My youngest daughter was scheduled for her first dentist appointment. She couldn’t contain her excitement. She had her stuffed dog, dentist-visiting attire and bright, sparkling smile ready for the event. She was ready to go. Little did I realize that not only would my daughter come away with a clean-bill of dental health, but that I would come away a better business analyst as a result.
1. No pre-conceived notion – My daughter was excited with no apprehensions and no self-fulfilling prophecies to sway her. She had no idea what it was going to be like nor did she hold any opinions on the matter. She just knew that her older brother and sister went regularly and now it was her turn as a ‘big girl’ to go to the dentist! Kids are not born with pre-conceived views of the world. Most of what they experience is a surprise (pleasant or unpleasant) and an adventure. As adults, we have lived through many different experiences and as such, some of us dread going to the dentist. As a business analyst, we deal with pre-conceived notions on projects all of the time. End users, sponsors, subject matters experts all have some sort of view or opinion on the purpose (goal) of the project. Some views are positive (end users are really needing this enhancement) where other users are skeptical or out-right negative/cynical about the purpose. As a business analyst having a view or opinion of the project is ok, but I find one is far better served to suspend all judgement…the success of the project increases when the business analyst leaves his\her views at the door.
2. Curiosity - One of the results of my daughter’s experience was a ton of questions directed at me. “Why do you have to sit in a long chair?”, “Why does the doctor wear a mask?”, “Why do I need my teeth cleaned?”, “why?”, “why?”. Some of her questions may have been her wondering why I would do such a thing as to send her to the dentist, but I think most of them were simply driven by her basic and innate curiosity. In my opinion, curiosity is the foundation of a business analyst. This curiosity is the driver towards discovering root cause within a project and ultimately providing that “what is the problem we are trying to solve”…the real ‘a-ha’ moment. I have been on projects where, as a result of the “whys”, it was discovered that a technical solution wasn’t even needed and that a change in the business process, communication method or organizational structure would better solve the problem.
3. A constructive Lack of Inhibitions can go a long way…not being afraid to ask questions and not being reticent about not knowing the answers – after answering the litany of “why” questions thrown at me I came to realize that she was very courageous to even ask these questions. She wasn’t afraid that her questions may change my perception of her and she wasn’t afraid to challenge her father or the situation. Having the courage to ask “dumb” questions (even after being told there are no dumb questions) drives the conversation forward. It also encourages others to ask “dumb” questions because then, the underlying foundation for “if he can ask that then I can ask this” leads to better discovery and understanding.
4. Celebrate a Milestone - after her appointment what is a father to do? You guessed it...take her to get ice cream. Am I going to win father of the year? Probably not, but I wanted her to celebrate her first dentist appointment and her conquering something that was unknown and, possibly, scary with a positive “end note”. Participating in a requirement(s) sessions can be an unknown adventure that is both challenging and rewarding. Recognizing the successful completion of requirements for a project is a big deal and, as a business analyst, you should bring to light the major accomplishment (milestone) that it is. Do you need balloons and catered hors d’oeuvres? No, but explaining how the completion of this milestone will foundationally impact the rest of the project goes a long way.
I didn’t expect an innocent visit to the dentist office with my youngest daughter could correlate so closely with my daily challenges as a business analyst and provide me such insight into my profession, yet I remain grateful for the education and perspective I gained. I wonder what I shall gain in the years to come from similar experiences? I’m hoping I find such introspection and edification when the time comes for her to venture into orthodontia for braces.
Randall Logan is the President of PushPull, LLC (www.pushpulltech.com) a management consulting firm in Indianapolis. Randy has over 18yrs experience as a business analyst, project management, process analyst and consulting within the retail, manufacturing, finance, high-tech industries and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org