Author: Adriana Beal
It’s common for me to receive emails from business analysts who are feeling frustrated with their current situation at work, all related to the same theme: the limited business analyst role they are given in their organizations. Frequent complaints include:
- In my company the BA is involved in projects only when all the important decisions have already been made.
- I’m expected to put together requirements documents without enough time to do the necessary analytical work.
- I’m not being involved in business discussions that affect the scope of my projects.
This is clearly an example of the “medium-sized stuckness” situation described by Laura Brandenburg in her article Where is your business analyst career stuck?. These people have hit a plateau in their careers, and most likely are living a vicious cycle that reinforces itself through a feedback loop. Their work isn’t making a big impact in terms of value creation, which makes it almost impossible to change the narrow view that others have about their role and consequently elevate this role to a more influential level in the organization.
In recent articles, I wrote about the importance of making a more compelling case for management to start seeing the BA beyond the presumed role of requirements recorder, and of taking charge of your learning and career development objectives to create opportunities for yourself.
It’s a theme I feel I have to constantly go back to with BAs asking for help with their careers, and I’ve begun to suspect that the struggle many of these professionals are experiencing has to do with their too narrow definition of the meaning of “initiative taking”.
In the book How to Be a Star at Work: 9 Breakthrough Strategies You Need to Succeed (an excellent resource included in my list of recommended books), professor Robert E. Kelley describes the problem:
In Chapter 5 on initiative, I told the story of Caren, the production specialist for an advanced materials ceramics company, who confused initiative with “initiative-lite”. Like many average performers, she mistakenly believed that finding better ways to do her job constituted initiative. She was responsible for representing her department at technical team meetings and then reporting back to her coworkers. Her problem: she could not participate in the meeting and also take good notes. So out came a tape recorder, allowing her to participate in the technically challenging discussions. In Caren’s view she had taken an important initiative.
As any star performer knows, doing a job more efficiently seldom qualifies as an initiative. If you are finding it difficult to elevate your role and become more involved in the process of driving organizational change, perhaps you need to reassess your level of initiative taking, and follow some of Dr. Kelley’s recommendations. Spend more time understanding what is the “critical path” for your organization, and what “white space” outside your regular job (but connected to this critical path) you could be stepping into to help your projects in both the local and global context. See if you can move from “horizontal” to “vertical” initiatives (instead of solving a local problem, begin to look for systemic problems that could lead to corporate-wide optimization).
BAs who really take initiative, and seek out responsibility above and beyond the expected job description, get noticed when it counts. If you become known as an individual who can use information and organizational knowledge to improve decision making and efficiencies in the organization, you will find it much easier to get involved in the discussions that were previously happening quietly at the top of the organization and taking a while to filter down to you.