Make It Easy For Stakeholders: Think Like a Restaurateur!

Tip Jar
Image Credit: © Vivian Seefeld — Fotolia.com #31330104

As regular readers of this blog will know, I am somewhat of a self-confessed “BA Geek”. I can’t help but see processes, systems, data, interconnections and opportunities for analysis everywhere I go. I find it fascinating how different industries approach things so differently, and I can’t help but peek ‘behind the curtain’ and try and work out how different businesses operate.

 

I was recently travelling with work and was eating in a quiet (but very nice, if slightly pricey) restaurant. I went to pay, and found that unfortunately they weren’t able to accept credit cards—so I paid in cash. The meal and a couple of drinks came to about 30 Euros, I didn’t have change so I put down a 50 Euro note.  The waitress soon brought back my change, which was placed on a small silver plate with a receipt.

 

Now, what I found interesting was:

 

1. Rather than giving change as a 20 Euro note, she gave me one 10 Euro, one 5 Euro and some change

2. Right next to the change was a card reminding me that tips are discretionary, but appreciated for good service (with a smiley face drawn on it to grab my attention)

 

It struck me that this seemingly random split of change was probably really quite a subtle and clever way of maximising tips. By breaking up my change, the waitress had ensured that I had a range of coins/notes to give whatever tip I felt appropriate, along with a reminder that a tip would be appreciated. This might be considered a gentle ‘nudge’. There was no compulsion to tip, and no pressure at all, but the waitress made it as easy as possible for me to do so if I wanted to. I smiled, put down a tip, and left. I was mulling this over on the way back to my hotel.

 

Equipping Our Stakeholders: Do We Remove Barriers?

Ultimately, what that waitress had done is made a request and made it as easy as possible for me to fulfil that request.

 

It struck me that we could perhaps borrow and build upon this philosophy of ‘making things as easy as possible’ when we are working with our stakeholders. Admittedly we are unlikely to be seeking tips(!), but there are many times we’ll need specific inputs or approval from particular individuals. If we can make things as easy as possible for them to contribute, and remove any unnecessary barriers, perhaps we’ll have an easier project journey.

 

Let’s take an example. Imagine we need a stakeholder to review a particular document, and we need to be absolutely certain that they are happy with it. Consider these two requests:

 

Version A

“Hi, please can you review the attached. Thanks.”

 

Version B

“Hi John,

Thanks for attending the workshop. I’ve written up the output, and am keen to ensure I have correctly captured our conversations, particularly as your input is so crucial to the project. Please could you review the document (paying particular attention to actions 2-4, which are assigned to you).  It’ll be useful if you scan page 4, but these are Finance related (which I know is outside your area) so there’s no need to read in detail.

Please could you come back with your comments by Friday, either confirming:

  1. You are happy with the document as it stands
  2. You have amendments to make (in this case, just add comments to the document and send it back to me. I’ll do the rest)

If you need any further information, just give me a shout. I’ll give you a call on Thursday just to make sure you’re on track”

 

In version (b) we have been as specific as possible, letting the person know why their review is important, the particular areas, the timeframe and so on. We have (hopefully) given them everything they need, plus we’ve offered to give them a call to answer any other queries too. In most cases, this is likely to be more effective than version (a).

 

I suspect we all intuitively structure our communication more like (b) than (a), yet it can only help to pause, consider our stakeholders and ask the question ‘could we make this even easier for them’. Plus of course it is worth seeking feedback from the stakeholders themselves, I am sure they will appreciate this!


What are your views on the topics in this post? Do you have any tips, perspectives or anything to add?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.   Please add a comment below, and let’s keep the conversation flowing! 

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About the author:

Adrian ReedAdrian Reed is Principal Consultant at Blackmetric Business Solutions, an organisation that offers Business Analysis consulting and training solutions. Adrian is a keen advocate of the analysis profession, and is constantly looking for ways of promoting the value that good analysis can bring.

To find out more about the training and consulting services offered at Blackmetric, please visit www.blackmetric.com

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Steve McIntosh

I also confess to being a “BA Geek”. I had a similar (ish) experience when working in a pub in Birmingham – many years ago. Customers sometimes required a taxi – and it was often in our interests to call a taxi (and get them out of the pub!) as soon as possible. The ‘phone was in a small office behind the bar Pinned on the wall were the business cards, with ‘phone numbers, of various local taxi firms. One company got most of our business – and here is why – in 3 easy steps.
1. Their card was larger than the others and clearly printed with the ‘phone number in prominent large black text on a yellow background.
2. They always answered the call, turned up quickly (unlike many other local taxis) and extracted the customer politely, efficiently and with minimum fuss.
3. Every so often the owner of the taxi firm would visit the pub and leave a modest but reasonable amount of cash “behind the bar” (to use a UK expression) for the staff. Enough for each of us to buy ourselves a beer.
The taxi owner probably did noy have formal BA training – but he clearly had an instinctive grasp of the BA discipline. Think through the business process end to end. Design a workable solution. Implement it!

Adrian Reed

Hi Steve, glad to know I’m not the only ‘BA Geek’ (actually, I think there are *quite* a few of us out there!). Love your example, it’s really interesting. It also shows real thought on behalf of the taxi company… they understood that they actually needed to serve the needs of *multiple* stakeholders–the end customer, but also the restaurant.

It’s often easy to forget that. I can remember working in insurance having some very interesting debate over who the ‘customer’ was in varying contexts. The broker? The policyholder? A third party making a claim? Or potentially *all* of these, depending on the perspective.

Interesting! Thanks so much for your comment, which I found very thought provoking!

Best wishes — Adrian.

Chitranjan kumar

Thanks Adrian, this is the best example of communication with the stakeholders. Version ‘b’, are more clear and concise communication, than version ‘a’.

Adrian Reed

Thanks so much for the comment Chitranjan, I’m so pleased you enjoyed the blog. It’s so important that we engage with stakeholders, and understand their perspectives. And as you say, clear, concise communication (in a format that works for them) is so important. Thanks again! — Adrian

Janet Wood

Hi Adrian. I usually go one further. I try to document workshops, meetings and other elicitation events in a form that will lend itself to being directly incorporated into the requirements documentation – possibly as a use case, or model. I send the individual bits of feedback to the stakeholders who were most involved in that portion of the elicitation for review (with a note something like your version b).

Then, when I need the BIG requirements document signed off, I remind each stakeholder that the part they are signing off is what I sent them earlier so that they do not need to re-read everything. And I usually get my formal sign-offs that much more quickly – because they have seen it all before.

I really like your self-description as a BA Geek. I had never thought of that before, but I think that is what a lot of us do all the time! Thanks for the blog – I always enjoy your thoughts.

Adrian Reed

Hi Janet, great to hear from you.

That is a great tip, and I agree that an ‘incremental’ approach to feedback is a good one. It helps ensure we are pushing in the same direction.

Thanks so much for your comment. Hope to catch up soon! — Adrian

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