“Alice in Wonderland”: Business Analysis in the Midst of Chaos!

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“Alice in Wonderland”: Business Analysis in the Midst of Chaos!  - Episode 1

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, written in 1865 by the English mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known by his pen name Lewis Carroll, is one of the most well-known books of all time. The story was born on a summer day as Carroll spun a tale to entertain a bored little girl named Alice Liddell, along with her sisters Lorina and Edith. Though the novel was inspired by, and initially written for, young children, its enduring legacy is largely the result of Carroll’s wild imagination and experimental approach to narrative structure. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is credited with popularizing the genre of literary nonsense, and its lasting impact can be seen throughout popular culture to this day.

The narrative may have originated as a simplistic yarn to entertain the Liddell children, but in expanding his story to a full-length novel, Carroll has left Alice open to many interpretations. Like contemporary Disney films, including the animated adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, the novel can be enjoyed on many levels by both young and old. Children have always been enamored with the colorful characters and settings, as have the psychedelic proponents of the sixties counter-culture. From drugs to sex to dreams, countless interpretations have been projected upon the fantastical tale. Many have analyzed the novel as an exploration of complex mathematical concepts due to Carroll’s profession.

Whatever lens the novel is viewed through, one factor that remains constant in all interpretations is that of chaos. Alice’s understanding of logic and convention is contradicted entirely by her experience in the chaotic, shape-shifting setting of Wonderland. As she is challenged by her experiences in Wonderland, she begins to question her own self-perception. This internal conflict is visually portrayed by physical turmoil, notably Alice’s regular changes in size. On a psychological level, Alice is challenged by the animals she encounters, either through their rude tone or in the form of riddles. In the unpredictability of Wonderland’s ever-changing structure, Alice finds a retort to her usual existence within the orderly world of nobility.

The uncertainty that Alice is confronted with throughout her time in Wonderland is akin to the environment inhabited by the modern business analyst. To an external onlooker, the business world might perhaps appear rooted in cold and hard facts. On the contrary—or at least not always—the world of business is a constantly moving beast that is littered with intricacies that refuse to stand still. As Alice disappears down the rabbit hole, she clings to an in-built sense of order. This sense of order is soon put to the test by the chaotic setting of Wonderland. Just like Alice, the business analyst will be tested by their chaotic working environment.

The organizational culture of the business world may be predicated on the assumption of an overall collective togetherness, which hinges upon shared goals and values within companies, but the reality is that the devil is in the details. A business is extremely reactive to the erratic behavior of its smaller components, and any unforeseen changes to minor details can result in significant consequences for the collective. In chapter two of Alice, we see the catastrophic impact of Alice’s tears. Grown to a huge size, she floods the hallway, sweeping away a number of animals. Carrying out actions according to her own will, Alice’s behavior impacts those around her. She is only one component, but the behavior of one component can result in chaos.

Of course, Wonderland is an exaggerated example of a perpetually chaotic environment. In the reality of the business world, chaos is more variable. Certain organizations desire chaos and make a concerted effort to create a chaotic environment. Others may find themselves caught up in a temporary period of chaos. Certain organizations might recognize that chaos is an inherent, unavoidable component of any large business owing to its reactivity to small changes. They acknowledge a state of constant flux and create an environment that utilizes this uncertainty to improve adaptability and encourage innovation. Others may find themselves sinking amid disorganized chaos, which only serves to undermine the goals of the company, leading to a loss of direction.

Chaos, by its very nature, is impossible to control completely, and so a business analyst who enters into their own chaotic Wonderland will be presented with difficulties immediately. Throughout Alice’s adventures down the rabbit hole, she is confronted with a complete absence of structure, a lack of clear information, and a cast of frantic characters. In their role, a business analyst must strive to find order in the chaos, just like Alice. As Alice is faced with riddles, the business analyst is faced with information that is either unclear or unavailable. They must solve the riddles and establish structure, all while appeasing the residents of Wonderland.

If the business analyst is considered the facilitator of change, then they must strive to find order in the chaos to fulfill their role. Like a detective, they must elicit the information necessary to discover problems, establish their root causes, and push toward a valid solution. In a place like Wonderland, this course of action is hindered by muddled information, a lack of direction, and the absence of regulated procedures for dealing with problems. Often the business analyst must determine the value—or lack of value—in available and unavailable data. This critical thinking can be seen in the court case in Alice. When the King interprets the Knave’s letter as an admission of guilt, Alice is level-headed and sees that the poem is nothing but nonsense. Like Alice, the business analyst must practice critical thought, even in the face of chaos and denial.

Through an exploration of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, it is possible to interpret the chaos of Wonderland as an analogy for the contemporary business world. Like the young Alice, the business analyst is confronted with disorder and uncertainty as they travel down their own rabbit hole. The lack of clarity, the directionless characters, and the structureless world created by Lewis Carroll act as something of a miniature model of the often chaotic business world. Just as Alice strives to create order from disorder, the business analyst must transform unknown entities into known entities in order to complete their task as a facilitator of change.

Alice endures and ultimately survives her trip down the rabbit hole despite the multitude of difficulties she encounters. This series of articles seeks to follow the modern business analyst into their own contemporary Wonderland, drawing comparisons to Alice’s adventure in order to locate strategies that will enable the business analyst to not only survive but prosper in their role.

Next episode: When Requirements Elicitation Becomes a “Wonderland Mad Tea Party”!


Author: Adam Alami, Sr. Business Analyst

Adam Alami is a seasoned IT consultant with over 18 years’ experience. Business Analysis and Project Management is his passion. His experience revolved around major business transformation projects. He is a versatile IT professional. He accumulated a wealth of cross industry experience with Tier 1 businesses in major projects in the areas of Enterprise Transformation, Integration, Migration, and Systems Modernization.

Adam has a passion for research. His research interests are IT Offshoring, Global Project Managements, Banking Technology, Business Analysis, Information Technology and Culture, Enterprise Innovation and Business Solutions.

 

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