. Kupe and I are going to be with you for the next half-hour. Today is a 60-minute broadcast. We’re talking about some very important core skills that everyone on the project team needs. In a lot of cases, these are important skills for us to always hone and to make sure that we have. What you said, Kupe: have the confidence. Sometimes that’s when the extra practice comes in. It’s not a matter of how many years you’ve been doing it, but at any point in time, there are new techniques and people who are sharing things that worked for them.
You run into so many different circumstances, people, culture, and personalities; different projects all bring their own little mix of challenges. You always have to be stocking your toolkit and just being creative to break out habits that the team or the organization has gotten into so that you can move forward and have breakthroughs. We talked for the first half about decision-making. The next one is negotiation. They’re kind of cousins, related. Negotiation is very important, and a keyword we often use is consensus. Talk to us on your opinion, Kupe, about negotiation, how it’s related, and also how it’s different.
Kupe: You brought up the word ‘consensus,’ and I think it is a good word, but I think it gets misinterpreted sometimes. When I ask people about this in sessions that I do, I’d say, “What does consensus mean to you?” and some people will say, “Everybody/majority have to agree,” or, “Everybody has to feel good about the solution/decision/topic.” I think that last definition is really accurate for consensus. Instead of using consensus because I think it gets misinterpreted sometimes, I like to use the word “buy-in” so that people have to actually buy-in. Other people have used the term “something they can live with.” What that means is, buying into something and something you can live with doesn’t necessarily mean that was your idea or decision. Maybe you don’t necessarily agree that is right, but you’ll buy into it and you’ll stay committed to it.
You’re right: negotiation, decision making, they’re cousins; it’s all around the same topic. You have different stakeholders that you’re working with, and it might be the business stakeholders that you have to make a decision on which feature to go with. You have to negotiate with the different parties and be a mediator to help everybody get to that point. You’re negotiating to get to a decision. You might have developers that have different ideas on how to design something. You might have to be part of that negotiation as well, and what’s the best way. What you’re trying to do is not necessarily trying to get everybody to agree 100%, but you’re trying to get everybody to buy-in about the route we’re going to take. If everybody’s bought in, then they are in a position to help support it, commit to it, go for it, and in the end, not point fingers back and say, “I told you so. I knew we should’ve went this route and not that route.” So, I like to use the word buy-in.
Another thing I like to talk about is how do you do that? If you want a lot more information, there’s a great book called “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni. I love the way he writes, I like how he addresses some common topics, and this is one of them: how to get people bought in and committed to different solutions. He covers a lot of this.
One of the big things he talks about is first, having a trusting team. People need to trust each other. He talked about trust in a way that if you share an idea or have a thought, you trust that no one is going to judge you for it, point fingers, or make you look stupid in any way. It’s not the trusting in that if I say, “Can you review this document I sent to you by tomorrow, and I trust that you will review it by tomorrow.” That’s not the trust he’s talking about. It’s more that I feel good that I can trust somebody, I can share something, they were really open to my idea, really considerate, and they won’t make me look foolish for it. If you have that level of trust, then you can have really good healthy conflict. That is where everybody can be sharing ideas, getting their point across, and trying to influence others towards their viewpoints. If you have health conflict, after that, some decision has to be made. If you had the opportunity to share your views, you’re more apt to buy into something. Even if the group or the person that’s making the decision doesn’t go with your idea, you’re more apt to buy into it knowing that you were more apt to get your thoughts out.
I use the example a lot of me and wife deciding to move to this area in Atlanta. The city’s called Decatur, and the reason we did is because they had a smaller school system. We moved from a county system where there were 100,000 kids (and I don’t know how many families that makes up) to 7,500 kids in the system. It’s a much smaller school system, we have access to the superintendent, we have access to all the principals, we can go to meetings, and we can have our voices heard. So, I feel comfortable in not that I agree with every decision made in the school system, but I feel comfortable I have the opportunity to share my viewpoints. Even though the decisions don’t go the way I like 100% of the time, at least I feel comfortable that my voice was heard and I can buy into the decisions going forward. I can make a change, maybe, in how I serve up my information to try to influence more people and try to make an impact. That’s the environment you want to set up, and then the group is more apt to get to a point of buy-in and move forward.
There’s one more point I want to talk about around the healthy conflict. This is really important, because there are other conflicts in conversations. There are the nasty conflicts where people are rude to each other, and hopefully nobody is in that situation. The other extreme of conflict is no conflict, where everybody just says yes. Somebody says something, and everybody’s like, “Yes, good idea. Let’s move on.” That’s not good either. You know there’s not good enough of a conflict when you walk out of a meeting and everybody is having a side-conversation, like, “I can’t believe he brought that idea up. That’s not going to work, “I can’t see how that’s going to happen,” blah, blah, blah. Those two are extreme, and you want to be right smack in the middle where people are sharing their ideas and getting passionate about it.
The challenge to really get good conflict is you can’t be afraid to dip onto the side of the negative conflict, the harsh conflict, and that could happen. When people are getting excited and sharing their ideas, you can cross the line a little into where it could seem that people are getting forceful and passionate; it could feel that we’re getting towards the rude conflict, the bad type of conflict, but you have to be ok to cross that line and then self-correct and bring the group back to that middle ground. When you can hit that, then I think teams can really excel, can really buy into things, commit to things, and move things forward. I’ll end there and let you chime in.
Jacqueline: I’m just thinking about some of the mini workshops that we’ve done, whether in a class setting, and some of the exercises we do. It’s really, even as a facilitator and an instructor, it’s good to see when classes and participants experience that for the first time. You can coach and point out to them because it may be occurring in the real world, but they don’t necessarily get to stop and get that immediate debrief to look at how that works vs. how this works. One of the things that I also want to throw into the mix when it comes to negotiation, and you said this word earlier, was knowing what your criteria is and setting your ground rules ahead of time.
I often joke in general about software development life cycle, know who the decision makers are. Make certain decisions up front while we still like each other. While everybody is in a good mood and we haven’t gotten into the topic, let’s talk about what our rules are going to be and what our decision-making criteria is. The facilitator and leverage that when we start going down a particular road, like, “Let’s bring it back and let’s think about what we are really trying to achieve, what we are trying to get out of this. It’s not ‘what I like/what you like,’ ‘that was/wasn’t my idea.’” That setup is very important. All of that will definitely come out in the workshop. That’s the only thing I wanted to add along those lines.
Kupe: I love that, and you said that to me before, about let’s make these decisions while we still like each other. Even though you have to work through the times where it gets tense, if you can do things up front while everybody’s still excited and jazzed up about the project and there hasn’t been points up disagreement, then it’s a good time to get that done up front.
One thing that’s important with all this stuff we’re talking about, and you kind of alluded to it, is as the person facilitating some of this stuff, you have to make it visible what this decision criteria is or what the decision filters are. Don’t assume that everybody knows and remembers what those were at the beginning of the initiative. It’s real easy to make a decision and say, “Ok, this is what we’re going to make decisions off of,” and then now you’re into the weeds where so many conversations are going on with everybody battling back and forth. It could easily be solved by saying, “Wait, timeout. What was our decision criteria? What were we trying to do? Which one of these fit better?” People just forget about that stuff.
I can give simple examples of a trip I just went on with my family to California. We had, at a high level, different types of things that we wanted to do. We wanted to do adventure stuff, hiking, and that kind of thing, but then when we were actually on the trip, there were different decisions we could make on what to do that we’d always go back to that and say, “Ok, our goal was to be adventurous. Do we do A or B? Is A more adventurous than B? Oh, it is. Then we’re going to take A. Let’s do it.” It’s easy to forget about those things, the objectives of an initiative. People are like, “We have to write objectives,” and although they’re not always as clear and concise as they should be, even when they are, if you don’t go back to those things and use those, then it’s not adding the value that you need.
Jacqueline: Exactly. Your family vacation, that’s a great example. You set out, you get caught up in the moment, and the next thing you know we’re falling back into our same pattern. Bring them all back like, “No, we said…” That’s important on projects. I say that to people, and sometimes they’re like, “We did the objectives in the beginning.” You’re going to have to say it often, and you’re going to have to keep saying it. Put it out there at the beginning of meetings. Every step of the way, every sprint, tie it back to what the objectives were. People are beginning to see that and just need to incorporate it and make it a part of their culture. Awesome.
Our listeners today are getting some great tidbits, and even more so, will be able to experience it at our workshop on August 12th. Again, you get both Kupe and I live, and it’ll be downtown Atlanta at the Peachtree Western. It’s going to be in conjunction with the BDPA Conference. If you are a BDPA member, you get a discount. Go check out the website. If you’re not and you want the discount, you can become a BDPA member, but it’s open to the public. You don’t have to pay for the conference fees if you just want to take the workshop. We already have some people from around Atlanta that are taking advantage of that. Join and be a part of that. Again, our topics are related to decision-making, negotiation.
Also, the audience can listen to the episode that you and Hans did. You guys talked a lot about strategic thinking, strategic vs. tactical. Maybe you can just give a quick blurb. They can listen to the show with you and Hans because I know you and Hans had a lot of great tidbits on that.
Kupe: Yeah. Some of the highlights of that show, and it was great having Hans on. He has a great mind, a great way of thinking about things, and an ability to help it make sense for everybody. Definitely try to go back and listen to that episode. Some of the key things were that everybody should be doing strategic analysis in their heads. A lot of people think, “I don’t do strategy, I’m a project person,” and Hans and I both brought up that that shouldn’t be the case. You should always be validating and making sure you understand what the strategy is. So even if you’re not a person day-in day-out focusing on strategy, you need to make sure you understand what the strategy is, and if you don’t, you need to push to get to the right people to understand strategy. If you don’t, then you fall into the trap of shooting in the dark.
You said it a number of times and we talked about it on our pre-call, about if you don’t have that information, then it’s really difficult. You’re spinning with a lot of things, and it gets hard to make decisions because you don’t have that anchor to make decisions off of. That was a big piece of it. A lot of people are like, “I don’t deal in strategy so I don’t need to know about it,” but that’s so far from the truth. You might not be the person working on strategy and you might not need to know the tools, but there are some ways you can help develop strategy by using design thinking to develop a strategic vision for something. You might not need to know those, but you definitely need to be aware of how you validate a strategy and understand a strategy. That was a big part of it that I think is valuable to a broader audience.
Jacqueline: Exactly. I totally agree with you that people have to, within their own mindset, not limit themselves like, “I was told this, and I’m just going to focus on this without asking any questions.” People sometimes approach me and one of the main questions in agile is, “Can you help me break down user stories?” Where do I go? I step back and say, “Let me understand what we’re trying to achieve. Why are we doing this?” Before you can break it down, you have to know what the big picture is and where we’re trying to go so that when the pieces come back together, they roll up strategically into what we were trying to accomplish. Even though the conversation may start out with “look at this piece here and break it down in the details,” I have to have that context. That’s just something people have to understand.
When all is said and done, if they’re repeatedly not hitting their mark all because they didn’t break something down the right way, a lot of times it points back to “We didn’t understand what we were trying to accomplish to begin with.” Everyone in every role. If you don’t believe us now, that’s a reason to come to the workshop. You come, you disagree with us, but we have plenty of examples. Write into the show: firstname.lastname@example.org. Kupe and I are also both active on Twitter. Kupe is @Kupe and myself, @RequirementsPro. Talk to us. We love feedback, and if you disagree, we’d love to hear different sides. We’re open to negotiation.
Kupe: Absolutely. Yeah, my mind can be changed. I have strong opinions, but that doesn’t mean someone can’t sway me one way or another, so.
Kupe: And that’s how we learn, right? We’re constantly learning that way and challenging each other. When I do webinars and one-hour sessions, I joke because I want people to tweet about what they’re hearing. I’ll say, “If you hear some great things that you love, go ahead and tweet. Use my handle @Kupe. But if you don’t agree with it, just keep it to yourself.” And then I joke, like “actually I want you to share everything.” The way we learn is not just agreeing with everything we hear. It’s challenging and trying to come up with better ways. You said something that made me think of a big part of our workshop. A lot of the things we teach and a lot of the webinars we do and what we’re trying to do with this radio show is to help everybody be better critical thinkers. There’s a lot of buzz about critical thinking these days. In the end, you said the comment around don’t just believe everything you see, but you have to validate it and make sure you understand it. That’s what a critical thinker is, right? Making sure that you look at the information you have and validate it makes sense. Just because the strategic department came and said “Here’s our strategy,” don’t just take that word for word and move on. That’s a good critical thinker. All the skills that we’re teaching are how to be better critical thinkers and problem solvers.
Analytical and Critical Thinking
Jacqueline: Absolutely. As I watch the time, our fourth topic actually was the analytical thinking, and I think analytical and critical thinking, you kind of summarized them both in what you just said. Analytical is when you get a piece of information and you break it down, dissect it, question it, and kind of do some detective work. One of the things that I teach and talk about in my class, too, is the first place you have to apply your analytical skills is not just on the problem we’re trying to fix, but first you have to analyze your team, your stakeholders, and the context of the project. You have to understand, “Which approach should I use? Do I need to be heavy-handed, or does everybody already have consensus?”
I’m analyzing at all times where we are in the project, the people, and how everyone’s interacting. I’m using analytical at all those different points along the way, and so could other people in whatever role they’re in. Any final comments on analytical thinking? And like I said, you hit a lot of them when you were talking about critical thinking.
Kupe: Right. I like the way you talk about how analytical thinking goes beyond project requirements. There are so many other things to think about. It is about breaking things down. Technology Expresso is helping people in the world to focus on STEM, to learn about STEM programs and how it applies to the stuff they’re learning in grade school, primary school, and how it applies to our world in real life. That’s what math is all about. You look at a word problem in math and it’s about breaking that down into chunks of what you know, what to attack first, what assumptions we’re making, and how we can go about this. That’s what you’re learning when you’re learning math and the higher orders of math. That’s why I always tried to push myself in math. I got to a certain point where it was just beyond me, but the higher I went, the more I learned.
Advanced calculus…I never use in my day-to-day life, but it was about how to analyze problems and try to solve them. That’s the same thing we try to do, and that’s analytical thinking. That’s how I think our show applies to the broader goal of Technology Expresso and where it comes into play. I think everybody needs to think like that. People need to be able to decipher what they see in front of them, what information they have, what information they need to get, and then where to start.
Jacqueline: Exactly. To our audience, there’s a lot to cover. These are some great areas that apply to all different roles and just to make you a more valuable team member whatever your role is. Having the atmosphere where you can have coaching and feedback in real-time and just seeing the interactions and lessons learned as we break everyone up into teams and talk about all the different perspectives of the teams, what they got out of it, what they experienced, and even coaching and learning points that Kupe and I will pick up. It really will be a great opportunity for you to pick up on some skills, learn from both Kupe and I as well as from those participating in the audience, because we learn as well from our audience. We really enjoy it. I love the interactive workshops, and we’re really excited about setting up the case-study for you.
Again, the date is August 12th on a Friday. A great learning opportunity. There will be CDU’s and PDU’s that you can earn as a result of this. Whether you’re in project management or part of the IIBA, there’s an opportunity for you to get your credits for either of those. It’s really exciting. I think it’s going to be really great. We already know the case-study, so I think it’s going to be quite intense in a lot of different ways. We like putting little twists and turns in it. If you have any other questions about it, you can reach out to either myself or Kupe, Direct Message us and/or send a message over to B2TTraining.com. My specific email address is email@example.com. Kupe, I think you are just firstname.lastname@example.org, right?
Kupe: That’s right. Make it easy.
Jacqueline: There you go. Thank you, Kupe, for your time today. Time flies when you’re talking business analysis.
Kupe: I know. It’s amazing. There are some shows where I’m like, “I don’t know…are we going to have enough to talk about for an hour/an hour and a half?” Then before you know it, it’s like poof, it’s gone.
Jacqueline: Exactly. Great time, and we’ll be touching base with you in another 2 weeks. Then before we know it, we’ll be at the workshop…
Kupe: That’s right.
Jacqueline: Hope to meet some of you in person. In the meantime, thank you Jovan for supporting us as well. Thank you Kupe for your time, thank you to all of our audience. Email us, send us messages, and send us comments. Would love to hear from you.
If you have a question or comment, call 855-484-6837, leave a message and we’ll read it on our next episode. Also, please visit our Tech Expresso Cafe page on iTunes for this and other series!
Please enjoy our other episodes:
- Episode 1 | December 8, 2015: Podcast launch and general overview of business analysis today
- Episode 2 | December 22, 2015: 2015 in Review and Set Your Expectations for 2016
- Episode 3 | January 5, 2016: Your Business Analyst Career Path
- Episode 4 | January 19, 2016: Business Analysis Role Fits in Many Careers
- Episode 5 | February 9, 2016: Overcoming Business Analysis Project Failures
- Episode 6 | February 23, 2016: Good Business Analyst vs. Bad Business Analyst
- Episode 7 | March 8, 2016: Business Analyst FAQs
- Episode 8 | March 29, 2016: More Business Analysis FAQs
- Episode 9 | April 12, 2016: A Business Analyst Attitude for Success
- Episode 10 | April 29, 2016: Consider Your Business Analysis Thinking Approach
- Episode 11 | May 10, 2016: DiSC Assessment and the Project Team
- Episode 12 | May 24, 2016: Negotiation Approaches
- Episode 13 | June 7, 2016: Strategy Analysis and Strategic Thinking
- Episode 15 | July 19, 2016: The Remote Business Analyst
- Episode 16 | August 2, 2016: A Modern Agile Conversation
- Episode 17 | September 13, 2016: Business Analysis Basics
- Episode 18 | October 4, 2016: More Business Analysis Basics
- Episode 19 | November 3, 2016: Live from #BBCCon
- Episode 20 | November 15, 2016: Effectively Give and Receive Feedback
- Episode 21 | December 8, 2016: 1 Year Anniversary & 2016 Year in Review
- Episode 22 | January 10, 2017: Business Analysis in 2017
- Episode 23 | Janary 24, 2017: Is agile a methodology?
- Episode 24 | Janary 27, 2017: An Agile Mindset
- Episode 25 | February 7, 2017: State of Agile
- Episode 26 | February 28, 2017: Are BAs Becoming Obsolete?
- Episode 27 | March 23, 2017: Remote Agile Team Success