It was an eye-opening moment for me. Gordon Ellison stood up and said to a bunch of business analysts “You and I are difficult people to someone.”
I had an immediate attack of self-realization when I thought back over some past interactions. Yep, I had sure made that difficult for so and so. But just as Gordon predicted about all “difficult” people, I also had the best interest of the company and usually that person at heart.
We are all difficult in certain contexts and 99.99% of the time we are operating from the belief that we are doing the right thing.
I think as business analysts we are probably in this situation more often than most. If we do our job well, we have spent a great deal of time thinking about and (over)-analyzing a problem. Very often, we are the most informed person in the room and we probably know it. We’ve got an answer for everything and everyone. And we passionately want what is best for our clients and our company. Smell difficult to you?
So how can we see our way beyond our “difficultness”? Here are some of 8 ideas for becoming less difficult in situations BAs encounter every day.
- If you are the type who tends to over-analyze, you are probably difficult to people who see the forest while you have deep knowledge about the trees, so step back from the details and learn to appreciate their perspective. Consider some alternate ways of validating requirements.
- But you will also deal with people even more in the details than you and you will be difficult because you are trying to get them to see the forest. Be patient. Communicate in every possible way, especially visually. (Some thoughts on using domain models as a visual.)
- Realize that most informed does not mean fully informed. There is someone in the room who knows something you don’t. And you want to know what it is.
- You have to take the emotions out of it. You are probably very proud of your work and the proposal you’ve come up with. You know its strengths and weaknesses. When you present that solution, you’ve got to step back from your idea. Let people be critical of the solution without assuming they are being critical of you.
- Another way BAs tend let their emotion filtrate their work is during decision-making. You’ve presented all the data. You know the best solution but you are not the decision-maker. But the stakeholder picks an alternative. Clarify these types of discussions with a direct discussion of risks and benefits. Ask the stakeholder for their reasoning…they might surprise you.
- A lot of us have just enough technical knowledge to be dangerous. Maybe you wrote code years ago or have put up our own website. Yea, developers hate that and it makes you difficult when you try to minimize their technical challenges. Whatever you think you know, forget it. Challenge, but don’t presume. And be as delicate in your approach to this area as you possibly can.
- We can also become quite passionate about our customer. After all, we spend large amounts of time figuring out exactly what they want. When the developer says “that’s impossible” or “that will take us 2 years” you might get just a little irritated and just a little difficult. Sound familiar? These are times to negotiate and seek alternatives.
- As BAs, we can also be very process-oriented. Our silver lining in every failure is an opportunity to improve the process so we never have to go through that again. Try to balance process improvement with an understanding of what works in different contexts. Unfortunately, not every problem has the same solution.
And remember…everyone is a difficult person to someone. That means you are difficult to someone.
If all else fails, check out 8 ways to be less irritating and minimize follow-up from your requirements meetings for 8 more solid tips.