On this week’s episode, I wanted to ask (and answer) a question, “Will robots replace Business Analysts?” There are movies that keep coming out that used to sound so far-fetched, like “there’s no way that’s going to happen,” but it is around the corner. During this episode, I didn’t focus too much on the actual robots, but more on the opportunities that are out there for you to work better in a more virtual, remote world.

Episode 15 | July 19, 2016 Business Analysis Podcast Transcript

Kupe: Hello everybody! This is Kupe and I am flying solo today for our every other week version of #AskAnAnalyst, and focusing on business analysis and how it impacts not only people with the title or some form of the title but everybody. In my belief and in Jacqueline’s belief, analysis is happening everywhere for everybody. For the people listening live, we love to have you. For those dialing in later, thanks for listening, and never hesitate to shoot me an email: kupe@b2ttraining.com. Let’s keep this conversation going. I could talk for an hour about today’s topic easily, but I would love to hear your comments. Chime in with a question for me, a comment, add onto what I’m saying, or even counteract what I’m saying. That’s the best way we all learn, if we discuss, debate, and challenge each other to think different ways.

What are we going to talk about today? We are talking about robots: everybody’s favorite thing. My view is that robots are going to be the next business analysts. At some point, there’s going to be a robot working with you, sitting next to you, and you might have to hire a robot if you’re managing a team. Why is that? Why did I think of that? A few weeks ago I was at a science museum and there was all this technology stuff happening. This one exhibit, there was a big sign that said, ‘Robots are learning XYZ’ and one of the things listed was problem-solving. I’m like, “Wait a minute, timeout. Problem-solving? That’s what we do in the business analysis community.” We help people make decisions, help them take advantage of opportunities, and help solve problems that people have and make people’s lives better. If robots are learning this stuff, then should we be nervous? Are we going to be out of a job someday? Maybe.

If you know anything about singularity, this was something I read about years ago. There was a Time magazine article 4-5 years ago that said in the year 2045, singularity would happen. If you don’t know much about singularity, you can look it up, but the quick definition is “the technological singularity is the hypothesis that accelerating progress in technology will cause a runaway effect where artificial intelligence will exceed human intellectual capacity and control thus changing or even ending civilization in an event called singularity.” If you think about the Matrix, there was something like this, where we were controlled by computers. That’s singularity. They’re predicting that this is going to happen around 2045, which is about 29 years from now. It could be a little scary, or you can embrace it and say, “This is going to be interesting. Let’s get into it.” A lot of us have problem-solving computers in our home.

I just bought my wife the Amazon Echo. Alexa is our robot. We ask Alexa a bunch of stuff and she returns with answers and helps us out. We’re already dealing, in a small way, with robots that help us with problem-solving. If you are going to get the Amazon Echo, Alexa tells a lot of funny jokes, so her joke-telling is probably the biggest thing we get out of it. There are things that Alexa does to help make your life easier and to help problem-solve. So, it’s here. I will say that most of the people listening to this podcast, unless your brand new in your early 20’s, early to the job market, you probably don’t have to worry about this singularity of robots becoming the next BA. Hopefully I have 15-20 years left in the workspace before I retire, so from a work standpoint, I probably don’t need to worry about Alexa, robots, or whatever form or name they have, taking over my job. It might change my retirement completely, but that’s a whole different segment we can do, and I’m sure the folks, Dave and Jacqueline, with Technology Expresso, maybe they’ll have a radio show about that.

Most of you don’t have to worry about robots taking over, at least in the near term, but there are things you should worry about right now. Be thinking about robots, but robots aren’t the near-term challenge for you. The near-term challenge is a BA that lives in New Zealand or a BA that lives in Ireland. Let’s say you’re in New York, Atlanta, or California and you have a BA that lives in Des Moines, Iowa, a BA that lives in India, a BA that lives in China. You can be in Southern California and live in San Diego and have a BA that lives in LA. A lot of people talk about business analysis in the ability to do business analysis anywhere. There are views, especially in today’s world and especially in software analysis teams where a lot of offshoring is happening. A lot of consulting companies are offshoring development QA to India, China, Ireland, everywhere else you can think of except in your town. The next possible thing is project management and business analysis.

People, especially in the BA space here in the US, a lot of times say, “There’s no way. You can offshore developers, you can offshore a QA analyst because they can program and code in the middle of the night while we’re sleeping, but people that know the business and are connected with the business have to be with the customers, on-site, right there.” I used to think this. I used to say, “Why not?” But then, organizations started letting their workers work remotely. That concept is you need somebody in the business that is setting next to somebody in the business. Well, yes. At a time when technology wasn’t where it is today, it was a lot harder to work remotely. It was difficult and painful. You would think about always having to VPN and getting kicked off your network and going in and out, being on conference calls where you’re the only person not in the room and it’s very loud. We’ve all heard and seen the video about the jokes around conference calls.

Well, technology has really caught up and has given us the ability where whole companies are remote. They don’t have an office. In the BA space, the IIBA is a virtual organization. They have no office. My company, we do have a small office, but everybody else is virtual. The technology is there to work remotely and be effective remotely. You can take the next leap. If you’re allowed to work remotely 1, 2, 3, maybe 5 days a week, I know a lot of BA’s that decided to move with their spouse to another city but still work for the same company and team because remote technology and people’s acceptance of remoteness is higher these days. So, take the next leap.

What’s the next leap? If I’m in Atlanta, Georgia, why can’t I hire somebody in New York, in LA, in New Zealand, in India? What’s the big difference? Yeah, there are time zone challenges, but even that, there are workarounds. Not only are people’s lives getting more flexible like, “I can work from home and that allows me to do errands and run out to my kid’s baseball games,” it’s the same thing time wise, getting a little wishy-washy. Why do you have to work 9-to-5 in your time zone? There’s no reason why if you’re a night owl, why don’t you work 10pm until 8am? That’s what my dad did as far as I can remember. He worked night. He worked 3 nights a week, 12 hour shifts, 6pm to 6am. Why can’t you do that in today’s world? For the people that think business analysis and project management can’t be done in a remote setting, you really have to rethink your thoughts. It can. The technology is there. Right behind this remoteness is robots. Things change so quickly these days that there might be something in between there. I think those are the big 2 things that are going to be challenges for our role: remoteness and robots.

Slowly robots are going to be coming. It’s not going to be a ‘big bang’ thing. It’s like this Amazon Echo. There is going to be ways that technology is going to be able to help us and be able to do certain things that doesn’t really need human interaction. Amazon Echo and other things, I’m sure a lot of you use Waze for your GPS and your car. And what does Waze do? It’s a problem-solving tool. What’s your problem? You don’t want to be stuck in traffic. You want to get from point A to point B as fast as you can. So what does Waze do? It’s collecting all this information, doing it a lot faster than you can — the old days of listening to the radio station and getting an update every 10 minutes is too late. You need real-time information. So, Waze is collecting all this information from a bunch of different sources to determine the fastest route, where you are, and how to get you there faster. It also calculates what your patterns are. It’s taking in this information. Robotic-type things are here and are already helping us problem-solve. The time where robots can interact with people and make decisions on the fly like humans do is going to be upon us.

Let’s get away from robots. I think that’s an interesting topic, but I think what’s even mores near-term for you and what’s a challenge and also an opportunity is thinking about remote working and the impact of remote working. The challenge is, “My job can get moved to a different country/state. Now, there aren’t just people in my city vying for jobs in the companies around me, but there are people around the world vying for those jobs.” Well, the same thing then applies to you. You can vie for jobs around the world. Wouldn’t it be cool to work for a company in New Zealand? Maybe you get to travel there every now and then. Or India. Or China. Or wherever it is. Flip the challenge from “All these people can vie for my job,” to, “I can vie for their jobs.” The opportunities you have are endless, but you have to do a few things. What can you do and how do you react to that?

If you’re listening live, dial in and let’s have a conversation. I want to thank Technology Expresso for putting on this radio show that we do every 2 weeks. Thank you guys so much. David said in the opening to go to technologyexpresso.com. Check out not only when the next #AskAnAnalyst show is, but they have radio shows going on all the time and radio shows and podcasts that are recorded like ours. Go ahead and check them out.

Ok, so what can you do? You have this opportunity, now, to work remotely, and you can work for anyone. One of the things I’ve written about is the 4 chords of business analysis. I think that this goes beyond business analysis, and it really goes beyond how to be a great team player and employee. Let me talk about that, first. The first piece of the 4 chords — and this 4 chords idea came from this comedic band called ‘Axis of Awesome.’ They did a whole video on the 4 chords of all pop songs. Supposedly there are 4 chords that get used over and over in different patterns and different timing for almost every pop song that’s out there. They did this really funny thing in playing the 4 chords. It was kind of like a mix, where they would go from one song to the next. They’re really funny, plus it was interesting to see that, “yeah, all songs almost sound exactly alike.” The lyrics, timing, and pattern are all different, but if you listen to them side-by-side, you see that they all use the same chords.

The 4 Chords of Business Analysis

So, I thought, “Man, there has to be 4 chords of business analysis.” The people that do this stuff the best, what do they do? What are the 4 things that they do the best that you see in every great analyst? The first thing to focus on is that you have to be empathetic. You have to be someone that really cares. You’re not just going through the motions, but you really care about what’s happening. That is empathy. You need to look through an empathetic lens and really understand what’s happening with people on the ground. You need to feel their pain and see. Don’t just stand there and talk to them about it, but go out and see what’s happening so that you can determine best solutions and help people.

This goes back to problem-solving. If you don’t understand what’s happening and if you’re not seeing, touching, feeling, and understanding what those individuals that are dealing in the day-to-day operations are going through, then it’s really hard for you to come up with the best solution. You can come up with a solution, but you’re not going to come up with the best. That was one thing that people would tell me all the time, that I was able to quickly understand what was happening in their environment. I think the thing is was that I really cared. I really cared about what was happening to them. It wasn’t that I had a solution in mind that I wanted to sell them a particular software package or a particular solution. I really wanted to understand so I could work with my team and come up with something that really hits the end game.

You have to care about the people. You have to really want to understand. It’s not just having conversations. It’s getting up out of your chair and talking to people, seeing, and living in their shoes almost. A lot of you on the line understand observation and job-shadowing. That’s what it is. It’s getting up and pushing your team, saying “let’s not just get in a conference room. Let’s get out and feel it, touch it, and understand it.” It’s also understanding not only the initiative that you’re working on, but understanding all the impacted areas and caring about them. It’s not enough for you to help your department or help a group in the systems that you’re focused on if you mess up things that are going up and downstream. You really have to have an eye not only for the project that you’re on but for everything around it, too. You have to make sure that the greater good is taken care of and not just the project you’re working on.

The next lens that I have in there, and this goes beyond business analysis or any single thing, is that you have to have a yearning for learning. You have to be that person that wants to constantly learn. Find a way, whether it’s listening to radio shows like this, reading blogs, watching/listening to webinars, going to conferences, going to training class, reading books, talking to your colleagues, or going to networking events and having conversations with like-minded people. You have to have that yearning for learning.

The best always feel like they never know enough, and they have to keep learning. The people that are like “I don’t need to go to that class, I know everything,” are the ones that are going to be in trouble because things are happening so fast. Even if you’ve been doing this 20, 30 years, you don’t know everything, and you don’t know the new stuff. Now, there’s some person new to the field that looks like they’re more innovative than you because they’re learning some of the new techniques and languages. They’re doing things a little differently than other people. Even though you’ve been doing it for 30 years, they look like they’re the smarter ones. You have to keep up; you have to keep an eye out for what’s happening in the world and what trends are going on.

The next thing is you need to politely challenge. I think in the end, it’s not good enough to allow things to happen. This goes back to critical thinking. You have to have good critical thinking skills. Critical thinking is about looking at the situation, trying to get all the facts that are necessary, and then at that point, figuring out where you have to challenge and question. Don’t just take somebody’s word for it. There’s a great picture I put up when I do presentations, and it’s a picture of Abraham Lincoln, who is one of our earlier presidents in the 1800’s. You have the quote from Abraham Lincoln saying “don’t believe everything that you see on the internet” signed Abraham Lincoln. That’s a case where if you don’t apply critical thinking, if you don’t politely challenge, you can’t just accept what you see. There’s no way Abraham Lincoln would’ve said that because the internet didn’t really get started until the 60’s and didn’t really get kicked into gear until the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s of 1900.

You have to be ok with, no matter who it is in the organization, fighting the facts. You have to really understand what’s happening and be ok to politely challenge and push back. This could even be with your team members. When you have developers talking, they might want to implement something that’s really cool, but you gave to challenge them to argue and get to a point where the question “how does that help us meet our goals, solve our problems?” is answered. Don’t just accept and don’t just allow things to happen. Don’t be a rider on the bus. You have to be a person that’s really fighting for, like I said with empathy, the greater good.

The 4th of the 4 chords, and this is one of the main ones that I’ll always be talking about, is working towards networking and having a strategic network, always looking for more people to meet and connect with. Why is that? I think I might’ve talked about this before. My goal in life is to meet everybody in the world. Why do I have that goal? Is it a hairy, audacious goal? Absolutely, but I have to keep striving for it. If I could reach it before the end of my life, then great. If not, I’m going to die trying. There are a couple of reasons. One is I value networking and I view myself as a strategic networker in the sense that I try to meet as many people as I can. I don’t know exactly how our relationship is going to take form.

This is why I say I want to meet everybody in the world, because I don’t want to just say I’m going to meet people at these companies and I want to just meet people that have a certain title and above. I want to meet everybody, and I don’t know what our relationship is going to be a week from now or 10 days from now. But, the more people I can meet, the more people I know I have in my network that I can rely on and get answers from. I always say I’m not the smartest person in the world but I guarantee that somebody in my network can help you. I love to be that connector of people, so that’s one big thing.

In our world of business analysis, there’s not a lot of time. When you get assigned to an initiative, we’re already behind. Whatever solution it is, everybody already wanted it yesterday, so we’re already behind, and you have to move fast. You have to be quick and get to the point fast. It doesn’t matter what information you get it’s coming from the wrong people. So, how do you know who the right people are? It’s by you connecting. It’s connecting with different people in and outside of your organization. Ways to get information: you need to know who knows what. That’s what you’re learning about. You’re not just getting to know them like “Oh, I know your name, this is the place you work, and you have 3 kids.” You want to know more about them: what they know, what they like, what drives them, what excites them, what knowledge do they have. Then when you need information, you know who to go to.

The other piece to that is not only the information they have but who they know and who they’re connected with. This is politics in a good way. In the US we’re in a real, ugly kind of presidential election season, in my opinion. A lot of people think that politics is a bad thing, but in the end, politics is negotiation, influence, knowing who you know and who you have to convince. That’s the same thing for you guys. You have to play the political game within your organization. The best way to do that is to network with people and understand what and who they know because if you don’t have a connection with someone you have to get to, then you want to be able to use who you know to help influence that person. All these things I’m talking about are going to make you a more valued person. Regardless of robots taking over or someone in a country far away or in a city right next to you vying for your job, you need to become more valuable, and this is the way to do that.

4 Habits to Promote

The other thing I wanted to highlight is my good buddy Hans Eckman, who hosted a show with me a couple of weeks ago where we talked about strategic analysis, posted an article a few weeks ago around the 4 habits you should promote immediately. This is saying, what should companies value in their employees? The first one relates to politely challenging, and that’s they don’t always say what you want them to say. You don’t want yes-man or yes-woman, and you don’t want to be that person that looks up to your director or VP and whatever they say, you go for.

Leaders in today’s market, a lot of great leaders want you to challenge them. They might be upset about it and they might get frustrated, but in the end, they want to be challenged. If they’re challenged and you’re not just agreeing with everything they say, then the best results are going to come out. I had a conversation with a co-worker today, and it wasn’t necessarily a leadership role, but I was looking at curriculum for a 3-hour online class I’m developing. I had an idea of how I wanted it to go, but I reached out to someone and said, “Hey, here are my thoughts. What do you think?” They challenged and pushed back, and you know what? The end results are a much better program than what I was going to do by myself. Most leaders want somebody to challenge them, to push back, so you need to be that person.

Next is somebody already leads. They’re not given a title to be a leader, but you see them in organizations that they just get up and act like leaders and people are following them. You want to do that regardless of your title. If you’re brand new to the organization and you have the lowest title you could have in the organization, you want to be that person that acts like a leader, that people come to, that go-to-person that people get behind. Being a leader is being very decisive and taking chances. It’s thinking about it, making decisions, and learning from them. You can do those things regardless if you have a senior VP title or not.

The next thing is that they’re invested. In today’s environment and work, people move around a lot. When my parents were working, my dad worked at the same organization for 40+ years. You don’t see that as much. My dad has a great pension and my parents are living a comfortable life. Why? Because he’s getting paid 75% of his salary, whatever it is. We don’t have that anymore. There are still some companies out there that have that type of life. People, in a lot of cases, were loyal because they wanted that pension at the end. If you’re going to go work for a company, you have to give it your all. There was someone I know well that I was working with. There was something going on with the organization that she felt her role could be in jeopardy, but she made a decision to say, “I can start now, reduce my productivity, and look for another job because there’s a good chance, or I can give it my all.” She opted for that route, to just put her heart and soul into the organization. If you want to be valuable, that is what’s going to happen.

Talking about robots, what do you think robots are going to do? Someone brings a robot in to do a job, so what do you think they’re going to do? They’re not thinking about their next job. Maybe as they get more and more advanced, they’ll fall into patterns that we do as humans, but they’re going to be loyal and they’re going to do and act in a way that breeds loyalty. People want loyalty. If you’re a loyal person, you believe in the organization, and you want to do the best for the organization, that’s going to help make you more valuable.

The last thing, and this goes to my yearning for learning, is somebody that is self-aware. They’re always looking to figure out, “What am I doing? What went well? What’s not going so well? Where can I improve?” They admit to mistakes. The worst thing is when you have someone that is constantly pointing the finger at other people and trying to pump themselves up. That’s just not reality. We’re not perfect, so you should sit back and say, “Where can I get better? What can I do differently?” someone like that and not someone who is always pointing like, “The reason that went so bad is because so-and-so said this and did that.” You don’t have control over what other people do and say, but what you have control over is how you act. You always have to be thinking about how to change and get better.

Remote Business Analysis Tips

Next I’m going to go into some remote-type tips and how to get better at remote working, because that’s the next piece. Regardless of robots, your remote workers are the ones that can challenge you for your job and you can challenge them for their job.

I want to thank B2TTraining for sponsoring this podcast that Jacqueline and I do every 2 weeks. With the summer months, and you see this with a lot of the new shows and radio shows, the hosts are kind of switching back and forth. I missed a couple this summer because I was on vacation, and Jacqueline missed a couple, primarily not because of vacation but because we have her out there working so much. She has been busy, and unfortunately she’s with a client today and couldn’t make this call.

We’re talking about robots being the next BA in the long-term, but for the near-term is people that don’t live in your city. I think companies other than Yahoo, and I should’ve looked this up because I’m not even sure where Yahoo is, but I know they’re trying to sell off assets; Yahoo might not be around for very much longer. They made a bold statement a few years ago. The new CEO came in and said, “Nobody’s working remotely. Everybody’s going to be in an office.” That was a big shock to the business community, and people we’re trying to get a sense, like, “Is this the trend?” It really didn’t take off for other organizations. There might be times, and maybe Yahoo was in that critical state where they had to get everybody together because it’s a lot easier when everybody’s together; you’re able to work on things and move things forward faster.

But, most companies are not in that critical nature, so it makes sense that companies have to have more offerings. Maybe they can’t offer more money but they can offer a better lifestyle, and a lot of people are choosing remoteness as a lifestyle. My wife and I, when our kids get to a point when they’re out of high school and they’re in college and beyond, our lifestyle changes and we want to live closer to a beach, so I will continually look for opportunities where I can live at the beach. Then, 9 years from now, I can just grab my laptop, move to Decatur, Georgia, and move to the beach somewhere while still being able to make a living and be productive in society. That’s what a lot of people like.

A lot of people are not, especially younger generations, they don’t want to be 9-to-5’ers, which is that lifestyle of working 9-to-5 then going home to your family and back to work the next day. The trend, to me, is remoteness, and it’s not everybody in the same office all the time. For you guys to be competitive in today’s market 2, 3, 4 years from now and to give you more opportunities, you have to improve how you work remotely. There’s nothing else more important right now than that. I read a recent survey about meeting professionals internationally. It showed that virtual meetings are expected to grow at twice the rate as live meetings. This is all kinds of meetings. They talked about conferences all the way down to work-meetings with 5-6 people. They’re growing at that alarming rate. What you do, especially in the BA field and even the project management field, you’re facilitating meetings, and you need to be able to facilitate meetings well with remote people.

The first thing is understanding the tools that you have access to. I said earlier that the tools are there for you. The tools are available for you to use. Things like go-to meetings and go-to webinars are well-known: WebEx. Microsoft Lync is used in a lot of organizations, especially a lot of Windows or Microsoft shops. It comes with a lot of the packages that they sell, so a lot of people use Lync. There are others in that vein. Those tools are more for when you have to share information, pass the ball back and forth, and let people use the screens. It’s not just conference calling. It’s actually using a whiteboard online. All these tools now have these features, where you not only can share your screen, but you can allow someone else to share their screen. You can allow somebody to take control of your screen to where they have control over the mouse and can update documents.

You have to learn about these tools, know all the features you can use, and know the ways that you can get better at having a more interactive meeting. Some large organizations are still blocked from using Google Docs, but Google Docs is a great way. I’ve used it with a lot of different colleagues. My friend Blair from New Zealand and I actually used it to create a presentation together. We’re halfway around the world creating a presentation together; we’re in Google Docs brainstorming and being able to update our presentation on the fly, seeing what the other is thinking as we’re typing. We didn’t have to be in the same room. You have to get more comfortable with those tools.

There are other tools, like a lot of chat tools. My organization uses Sococo. We have people in all parts of the United States, and we’re all in this tool called Sococo. It stands for Social Communications Company. Basically, we’re all connected via voice-over IP. On our desktops we have a virtual office, and we all have an avatar. You can see when we’re in our office. I can see when my colleagues are talking to other colleagues. You can chat, share screens, we can all get into a conference room together — it’s all voice-over IP. If I want to talk to my colleague Shane, I virtually knock on his door, he hears that, and he lets me into his office; we’re instantly talking. It’s a lot quicker. That’s where the technology has caught up.

Not only do you have to understand how to use this technology and get better at it for facilitating meetings, but you have to get better with it, interacting with people on a daily basis. A lot of people, what happens, is a lot of people work remotely, and they’re gone. They’re lost. They’re no longer connected to the other people. Why people like being in an office is because they can walk to a water cooler with somebody and have conversations, talk about what’s happening this weekend and what they’re doing with their friends, or their spouse, or their family. In a remote-world, you have to do the same thing. You have to get better at connecting with people that you work with day-in and day-out. Whether that’s popping over to somebody’s office and having a conversation, not about work but just general “how do you do” kind of conversations and small talk like you would in a lunchroom in an organization, or you could even do what I do.

I’m like, “Let’s grab coffee tomorrow,” and they’re like, “How are going to grab coffee? I’m in LA and you’re in Atlanta.” I’m like, “Well, at noon my time I’ll kick off a pot of coffee at my house, you grab a cup of coffee, whatever you like, and we’ll sit down and chat.” Sometimes we use video, sometimes we don’t, but just that mindset of sitting there with a cup of coffee at your desk and knowing somebody else is doing the same thing gets you in that relaxed mood where it’s not just all business all the time. 2 years in a row, now, we’ve had our holiday party, and we did a virtual gift exchange. We used go-to webinar or go-to meeting, but everybody had their video cameras popped up, everybody grabbed a drink of their choice — it was around 5:00 Eastern Time — and everybody had to ship somebody else a present. We were opening presents, laughing, having snacks and drinks. We weren’t all together, but it had that same feeling. This is what people are doing. You have to get comfortable communicating and interacting with people not only in a face-to-face setting but also in a virtual setting.

There are things you have to get better at. For instance, when you’re talking, usually your microphone is really close to your mouth. It’s better to use a headset with today’s technology, so your microphone is right there. When you’re having lunch with someone face-to-face, you can be chewing without that chewing sound being heard, unless you’re a loud chewer. For most people, that chewing sound is not heard when you’re live, face-to-face sitting at the table. There’s also a lot of background noise that’s going on at a restaurant, cafeteria, desk, wherever you’re sitting. When you’re doing something virtually, you have to remember where your microphone is. You might not want to be chewing. If you’re chewing normally, it sounds really, really loud in somebody’s ear. If you’re a slurper and you slurp your drink, if you do that when you’re face-to-face, most people don’t hear it as well, but when you’re doing it right in your microphone, you hear that, and it’s really loud for everybody else, so it throws them off.

Have you ever been on a call with someone when they’re at their home office or work office and they go to a refrigerator that dispenses water. They’re feeling up their water jug or water cup, and it just so happens that where they’re filling it up is very close to their phone’s microphone. What do you think that sounds like? I know some of you have heard this before — it’s disgusting. You’re not sure where that person is. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can ask a friend or email me and I’ll somehow communicate to you what it sounds like, but some of you have heard it, and it’s not good. You need to be self-aware of what’s going on around you and what things can sound like via a telephone, microphone, or headset. You’re chewing, you’re slurping, you’re filling up water: you have to be careful with things like that and understand that those sounds are different in a face-to-face environment than in a virtual environment.

What else do I have for you? We did talk about your ability to use the tools to facilitate meetings but also just general interaction. The one thing that you have to get ok with, too, is using multichannel conversations. I think that’s one of the last things I want to hit on. This kind of goes against some things I know, understand, and believe in, but you have to get comfortable somehow to switch tasks. I’m a big believer that we cannot multitask. Just think about how effective it would be if I was trying to do this radio show while I was trying to answer an email. How broken up would my cadence be? It would be completely off. You have to get better at using multichannel with switch task. We don’t multitask, but we are constantly switch tasking. There are people out there, even on their LinkedIn resumes that claim “I am a multitasker.” That’s not really a good thing.

One reason is because it’s really hard to do. There are very few things that you can multitask. You can be ironing clothes and watching TV, but are you getting all the things in from the TV show? Probably not. Or, are you adding a few extra creases if you’re really focusing on what’s happening in the show? Are you really doing a great job ironing? Probably not. Can you rub your belly and pat your head? Some of us can, and that can be considered multitasking. However, for the stuff that we do when we’re supposed to be engaged on phone calls or engaged in a meeting and we’re thinking about something else and doing something else, we’re really not effective; we’re not the most productive that we can be. What you’re doing is switch tasking, going back and forth from one thing to another.

Earlier in the show I talked about working on that online learning class. There was a point in the conversation where my colleague just went silent, and I was like, “Hellooo, anybody home?” She’s like, “Oh, sorry. I got this email I was expecting from someone I have to react to, so I ignored you for a second.” She can’t be listening and responding to me and reading an email and responding to the email at the same time. It just doesn’t happen, so we switch back and forth.

Now I’m going to tell you that there are some cases where you need to try to do your best multitasking or at least switch tasking, and that’s when you’re in a remote world. You need to be comfortable with multichannel. You might be on a conference call but at the same time, if you’re working remotely, you might have to send messages to people via a chat. I was on a call yesterday where I was listening to someone talking but the conference call also had a chat feature, so I was typing and talking to somebody else behind the scene, because I wanted to figure out when the best time would be to ask a certain question. I was still half-listening but I was also doing this chat. You have to know when to do it, and you have to be comfortable with doing multiple things. You have to be able to have your email open and ready to use, your chat open and ready to go while you’re also in a conference call trying to listen.

A good example of that, especially if you’re facilitating, is if you’re not hearing from somebody that’s on the line. I do this every now and then. If I have a group of 5 people that we’re talking to and I’m getting good interaction from 4 of the people and not the 5th, I’ll send them a chat or a text and ask what’s going on, like, I haven’t heard from you. “Why aren’t you chiming in?” The reason to do that offline is I don’t want to call them out. In a face-to-face environment, it’s obvious to everybody that that person is not talking. In that case, if there were 5 other people in the room and 1 person’s  not talking, I might even say — and they know I’m not doing it maliciously — “Hey Joe, I haven’t heard you chime in. Are you good with everything? Did I give you time to jump-in?” When you’re remote, it could feel like you’re calling them out, and they’re not comfortable to say anything. So, you use a backchannel like a chat or text to try to communicate with them while you’re keeping the session facilitated. It’s not easy.

I used to watch Turner Sports, so I got the chance to see producers in the newsroom with all the TV’s and camera angles and they’re listening to the announcers and are giving the announcers direction on things to do and they’re also giving the cameramen directions, they’re like that ultimate producer of pointing and keeping an eye on 5 or 6, maybe more things that are going on; they’re able to quickly react. If you’ve never seen it before, it’s really an amazing thing. You’ll talk to producers like that, and it’s nothing to them. They’re like, “It wasn’t a big deal.” They get so used to seeing things, and they know what they’re looking for so they can quickly see things and react. They know what to prioritize. To them, it’s not a big deal. It’s got to be the same thing for you.

You have to get to a point where you can be facilitating a meeting, keeping track of everybody’s interactions, being able to control the offline things that are going on to be effective. That’s really where you have to spend a lot of your time to get better. In the classes we run virtually and in a lot of the webinars we do, just in doing this radio show, it’s not just me. I’m not keeping an eye on the panel to make sure the sound is good, that people aren’t having trouble connecting, or an eye out for people that want to talk. We have Jovan and David that are watching out for that stuff. There are two things. One, there are situations where you should have somebody producing for you and keeping the remote pieces up and running, but at the same time, you don’t always have the need for somebody else or the option to use somebody else, so you have to get better.

I want to wrap up just talking about, again, our good friends or soon-to-be friends, the robots. There are movies that keep coming out that used to sound so far-fetched, like “there’s no way that’s going to happen,” but it is around the corner. I don’t want you to worry as much about robots as I want you to think about the opportunities that are out there for you to work from anywhere and for anyone wherever they are. The way you get better at that, I talked about the 4 chords of business analysis and I talked about the article that Hans sent me around the habits of employees that you should promote.

Another important thing is getting comfortable working remotely and interacting with people in a remote fashion. Keeping those friendships are important. We like to work with people that we have personal connections with, and you can still have personal connections with people remotely. You don’t have to be with them every day face-to-face. You have to figure out what the best way is to interact with people, and you have to get comfortable with the technology that’s out there. If you’re still a pen and paper person, it’s going to be difficult long-term to add as much value to an organization as other people.

Let’s face it, the younger generation — my daughter who’s 9 teaches my wife how to use all the technology in the house. Why? Because she just grew up in that mode. Technology was all around her the day she was born. The generations coming up are naturally good with that, so if you’re a manager, that’s what they want to use. They want to be able to work remotely, they can work remotely, and they can be effective. For managers hiring people and wanting to get the new/next generation coming into the business environment, those are things you have to put in play. You have to get better at it, but you also have to set up an environment where it’s there and people can be effective.

Thank you guys very much! I was sad that Jacqueline couldn’t join me today, but the show must go on, as they say. I’m Kupe from B2TTraining. Check us out at our site, see all the things we have to offer, and maybe we can work together to help develop the skills of your staff so that they can improve and get better at what they do. You can visit us at www.b2ttraining.com. Again, I want to thank David and Jovan running the board in the background, and I thank Technology Expresso for putting this on.

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!

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