Back in the mid-1990s, when I was a teenager, a group of friends and I made the trek from Portsmouth to London to attend a one-day open-air music festival. We had been looking forward to the event for months and we’d spent a fair amount of time planning our journeys to ensure we could get there on time and (crucially) also get home. I remember one of my friend’s parents was a classic car fan and had offered to drive us in his restored Lincoln Continental (a car you virtually never see in the UK), but we decided to get the train instead. As an adult looking back this seems like a crazy decision (seriously, who wants to be on a train when you can be practically chauffeur driven?!). However, part of the fun was being independent and travelling “sans-parents” for a day—it was an absolutely logical decision given what we valued at the time. A reminder that what is the “right” decision really does depend on what those affected by the decision find valuable….
Organisations seem to regularly pursue the panacea of increased efficiency, and this is a regular aim of change initiatives. There is nothing new about this and it is completely understandable, particularly in industries where competition is rife and where environmental changes are regular. Pursuit of genuine efficiency, when coupled with an understanding of what the organisation’s customers, staff and other stakeholders value can be extremely beneficial. Yet sadly it seems that some efficiency drives turn into little more than relentless short-term cost cutting. The focus becomes predominantly internal, and crucial stakeholder voices aren’t heard. Like a motorist who skips two annual services to a company vehicle to “save money”, the middle managers claim success and get promoted. The new managers that take over then bear the consequences when the inevitable problems emerge. An un-serviced and un-cared for car will eventually break down, an un-cared for team, process or service will too.
I hope you’re keeping well, and that you’re enjoying my blog. In a change from my usual ‘blog’ style, I have a favour to ask… 🙂 In my ‘spare time’, I’ve been studying towards an MSc and I’m currently focussing my research on goals and expectations of stakeholders around BA conferences in the UK. My…
You might have noticed that I’ve been uncharacteristically quiet on the blogging front recently. There have been many reasons for this, not least that my day job has been very busy but another overriding reason is I have been trying to stop myself blogging anything too political. The political landscape in the UK is—well—bizarre to put it kindly at the moment. I look elsewhere and I see other nation-states subjected to different types of unforeseen chaotic disruption too. I can resist the temptation to blog on items related to politics no longer 🙂 Now, before you tune out, don’t worry I won’t be touching on anything too controversial—but I’d like to look at some of the political narratives that exist in the world and what this might mean for our organisations and our attempts to change them.
The Dumbing Down Of Narrative and the Prevalence of False Dichotomies
Back in the dim and distant past, I worked in a highly political organisation. In reality I suspect anywhere there are humans there will be politics, but this organisation had such prolific politicking it was on another level. With so much political posturing—particularly from middle-managers—I felt really exposed as a BA. After all, as BAs we are usually facilitating change, and quite often the sort of change that will affect the ‘empires’ of those that are playing the political game. I started to experience situations where certain stakeholders would have ‘momentary losses of memory’ — they would have agreed to something verbally the previous day, but then all of a sudden they couldn’t recall that conversation at all. Curious.
If there’s one thing that acts as a ‘leveller’ it’s time. However ‘successful’ or ‘rich’ a person is, there is still only 24 hours in their day. And time really does seem to fly by at a rate of knots. I can’t quite believe it’s been ten years—a decade—since I started this blog. You can read the first ever article ‘Taking the Customer’s Viewpoint’ here, although to be honest I wouldn’t bother—it’s pretty awful :). As with any skill, blog writing takes time to develop, and some of my early work is—well—a bit cringe-worthy. It does, however, show a journey.
I am what I sometimes like to describe as a somewhat “reluctant” driver. I have never really enjoyed driving, and since I live in a very congested city it is something that I’ll avoid doing if at all possible.
One thing that I find particularly curious is the seemingly ubiquitous phenomenon of “road rage”. We’ve probably all seen instances of this play out on the road, for a whole variety of reasons. One particular pattern that seems to play out time and time again is:
One thing I find about being a BA is that I can’t switch the analysis off. I am forever analysing situations and interactions, well outside of the “day job”. I suspect many of us have this trait, and it may well be at least mildly irritating to those around us. 🙂
I recently went into “analysis mode” having checked into a hotel, exhausted after running a workshop. I went to put my clothes in the wardrobe, and I noticed two all-too-common minor irritations that regular travels will recognise:
- There were fewer hangers than I needed
- The hangers were of the “anti-theft” type, where the hanging loop is permanently attached to the rail
Unfortunately, these particular hangers were old and worn, meaning that they didn’t fit well and whenever weight was applied to them (e.g. by adding a shirt) they fell to the ground. As I sighed looking at a wardrobe full of crumpled shirts now neatly scrunched into a pile on the very bottom of the wardrobe, I couldn’t help wonder why hotels use these weird hangers. Even a few ten pence wire coat-hangers would be better than this nonsense….
What’s The Actual Risk? And What Message Does It Send?
Time really does fly! I can’t quite believe it’s just over two weeks until the start of the Business Analysis Conference Europe 2019 (#BA2019) in London. As I plan the final practice runs of my presentation which is entitled “Whose Perspective Is It Anyway? Practical Analysis Techniques for Understanding Tricky Stakeholders”, I can’t help but get a…
As anyone who has ever worked with me will know, I’m somewhat of an advocate of Non-Functional Requirements (NFR) Analysis. I’ve found that in some projects, sadly, the NFRs are left unexamined, with the Functional Requirements taking the lime-light. This is understandable, after all it’s far easier to talk about what needs to change, and far harder to talk about the quality attributes and other non-functional elements of that same change. Yet get the NFRs wrong, and you end up building a very shiny and expensive system that nobody actually uses. If you are in the UK and have been to a Post Office recently you may have experienced the ‘self-service’ booths. As Roland Hesz observed on Twitter, these are so complicated to use that they have a member of staff guiding people through the process….
For a whole variety of reasons, I’ve been thinking about NFRs a lot recently, and I came across three articles that really resonated with me, and made me think it’s about time we revisited the ‘standard lists’ of NFRs that we use. In particular, I think there are two sets of categories that we ought to add.