October 2013

X-ray of a person's mouth and teeth

Displaced pain: The similarity between dentistry and business analysis

  • Adrian Reed 
  • 5 min read

X-ray of a person's mouth and teethI have to admit, I’ve never had a particularly high pain threshold, but recently my ability to deal with pain was seriously tested. After a night out celebrating a friend’s birthday (which might have involved drinking one or two ice-chilled, acidic yet strangely compelling and colourful cocktails), I woke up to the most severe dental pain I’ve ever had the displeasure to endure. Thinking the ice in the cocktails must have caused some sensitivity, I tried to “ride it out”, but it got worse and worse and worse.  Without wanting to wallow in too much drama and hyperbole,  I’d say that it felt like a shark had bitten off the whole left side of my face…


I quickly realised I needed help so I made an emergency appointment to see my dentist.  He examined the affected area, gave me some temporary pain relief, and diagnosed the likely problem as an old filling that may need drilling and replacing. In fact, I might need a dreaded root-canal filling or even an extraction. Scary news indeed! I was sent home to consider my options, taking a veritable cornucopia of painkillers to get me through.  I was due to return in one week to have more treatment.


The importance of holstic analysis and diagnosis

The weekend came. The pain escalated, and became even more severe.  I couldn’t see my regular dentist so I visited another clinic. Here’s the thing: this second dentist examined my whole mouth, not just the area that caused pain. She identified a cavity over the other side of my mouth, and explained how sometimes patients get “referred pain”; that’s pain in one area that is triggered by a problem in a completely different area. She gave a holistic diagnosis, and recommended starting with the least evasive action, filling this cavity, and only working up to root canal or extraction only if absolutely necessary.


This scenario resonated with me. How many projects are progressed in response to acute pain of a “burning platform” where the only option seems to be both drastic and urgent? Yet if the organisation is in pain, has it inadvertently opted for an invasive procedure that might not even be necessary? Knee-jerk reactions lead to unnecessary surgery on our processes, systems and IT. Surgery that might even make the problem worse. An extracted tooth will never grow back.

Change before you have to…

  • Adrian Reed 
  • 4 min read

Seven parallel arrows, diverging at the endI was recently reading Louis Foong’s “Leadership” blog, when I was reminded of a quote that is attributed to the controversial yet successful leader Jack Welch:

“Change before you have to”

As Louis quite rightly points out in his blog, alongside Welch’s successes, he has endured his fair share of critics too.  However, this quote certainly stands out for me.  It could be seen a notable mantra for the business world today.


People talk about the pace of change increasing so much it has almost become a cliché.  Yet it’s true – production cycles are shorter, consumer expectations are higher, and everyone is talking about adaptability and agility.  It’s difficult to see beyond the hype!


Conventional thinking suggests that small, nimble companies have an advantage.  They can ‘creep up’ on their mid-size and large competitors, gaining market share quickly and persistently.    Some would argue that it’s much easier for small companies to ‘change before they have to’.  Commentators point towards large organisations such as Kodak that just didn’t seem able to get over the mental barrier of adapting to the new and evolving business environment. In Kodak’s case, it’s reported that the issue wasn’t innovation; they had sufficient knowledge and resources to invent and sell digital cameras.  It was a reluctance to move away from a business model that relied on selling traditional film.


Yet often mid-size and large companies have access resources and know-how that well exceed what new entrants can afford.  What techniques can be used to leverage this, gain advantage and see where change is necessary? There are many, and some useful examples are listed below:

Update: Speaking & book launch

As many of you know, I’m enthusiastically believe in the value that good quality Business Analysis can bring, and I love speaking,writing and presenting on this and many other topics!  In a break from my normal ‘blog style, I have a few quick updates for you:   1. See me speak @ International Business and… 

Swirling picture of clocks, a visual representation of "the complexity of now"

Do you know what “now” looks like?

Swirling picture of clocks, a visual representation of "the complexity of now"Business leaders, quite understandably, put a lot of thought into how they want the future of their businesses to look.   This often involves creating a compelling vision for the future and boiling this down to an actionable set of strategies, tactics and granular objectives.  It might involve assessing the external business environment, understanding opportunities and diagnosing problems within an organisation.  In a well led organisation, everyone will be pulling in the same direction, towards the same aspirations – albeit with individual stakeholders having slightly different worldviews.


However, when aiming to execute these strategies and achieve those granular objectives, organisations are rarely starting from scratch.  Whether the organisation is small, mid-size or global, there is already something there.  The existing business has resources including people, intellectual property, money etc.    What exists is likely to be a complex organisation with a range of processes, systems, people, capabilities, and so on.  Plus, the organisation will be made up of people with varying skills, attitudes and viewpoints.


The question is:  how can the organisation best arrange itself to achieve the vision?


Mind the gap: Know what “Now” looks like.