An Overview of the Underlying Competency of Behavioral Characteristics

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While BABOK[1] and other sources include Behavioral Characteristics as an essential underlying competency for business analysts, many analysts may have only a vague idea of how it applies to their personal work environment, or even exactly what behavioral characteristics are, so let’s define those first.

What are behavioral characteristics? 

The term behavioral characteristics simply refers to an analyst’s workplace ethics and character. One writer defines workplace ethics as “sets of formal and informal standards of conduct that people use to guide their behavior at work.”[2] According to BABOK, “Behavioral Characteristics support the development of effective working relation¬ships with stakeholders and include . . . ethics, trustworthiness, and personal organization.” These are important, because they affect how you do your work, the health of your organization, and possibly the trajectory of your career.

Business Ethics

How do behavioral characteristics specifically apply to business analysis? 

One writer quotes a common adage: “Values drive behavior.”[3] Therefore, values and ethics affect one’s performance—thus the inclusion of behavioral characteristics as an underlying “competency” of one’s work.

Obviously, no one wants to work with someone who is irresponsible or dishonest, but the application of workplace ethics is not always easily applied in a cut-and-dry way in an actual work environment. Even a well-meaning person may find themselves in an ethical dilemma they never expected. To take a too-common scenario as an example, suppose that after a project was well underway, research revealed that a major part of a software build was needless or headed in the wrong direction, and colleagues pressured the analyst to keep that information from certain sources in the organization. If she did so, would she be a team player or would she be unethical? On one hand, going forward with the build might waste the organization’s limited resources, but reporting the error result in a very nice person (maybe with children to support) losing their job. To illustrate an even more sticky dilemma, according to one article many employees report that their boss “may ask them to fudge a number on a report, or check a box and say a test was done when it was not.”[4] A manager may tell an analyst that is just how things are done. Though the world of business analysis may not appear to offer as many ethical dilemmas as banking or hedge funds, ethical dilemmas still exist and have the potential to harm people or organizations.

We will return to how to deal with ethical dilemmas later, but first let’s define some qualities that analysts who practice strong behavioral characteristics have.

What Values Do Behavioral Characteristics Encompass?

The list of workplace ethical values is long, but here are a few of the more common traits that are widely accepted to have strong impact on an analyst’s work and contribution to not only her company, but her industry.

Integrity

Some examples of an analyst’s integrity are communicating what she can and cannot accomplish and owning up to her own errors. Another major part aspect of integrity in today’s work environment is giving credit where it’s due; this has the added benefit of fostering trust. One writer notes that trust stands out “as the pillar that supports the underlying competencies outlined in the IIBA BABOK® Guide V2.0, the ‘soft’ skills.”[5] If your colleague does great research or makes a strong contribution to your project, make sure their manager and colleagues know it. Moreover, when writing requirements or deciding what to include in a build, “Business analysts need to . . . work to ensure that those [stakeholder] groups are treated fairly. Fair treatment does not require that the outcome be beneficial to a particular stakeholder group, but it does require that the affected stakeholders understand the reasons for the decision, [and] that they are not deceived about the outcome.”[6] Taking the time to read your requirements and documentation from the aspect of how they could affect your colleagues or stakeholders, or what copyright or intellectual property rights may be in play, can help you ensure integrity in your work.

Responsibility

An analyst must consider not only how a proposed enhancement or update will affect her project, but how it will affect the entire organization and the wider industry. Some examples of this are trademark violations, copyright infringements, and intellectual property violations. These can be easy to ignore, especially when calling attention to them would make annoying breaks in the project’s progress. BABOK also notes that “prompt and full disclosure of potential conflicts of interest” is essential. If an analyst or stakeholder sits on the board of a standards organization or industry committee with access to privileged information, that information must be handled with sensitivity to all members of the organization and not used unfairly to benefit one’s own company. Conversely, an analyst must be careful to protect his own organization’s ideas and trademarks. When gleaning feedback via a focus group or survey, a confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement will help ensure that intellectual property rights are protected.

Organizational Skills

Without this, it’s easy to unintentionally slip up on one of the other traits listed above. The slew of data that an analyst takes in can be overwhelming to the most well-meaning of analysts—making it easy to overlook someone else’s contribution and not give credit, or fail to inform a stakeholder or an update that will greatly affect them. Moreover, disorganization can lead to other faults such as being late for meetings and missing feedback or updates. Organizational skills can be difficult to incorporate without a little help; this is where technology is our right arm. An analyst may wish to try every kind of software available to him, from task reminders to requirements tracking, to help ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.

How Can One Foster Ethical Values in a Workplace?

So how does one deal with ethical dilemmas? The best way to foster the practice of behavioral characteristics in a workplace is to get everyone on the same page with what the organization’s values are and how the organization expects its employees to apply those values in their work. Truly, the application of workplace ethics is not just about recognizing ethical difficulties, but having the proper systems in place to deal with them when they arise.

Establish expectations

Adopting ethical programs and policies can go a long way to help improve an organization’s ethical standards, and these seem to be growing in popularity. “Systems and procedures can remind people of commitments and help connect words or promises with deeds.”[7] Following the Enron disaster and those of numerous banks and stockbrokers, many businesses began to proactively instill a culture of ethics in their workplaces. “More companies in the last decade have adopted and enforced codes of ethics and ongoing educational programs to help to combat ethical breaches.”[8] If they don’t already have one, you may wish to ask your manager or human resources department to put an ethical code of conduct in writing as a preventive measure and to be sure everyone has reviewed and understands it. In addition to the character traits listed above, your department or organization may come up with others that represent your organizational values.

Do not punish employees who take a strong ethical stand

An analyst may be told that fudging statistics or covering up research that would kill a project is normal, expected, or how things are done in the organization. When this information comes from someone in a higher position or a veteran employee, this can be intimidating. If an analyst feels she cannot take her dilemma to her manager, a reporting system through human resources or an ethics board that maintains confidentiality may help enable people to come forward.

What if your organization does not have these types of vehicles in place to deal with ethical dilemmas? This is hard for analysts, particularly those just starting out, and for all of us in an economic climate where another job may not be immediately assured. But remember, if an organization, department or project is discovered to be doing something illegal or unethical, the reputations of all of those associated with it may also be tarnished (think MF Global[9] ). While practicing strong ethics may call for hard decisions, one writer notes, “Long term, a weak ethical character may be the greatest career risk of all.”[10]


Author: Morgan Masters, Business Analyst, Modern Analyst Media LLC

Morgan Masters is Business Analyst and Staff Writer at ModernAnalyst.com, the premier community and resource portal for business analysts. Business analysis resources such as articles, blogs, templates, forums, books, along with a thriving business analyst community can be found at http://www.ModernAnalyst.com 


IIBA®, the IIBA® logo, BABOK® and Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® are registered trademarks owned by International Institute of Business Analysis. CBAP® and CCBA® are registered certification marks owned by International Institute of Business Analysis. Certified Business Analysis Professional, Certification of Competency in Business Analysis, Endorsed Education Provider, EEP and the EEP logo are trademarks owned by International Institute of Business Analysis.


References:

[1] A Guide to the Business Analyst’s Body of Knowledge® (BABOK® Guide), Version 2.0, International Institute of Business Analysis, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, ©2005, 2006, 2008, 2009.
[2] Joseph, Joshua. “Ethics in the Workplace,” The Center for Association Leadership. October 2000. http://www.asaecenter.org/Resources/articledetail.cfm?ItemNumber=13073 Accessed January 23, 2012.
[3]Kerns, Charles D. “Creating and Sustaining an Ethical Workplace Culture,” Graziadio Business Review. Vol 6, Issue 3. Pepperdine University. http://gbr.pepperdine.edu/2010/08/Creating-and-Sustaining-an-Ethical-Workplace-Culture/ Accessed January 23, 2012.
[4] Hansen, Kirk O. “Workplace Ethics: The High Cost of Compromise.” Bloomberg Businessweek. June 3, 2010. http://www.businessweek.com/bschools/content/jun2010/bs2010063_959739.htm Accessed January 23, 2012.
[5] Kupersmith, Kupe. “Build Trust: High-Five Your Teammate,” Business Analyst Times. http://www.batimes.com/kupe-kupersmith/build-trust-high-five-your-teammate.html Accessed January 23, 2012.
[6] BABOK® Guide.
[7] Kerns, Charles D. “Creating and Sustaining an Ethical Workplace Culture,” Graziadio Business Review. Vol 6, Issue 3. Pepperdine University. http://gbr.pepperdine.edu/2010/08/Creating-and-Sustaining-an-Ethical-Workplace-Culture/ Accessed January 23, 2012.
[8] Valenti, Catherine. “Are Ethics in the Workplace Disappearing?” Feb. 21, 2002. http://abcnews.go.com/Business/story?id=87351 Accessed January 23, 2012.
[9] http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/sns-rt-us-mfglobal-cftc-policytre8102iv-20120201,0,1638305.story. Accessed February 2, 2012.
[10] Hansen, Kirk O. “Workplace Ethics: The High Cost of Compromise.” Bloomberg Businessweek. June 3, 2010. http://www.businessweek.com/bschools/content/jun2010/bs2010063_959739.htm Accessed January 23, 2012.

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