The road to respect starts with solid delivery

There were some great questions from BAs in November 2010’s BA Summit, showing that there is an active concern about how to become a BA and how to move up the BA career ladder. I’d like to elaborate on one specific question because it goes right to the heart of what I write and talk about here at Bridging the Gap.

What’s the balance in experience versus qualifications in getting respect from project managers and project teams on the BA role and gaining trust with stakeholders?  How do I know which qualification is best for me and how do I achieve this?

My answer was….drum roll please…..neither. That’s right. Neither. You don’t earn respect by experience alone. You don’t earn respect by more qualifications. Although either of these factors can lead to increase respect, most often they are indirect consequences. As I get older, I’m learning to find the more direct routes. I still like the scenic route for road trips and vacations. But when my career is at stake, when a job is under the gun, the most direct route is my preferred means of travel. How will you find your road to success?

The most direct route to earning respect from your project teams is delivering high quality work. It’s really as simple and as difficult as that.

So, if you find your work is not respected, here’s a series of questions you can ask yourself to dig deep and find a path forward:

  1. Do I understand what is expected of me? What does high quality work look like?
  2. Do I have the resources I need to deliver high quality work? What is standing in my way? How can I obtain the resources I need to be successful?
  3. Do I have the competence to deliver what’s expected of me? If not, how can I go about building my competence? (And if the task is over your head, be honest. I turn down contract opportunities when they are not a good fit because I don’t take to unnecessary failure.)
  4. Are factors outside of my control negatively impacting my work? How can I non-defensively describe the impact and escalate appropriately?

BONUS: How can I deliver more than I am being asked to deliver? What would excellence look like? How can I go above and beyond?

The straight-forward truth is that respect isn’t given, it’s earned. Michelle Swoboda said it best in her post on building critical stakeholder relationships.

I happen to feel that I should prove myself.

What can you do to earn respect for business analysis within your organization today? How can you deliver higher quality results?

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  1. Ted, even not having studied philosophy, I agree with Laura’s response :-).

    The definition of quality from ISO 9000: “Degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfills requirements.” (The standard defines requirement as need or expectation.)

    What is delivering value, if not producing quality work = work that fulfills needs and expectations?

    Perhaps the point you were trying to make is that perfectionism (not to be confused with quality work) can get in the way of delivering value.

    For example, consider a BA in charge of producing a requirements document for a business whose interest is to get an application developed as fast as possible to solve a business problem.

    For a perfectionist, a document that is perfectly formatted, elegantly written, and accompanied by top notch Visio diagrams, delivered 2 weeks after the agreed upon date, could be interpreted as having “more quality”. However, from a business perspective, a requirements document delivered on time, with some formatting inconsistencies and handmade diagrams, but providing requirements that are free from defects such as ambiguity, incompleteness, inconsistency, redundancy and inaccuracy, would be much more valuable. The first document may look “nicer”, but the second is the one the fulfills needs and expectations (i.e., requirements free of errors, delivered on time), and consequently, has higher quality.

  2. Thanks for sharing your perspective Ted. I would contend that we are probably saying the same thing, albeit in different words. What is high quality work if it’s not delivering value? If you go through the steps of understanding expectations and determining what excellence would look like in your organization, I would hope you end up with high quality, valuable work — one and the same. If you just make up what you think is high quality work, on the other hand, then yes, you could be off track and not delivering value. But, then I would contend that you don’t fully understand the expectations being set of you and so your work is not really of high quality, even though you might think it is.

    That’s a bit circular, but then again I did major in philosophy. 🙂

    I also explored the relationship between quality and value in this post on agile software delivery:

  3. passion and care about your work are great things. they can push you to achieve at a higher level than you ever thought possible when you are first starting out in any career.

    i will make a slight deviation though in your thoughts; just a different viewpoint. high quality work is a good thing, but delivering value has gotten me farther than quality work. it can be loose and sloppy, but if it gets the job done and provides just as much value to the customer but with less time spent polishing… well, i can’t say that high quality matters as much.

    yes, it is rare to deliver lots of value without high quality behind it, but it has happened. did you use a microsoft product today? if so, their presence as a market leader goes to show you don’t really need quality to win. yes, quality can drive better value, but if i’m in an either or situation, i’d rather provide more value than higher quality any day.

  4. Thanks, Karie! You are such an inspiration! I fought with that sentence you quoted because to be honest, failure is not always a bad thing. Sometimes it’s exactly what you need to do. When you try something new and fail – you learn. I do this all the time. But when you take on a task you know you are not qualified for and fail – you only prove yourself right. Finding the balance between the two is a necessary part of solid delivery.

    Love the emphasis on simple things. All of your examples are ways that you show that you care about your work — and this makes you stand out. Nice.

  5. I’m jumping up and down in agreement with you on this! I am a firm believer in adding “polish” to my delivery in order to stand out. It’s often the simple things – as you say, going above and beyond – that help you to stand out and earn the respect of the people you work with. Look at everything you do, say, or produce as a reflection of your level of expertise and do the one extra thing that others may not do. Pay a little extra attention to how you format your process flow diagrams, be sure to track changes in any document you deliver (even if that means you have to do it manually), organize your email responses to be succinct. All those little things really do add up!

    By the way, love this: “And if the task is over your head, be honest. I turn down contract opportunities when they are not a good fit because I don’t take to unnecessary failure.” People often think they are a failure if they admit that something is over their head. Either turn it down (if you have the ability to do that), or admit it up front and get some help. This goes a long way in adding to your credibility and therefore earning trust.



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