What Business Analysts Can Learn from Competitive Sports: The Power of Consistency

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Triathlon - Business Analyst - The Power of ConsistencyI am a Business and Systems Analysis Manager.  Day-to-day I perform the essential duties of a business analyst.  In my management capacity, I instruct a team of analysts and guide them in their daily analysis activities, as well as coach and mentor them in their career growth and development; a role that I take to heart.

Coaching and mentoring others to reach their full potential requires a bit of analysis itself.  The challenge: How to help others plan the specific and actionable steps that they need to take in order to improve in areas that perhaps I as a manager have found to be more second nature.

That is not to say that I don’t have areas where I need to improve.  But for my own areas of improvement, I often have already taken the time to develop an actionable improvement plan.  In contrast, in areas that have come more naturally to me, I may not have determined which actionable steps may help others improve.  As such, I’m always looking for better ways to convey those qualities and actionable steps which are crucial and necessary for analysts to achieve their goals.

While my co-workers know me as a manager of Business and Systems Analysis, others know me as a Triathlete (A triathlon is multi-sport event involving the completion of three continuous and sequential endurance events; most commonly swimming, bicycling, and running).  It was while reading a recent article about Triathlon that I began to draw a strong parallel between achieving career goals as a business analyst and achieving goals as a triathlete.  Both are an exercise of endurance.  Short bursts of strong performance will not achieve your goals.  That is why it is so fitting that the author writes about “The Power of Consistency”.  After reading this article you will see that consistency is such a simple concept to understand and yet it can be one of the most challenging to put into practice.

Triathlon Article on the Power of Consistency by Kelli Montgomery:

http://www.usatriathlon.org/resources/multisport-zone/multisport-lab/the-power-of-consistency

By simply reading this article you will probably be able to draw many parallels to your role as a business analyst.  But to further articulate the metaphor, I’ve translated the words and phrases related to Triathlon to their equivalent terms in relation to Business Analysis.  By replacing the vocabulary of Triathlon with the vocabulary of Business Analysis we can see how strong the “Power of Consistency” is for both activities.

Completion of the Business Analysis Metaphor

One of the key elements I stress with business analysts that I coach or mentor is how important it is to have long-term consistency with their career development. It’s basic that if you want to see the most gain or improvements in your career development and advancement in roles and responsibilities, you’ve got to be consistent — and that’s over the long haul. Acquiring stellar job performance is not a short-term process. It can take at least a year and a half of consistent career development to become ready for advancement in roles and responsibilities. It’s worth the wait, as you will then be able to reach your potential as a business analyst.

So how do you get to be consistent in your career development day in and day out?

You need to make a 100 percent commitment to career development and back that up with action. It isn’t easy to be consistent and self-disciplined, and there will be times when it will be hard and it would be easier to take a seat on the couch and turn on the tube instead of opening a book. But, if your goal is to reach the next level or advance in roles and responsibilities quickly, you’ve got to decide you really want it and fight through the tougher days and adversity - do this and you will succeed!

Once you’ve decided to commit, engaging a coach or mentor to help you plan for your goals and design a career development plan that works with your life schedule will also help you be consistent long term. Having a coach or mentor to provide helpful feedback, positive motivation and accountability, especially during tougher periods, will help you stay on track.

Whether you decide to use a coach or mentor or plan your career development yourself, it’s important to have a career development plan that is realistic with your schedule. A schedule that will allow you to be successful includes adequate time for mental recovery, career development, and is in harmony with both family and your work life. Trying to cram career development in and not allowing enough time for the mental recovery process, or having a career development plan that puts stress on work and family time won’t be sustainable over the long term.

Keep your career development simple — to improve you don’t need a complicated career development plan or complicated software. Most of us are busy and have lives outside of business analysis, so keeping it simple allows for consistency. Put in the work long-term and you will see the rewards!

I have my business analysts use repetition to build consistency. Standardizing study sessions provides a number of positives to your career development. It helps develop skills and a greater understanding of your career development; you’ll develop awareness and intuitively feel better than if you have a career development plan or study sessions that are constantly changing. You’ll see improvements and notice over time that you feel better and mentally recover faster. By repeating study sessions week to week you will be able to see progress and work to get better with each study session. It also keeps career development simple; for instance, knowing you will do a certain type of study session each Monday brings better time management. This all adds up to long-term consistency.

Fueling your job performance properly will also help you be consistent with your career development. I tell my business analysts to think of their job performance as race cars - to get the most from your vehicle, you want to use premium-grade fuel. Aiming for ample focus, effort, and accountability will keep you refreshed and help get more out of your time. If you can avoid discouragement and distraction you will be more consistent over the long term.

Mental recovery is vitally important to success of consistency. You can’t intensely focus on career development if you are not refreshed.  Aim for mental recovery and renewed focus by planning specific down time.

As you plan your next career development goals, think about the Power of Consistency and what it can bring to your career development and advancement in roles and responsibilities...the rewards in improvement and success are worth investing in!

What the Business Analyst Should Be Asking Right Now


After reading the translated version of this article, ask yourself the following questions (honestly!):

  • Am I 100% committed to my career goals?

  • Do I have a coach or mentor that can hold me accountable?

  • Have I taken the time to develop a personalized career development plan?

  • Is my career development plan realistic and does it work with my life schedule?

  • Does my career development plan provide adequate down-time?

  • Is my down-time planned so that I can use that time as efficiently as my development time?

  • Is my career development plan standardized and relatively simple to follow?


Translation Table

Triathlon Terms

Business Analysis Terms

Meaning

Triathlon

Business Analysis

The activity

Athletes

Business Analysts

The participant of the activity

Training/Train

Career Development

Preparation for a clear set of goals

Training Plan

Career Development Plan

A plan that sets out how to prepare for your goals

Train hard

Intensely focus on career development

Preparing for your goals with intensity

Workouts/Training Session

Study Sessions

Pre-planned units of work that together prepare you for the goal

Repetition of workouts

Standardizing study sessions

Structuring units of work to be similar from one to the next to improve familiarity and reduce complexity

Body

Job Performance

That mechanism or vehicle used to achieve your goals

A High-Quality Diet

Ample focus, effort, and accountability

The basic elements that are provided as input to the mechanism that is used to achieve the goals

Racing

Advancement in roles and responsibilities

 

The goal

Race Fit

Ready for advancement in roles and responsibilities

A state of being prepared for your goal

Race your best

Advance in roles and responsibilities quickly

Achieve your goals quickly

Fitness

Stellar Job Performance

Descriptive term to convey that the mechanism used to achieve your goals is performing at a high level

Lacing up your shoes

Opening a book

A prerequisite to preparing for your goals

Coach

Coach or mentor

The person who helps you plan for your goals and to whom you make yourself accountable

Hiring a coach

Engaging a coach or mentor

Acquiring the right help

Plan your season

Plan for your goals

Plan to achieve your goal

Recovery / Sleep

The mental recovery process

The recovery process

Recover faster/better

Get more out of your down time

Getting more out of your down time

Healthy/Recovered

Mentally recovered/refreshed

Recovered

Getting quality sleep each night - a minimum of 7 hours

Mental recovery and renewed focus by planning specific down time

Mentally recovered by planning specific down time

Keep you healthy/injury free

Avoid discouragement and distraction

State of the mechanism used to achieve your goals

Devices

Software

Things which help track the progress or state of your preparation


Author: Chris Adams is a Senior Technology Manager with Bank of America where he manages a team of analysts on multi-million dollar projects and develops custom-fit analysis processes and deliverables used by the analysis organization.   He also spends time coaching and mentoring analysts.

Chris has 13 years of experience in various roles within software development, 10 of which have focused on business analysis.  His other roles have included project management, development, quality assurance and business intelligence.  His experience spans a number of Fortune 500 companies in the Information Technology, Mortgage Banking, and Financial Services industries including PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting, Goldman Sachs, American Express, Countrywide Financial, and Bank of America.

Chris holds a B.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Cincinnati and a Six Sigma Green Belt certification.  He is a regular contributor of ModernAnalyst.com

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COMMENTS

astley88 posted on Tuesday, March 29, 2011 12:13 PM
This is pure garbage!! Everything that is mentioned in this article can be applied to any job, not just to business analysts! Which decent job does not require planning, performance development, etc.?? In addition, the comparison to triathlon is also lame Using his logic, anything can be compared to business analysis!!
Let's just pick the daily task of deciding what to cook.. First, you need to know what’s the budget and the required experience (enterprise analysis), who needs to eat and what are their preferences (stakeholder analysis),what to cook , when and how to get the ingredients (planning), asking the family members for their opinion (elicitation), collating and prioritizing their responses (analysis) and come up with the suggestion of what you want to cook. Next, re-confirming with the family if they are ok with what you proposed to cook (validation). Finally, get their agreement (sign-off).
There, you go. Perhaps, I should write an article called “What business analysts can learn from anything??”
cadams5 posted on Tuesday, March 29, 2011 12:48 PM
Ignoring for a moment your complete lack of respect for others, you are correct this can be applied to anything in life. That is in fact one of the main points of this example. Comparing it to an endurance sport merely accentuates the importance of consistency by providing a powerful and exciting example. There is a reason why few complete endurance goals such as marathons and triathlons.

Consistency, while so easy to understand, is rarely given the weight that it deserves. I've managed many analysts for many years and most of them have short bursts of above average performance in an effort to achieve there goals, only to burn out or fail in other areas where they lose focus. The consistent analyst, one who is consistently improving, will achieve far more over their career.

On a final note, perhaps you SHOULD write an article. Then you would have taken a step which sets you apart from 95% of others in your profession. Too few take the time to give back to the community. So when they do, you may want to consider giving positive and constructive feedback.


Kupe posted on Thursday, March 31, 2011 9:53 AM
@astley88...relax. I hope you don't start off requirements reviews with "this is pure garbage!!"!!

I agree with you this article applies to any role, any improvement initiative. But BAs need to hear this message over and over. A common voice I hear from BAs is "we don't get respect, or no one understands what we do". Well, who has control over changing that? The BAs. How do we get more respect? By improving everyday.

johnnyboy posted on Thursday, March 31, 2011 9:21 PM
haha...Gee..I`m an experience BA..Somehow I still like astley88's comparison of BA with cooking so much better!! :)

Peace,
JohnnyBoy
zarfman posted on Monday, April 4, 2011 4:31 PM

Greetings:

Back in the day I coached a Golden Gloves boxing team. Lots of would be boxers showed up, however they found out rather quickly that they don't enjoy being hit and I never saw them again.

Moreover, most individuals whether they are boxers, BA's, etc. have limitations. Various individuals may have the desire/will to achieve some goal. Unfortunately, due to physical and or mental limitations some individuals never achieve that goal.

To borrow a concept from mathematics, that of necessary and sufficient conditions. If one does not meet the conditions failure is most likely at hand.

Regards,

Zarfman
Baronvonh posted on Friday, April 8, 2011 6:07 PM
I've always thought that aptitude in understanding and using idoims and analogies was a key Business Analyst skill. So guess it is no surprise that we are discussing an article that is one long analogy/metaphor/conceit, and whether others would be better.

Anyone interested in describing how being a good assassin is like being a good BA? Or maybe how being a good bank robber is like being a good BA?

My personal opinion is that effort and diligence do not make a great BA. I do think that one needs to be committed to contributing as much as possible, but improving your contributions follows a non-linear path in requirements engineering. In particular, I think that "repetition" is of much less value in analysis, compared to athletic training.
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