3 Ways to Get Feedback on Your BA Skills

Sometimes our intentions behind our work differ from the way they are perceived by stakeholders. And while we’d like to think that our work’s intrinsic quality and our business analysis skills are all that matters, the truth is that sometimes perceptions matter more than reality, especially when perceptions are wrong or career-damaging.

Regardless, how others’ perceive our work is critical to improvement and that’s a concept that’s built right into all of our instructor-led courses here (this is one of the many attributes that makes them unique in the marketplace). Understanding how our work is perceived gives us critical information when it comes to increasing our value and improving the actual work that we do.

But how do we come to understand others’ perceptions? One word: feedback. We need to hear or read what they actually think about what we are doing day-to-day.

OK, but how do we get it?

Here are a few techniques I’ve used to get feedback on my work, even when I’m a consultant and there are no performance reviews or formal evaluations.

1 – Ask For Feedback on a Deliverable or Meeting

Sometimes it can be tough to ask for direct feedback. And others might think that it’s the job of our manager to give us that feedback. So asking for feedback on a deliverable, such as a requirements specification, or a meeting, can be a nice way to slide around this dilemma.

I particularly like to ask for feedback on my meetings. I’ll wait for a meeting that comes to a close a bit before the scheduled time, and then casually ask participants to share any feedback on the meeting. I’ll say something like:

We’ve been running meetings the same way for awhile and it would be great to know how this is working for you. Do you see any areas we could improve? Or, is there a way I could help run these meetings more effectively?

Or

This is the first time we’ve tried this format for a meeting. How did it go? Anything we should adjust for next time?

Now, when I receive feedback, I tend to interpret it directly. I incorporate the feedback into improving the meeting, but also use it to evaluate my skills and find ways to improve more generally. For example, if someone says that it would be more helpful to have a visual instead of a text document, I’ll not just make this adjustment for the next time, but also reflect on how I could have anticipated this request and improved the meeting, thereby honing my meeting preparation skills.

2 – Watch For Non-Verbal Feedback

While our teammates might not want to give us direct feedback, few can help giving at least some feedback non-verbally. This might be as obvious as an eye roll (I’ve had it done to me) or as difficult-to-spot as a slightly puzzled look. Either way, being hyper-aware of this non-verbal feedback can create an opportunity for more feedback. Take the chance to ask the person, in a non-threatening way, if they have any ideas for how to improve whatever it is that you are discussing. Or simply ask if they have anything to add.

The challenge with non-verbal feedback is that you don’t necessarily know the trigger or the meaning. You could think that eye roll has to do with what you just said when the reality is that a rude teammate just noticed your lunch in your teeth! Without validating and drawing out the real feedback, you risk changing behavior that doesn’t need improvement at all.

3 – Ask for Direct Feedback

Some organizations support direct peer feedback via formal 360 review processes, which is great. But in lieu of a formal structure, simply asking your peers for feedback on your work could turn up some hidden gems. Instead of asking for general feedback, ask specific questions, focus on the impact of your work, and try to ask questions framed by the goals of the team. Some possibilities include:

  • How did you see my efforts contributing to the success of this project?
  • What did I do that was particularly helpful to you?
  • Do you see any ways I could have made contributions to help alleviate some of the issues we faced as a project team?
  • I felt like this {meeting, email chain, etc.} didn’t go so well and I’d like to improve how I handle similar situations in the future. Do you have any specific suggestions for me based on your own experience?

The trick is to be sincere and open-minded. As soon as you try to defend yourself, you are likely to shut the other person down. Instead, ask clarifying questions and, if appropriate, for advice.

Since peers might have a limited perspective of what great business analysis looks like, it’s a good idea to ask several peers similar questions and compare notes. It’s also important to reflect deeply on what you learn. Or, discuss the feedback you’ve received with a senior BA, mentor, manager to validate it and decide how to improve based on what you learned.

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Comments

  1. Disha Trivedi says

    Laura,

    Thank you for your all these great suggestions – I am going to take up on some of the ideas you shared. Thank you again for your input.

    Michelle,

    It was good to know that you have done something similar – thank you for sharing your experience.

    Have a great day!

  2. Michelle Swoboda says

    Disha, if I could add onto Laura’s comment – I had a very positive experience with my first consulting role. On my last day I asked project manager for feedback. I asked him what I could improve upon and what I did well. That was a great experience and I valued the feedback.

  3. Hi Disha,
    I think it’s perfectly legitimate to ask for feedback on your work and you shouldn’t feel this is selfish. Start small – an email or a short conversation. And keep it focused on trying to improve yourself as a BA, not on comparing yourself to the other BAs or dealing specifically with the expectation issues that the project faced. If the project manager heard good enough stuff that s/eh passed it along to you then it’s definitely worth following up for more detail.

    Note that since people had a positive experience with you, it might be difficult for them to be critical and tell you how to improve. But understanding WHY they had a positive experience with you is just as important as it’s feedback you can use to build on later. Saying, “So and so mentioned that you were impressed with my work. Thanks very much, that’s always so nice to hear. As a consultant, I don’t get much direct feedback. Would you mind sharing what was particularly helpful for you so I can leverage this for future projects we are on together or future clients?” Then, if the discussion goes well, you might try to dig into pain points too and receive some input that’s more critical or development-oriented.

  4. Disha Trivedi says

    It is interesting that you write about this topic Laura. I just finished a project on which I was supposed to work only for a week, but actually stayed on for a month because the scope of the project was much much larger than originally thought by the project mgr. I was working with the architects and the product managers and it was an exciting time for me because I am new to the company and the product, while the product managers are of course fluent with both. I heard from the Project Manager today that the PMs and the architects were very impressed with my work. I was of course happy to hear that, but I wish I could ask them for more specific areas where they feel I could do even better. However, I am a consultant and not a full time employee. Would they perceive my request to receive feedback as a selfish request? I should mention that I was working on a portion of a very large project, and the first day when I went to the meeting, I realized that what we were trying to do in a week was not possible, but I didn’t say anything because there were multiple BAs who had been working on the same project, but different sections. I didn’t want to come in to the project and start suggesting changes – I instead went along for the first couple of days, and then started giving them suggestions, which were very well received. So going back to my question of sounding selfish, I gave the project a high priority when the time required, but I feel like this is the time when I can get something back from it. Too selfish?

  5. Hi Laura: Great article!

    I usually take direct feedback and thoughts from stakeholders and also another way i do it make some key presentation on certain deliverables and get the feedback on those too.

  6. The great thing about a course like Crafting Better Requirements is that it’s a “safe environment” to receive feedback and improve before you put your work out there to the scrutiny of business and technical stakeholders.

    I think that is the main reason why participants were so willing to accept constructive criticism of their submitted deliverables. I’m very proud of the first class who just finished the course — not only they took the feedback well, they immediately applied it to improve their assignments.

    It’s great to see so many BAs willing to put the effort needed to bring their requirements documents to the next level. I am looking forward interacting with the new participants of Crafting Better Requirements!

  7. Michelle Swoboda says

    Laura, another great article. I use all of these methods and just did as I led a large requirements gathering session for a new project. I asked my IS team after for direct feedback and thoughts. Then I met or called to talk to the participants. One of the participants relates better to my PM, so she asked for feedback.
    I like the follow up – it allows me to continue to be engaged with the project team. I hope that they are honest with me – that is the tough part – what are they really saying behind your back.
    I have also used anonymous surveys – like survey monkey – but the participation is low even for a project team.
    I always watch people during a session – something my direct project team was not aware of. I realize that there is a talent to this – learning body and facial language. I asked them to check when my back was to them writing notes – but I checked on them and they were watching me. So, there is a talent to this skill and perhaps they don’t really understand the benefit of learning this skill. I do 🙂

    • It doesn’t surprise me that you are a pro at this Michelle. Interesting about surveys. I find the same thing with the surveys I do for class participants and here at Bridging the Gap. One bit of advice I received is that surveys seem impersonal and so people are less inclined to provide feedback. On the other hand, open-ended communications can open up the dialog Doug mentioned and lead to more meaningful discussions. But I can see how they might have their place, especially if there is some reticence to being associated with the feedback.

  8. Doug Goldberg says

    Hey Laura:

    Excellent advice on three great methods to acquire feedback. One point hit home, and that is to remain open-minded about the feedback received. It is true that a negative or defensive reaction to feedback can shut down a valuable resource. For me, remaining open is one thing, because it is a silent action that occurs inside my own mind. However, being able to explain why I might have done something (or didn’t do something) with regard to the feedback is tricky. On one hand, I wish to convey to the provider of the feedback why my action was warranted or important, but I also need to craft my tone, verbiage and delivery in live-mode so as to not appear defensive or superior. Usually what I try to do is to first acknowledge the feedback directly with something like, “Yes, that’s a great point. I hadn’t thought of that…” followed by an insertion of my perceptions, which includes an open door for more feedback….”I was actually thinking the sky was blue in the afternoon. Based on that I chose to explain things loudly. Do think that my perception or delivery might have been off?”….which is then followed by reception of additional feedback with active listening and a willingness to incorporate…..”Okay, so you would have focused on the sky being blue but would have adjusted your delivery to be quieter? Is that correct? I can certainly try that next time.”

    I find something along these lines, FOR ME, almost always produces dialog. I can take what I feel is most important from it and incorporate it into my activities, deliverables, etc.; but most important, I can now have open discussion with someone to help in my professional growth and the deliverer of the feedback now feels validated, instead of shunned, for saying something.

    Can you elaborate a bit on how you actively approach the acknowledgement of feedback?

    • Hi Doug,
      These are great suggestions. I would like to think a bit more on this too…perhaps you just gave me a topic for a follow-up post!

      I do agree that this can and should produce dialog. It really depends how “on your toes” you are. Sometimes the feedback can be negative and you might not want to respond right away. I’m the kind of person who likes to take some time and reflect before responding, especially if I think I might react negatively out of pure emotion. So you might not have that dialog right away, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have it.

      I think an important point you touched on here is giving feedback on the feedback, which means either letting someone know what you’ve done to address their feedback or letting them know you’ve considered it but won’t be acting on it for a specific reason. Sometimes you can do this right away. Sometimes it might be weeks or months down the road. But whenever it is, it’s a good idea to keep the dialog open and keep the person updated. This is easier said than done, that’s for sure. And there are many pieces of feedback in my career history that I’ve acted on (sometimes even years later) and not been able to follow-up on, either because I forget or feel odd about it after such a long time.