Father and Business Analyst: Two Sides of the Same Coin


At a Chicago-based custom software development firm, I lead delivery execution teams and I’m accountable for the overall results. This role includes understanding both a project’s business and technical challenges, as well as listening carefully to our clients, developers and project managers.

I became a father two years ago. Shortly thereafter, I realized that many of my professional skills were readily transferable to my new role at home: Goals and expectations setting, listening, perseverance, flexibility and facilitation. But it would take a tense encounter with 18-month-old some time later to understand that my problem-solving skills as a dad were far more applicable to the workplace than I had ever imagined.

Father and Business Analyst: Two Sides of the Same CoinFrom the beginning, my wife and I have consciously tried to provide structure and consistency for our little ones. For this, we did our homework, reading up on the latest best practices in child rearing and creating our own list of requirements of what it will take to get the job done right. When we brought our oldest child, Kaeden, home from the hospital about two years ago, we established strict schedules, as many childcare experts recommend. One way we did this was by always eating family meals at the table. From the beginning, Kaeden ate all of his meals – first his bottle and later baby food -- with us at the dinner table; this way, he learned that eating was always done at the table.

For the first 18 months, our strict approach produced impressive results. Kaeden never threw a fuss about eating at the table when meals were served. Then, all of the sudden, he started behaving very badly at the dinner table. Instead of eating, he grabbed his food and dropped it on the floor. He routinely threw tantrums, screaming and crying at the top of his lungs.

After weeks of madness, we were at a loss and nowhere near finding common ground. So one night, instead of getting upset with Kaeden as the screams began, I picked him up and asked him a long list of questions, starting with whether he was hungry or thirsty. He didn’t respond.

Finally, Kaeden indicated that he wanted me to put him down. When I asked him if he wanted to eat his food in the other room, his response shocked us.

“Yes,” he said, as calm fell over the room.

How could this be? Kaeden’s meal-time routine was set in stone from day No. 1. It took a little digging, but I eventually found the culprit

Rewind three or four weeks before all the heartache began. Morning is a busy time in our house. Amid the hustle and bustle of my wife and I getting ready for work, we’d recently taken to allowing Kaeden to watch television and eat raisin bread on the sofa. At the time, it seemed like a good arrangement for everyone.

Little did we know that we were creating a monster.

By letting him snack on the couch, we were disrupting his regular routine of eating all meals at the table. While he clearly enjoyed it, Kaeden didn’t understand that this was an exception. With a vocabulary of only five or six words, he only had one way to communicate his displeasure: throw a fit.

As Project Leaders, Business Analysts and Project Managers, we can run into the same trouble. Throughout the life of any systems upgrade or build, exceptions inevitably will disrupt the regular routine. Frequently, there will be good reasons for deviating from the norm, and sometimes it is the only way to keep everything on track.

We run into trouble when we don’t clearly articulate the rationale and duration of the exception. Failing to do so can leave a team confused, just as Kaeden was perplexed as to why he couldn’t eat every meal on the sofa.

So the next time you realize your project team is breaking from the norm, keep the following in mind:

  • Realize you’re breaking the pattern

  • Weigh the pros and cons

  • Don’t assume the change won’t go unnoticed

  • Get back on track as soon as possible

We all use different methods, processes or rules throughout our daily lives to keep things in order. Business Analysts typically learn early on in their careers that there’s nothing wrong with occasionally deviating from these rules when it results in a better outcome. But when you do change the rules it is critical to keep the lines of communication open, work closely with your team, and provide stakeholders with the rationale and risks. Knowing why you are changing the rules and properly communicating the rationale is an important part of success – but, as I recently learned, something two-year-olds simply can’t comprehend.

Author: Ryan McClish Geneca Client Partner

Ryan is a knowledgable and insightful technology leader with a depth of experience in delivering custom software. As a Geneca Client Partner,Ryan provides guidance and support to Geneca’s project teams. Drawing from his experience in roles that have ranged from Developer and Analyst to Project Manager, Ryan plays a key role in building lasting client relationships, engagement management, solution development and team mentoring. @ryanmcclish

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Mark Monteleone posted on Wednesday, September 4, 2013 2:54 PM
No worries, Ryan. Exceptions are how we teach creativity to our children. Allow Kaeden to color outside the lines. Kaeden may invent a better way to collect requirements, the flying car, cure cancer, or just bring peace to the world.
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