Professional Development

Picture of tired/exhausted/burned out male in front of computer screen

How to avoid the silent danger: Burnout!

Picture of tired/exhausted/burned out male in front of computer screenWe’ve all been there – you have an urgent and high-profile project deadline looming, there are 350 unread e-mails in your inbox, and you’re already 5 minutes late for your next meeting.  You desperately need to grab some lunch… but you dash out to your next meeting, stopping only to neck a strong black coffee from the coffee machine on the way.   Two hours later, your meeting has finished. The adrenaline is flowing, you look at your watch, and it’s now 5.25pm.  You’ve skipped lunch so you grab a stale sandwich, take a bite, and stare blankly at your e-mail inbox and get ready for another night working late…

 

Perhaps this kind of high-paced environment was once associated only with senior management roles in large multinationals.  However, small and mid-size companies increasingly need to run fast paced business-change projects, adapt and work as efficiently as possible.  As well as a day-job, we’re likely to be working on multiple projects, responding to queries from our colleagues as well as dealing with the (many) crises that present themselves. Plus we’re trying to balance our busy home lives too!  But when the pace increases are we actually any more efficient or productive? Many would say that we’re actually less productive in these circumstances.

 

I recently saw an interesting question raised in a LinkedIN forum.  In a thread entitled “Staying Happy and Productive” Eric Drumm asked how it’s possible to maintain a healthy work/life balance.   This is a good and important question.   After all, ‘burning out’ is not good for anyone.

 

It’s counter-intuitive, but you probably need some stress…

It would be tempting to suggest that we all avoid stress completely and retire to a sunny desert island and spend our days hula-dancing and meditating.  Yet, it’s generally accepted that we need some stress to have a happy and fulfilling life.   As this article on MindTools very articulately states, too little stress and people tend to become bored.   Too much stress and anxiety kicks in.  I don’t know about you, but I can certainly relate to both of these states – the challenge of course is finding the optimum zone in the middle.  Finding this zone can be challenging, particularly when our project workloads might be dictated based on factors beyond our control!

 

Keeping in the ‘optimum zone’ is key.

People holding up paper showing a question mark

What business advice would you give your younger self?

People holding up paper showing a question markTime really does fly.  I can still remember my last day at college like it was yesterday.  I can remember the sense of achievement, purpose and an overwhelming feeling that anything was achievable.  As I walked through those college gates for the last time, I remember feeling that I could change the world. And, if I recall correctly, my first step to changing the world was to celebrate at a nearby bar with a beer…

 

Sadly, this was rather a long time ago now – longer than I like to admit.  But I recently had cause to reflect and think back to those hard but hedonistic college days.  Believe it or not, this self-reflection was prompted by a simple thread in a LinkedIN forum.  One of the contributors posed the question “What business advice would you give your younger self?”, and there are a number of great responses.  If you get the chance, it’s well worth reading the whole thread here.  This is such a simple yet powerful question, and it really got me thinking.

 

Having reflected on this question I thought I’d share the advice that, in retrospect, I would give myself when I was that naïve, green-around-the-gills graduate that was walking out the college gates.    I wouldn’t for one moment suggest that this advice should be seen as definitive (and I wouldn’t even suggest that it should be taken seriously). It’s little more than a product of my own meandering experience, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Perhaps after reading this article, you could let me know what advice you would give your younger self?  Here are my suggestions:

A picture of a man in a pinstripe suit contrasted against a man drawing on glass

The creativity myth

A picture of a man in a pinstripe suit contrasted against a man drawing on glassI recently read an excellent and though provoking article entitled Essential and creative advice from Joss Whedon, Carrie Brownstein, Jim Stengel and 13 others.  The article cites some really creative tidbits and describes the content as providing “some useful insight into being creative in whatever realm you work in”.

 

I was really pleased to see that this article indirectly promoted the use of creative thinking in any industry.  My view is that every job or business should (or could) involve creativity, yet often pre-conceptions blinker us from the opportunities.  People talk about “The creative industries” as if these are the “owners” of creative thinking, ideation and fun.  This implies that everyone else has to come to work in pinstripe suits carrying a briefcase and wearing a bowler hat.  OK, perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration, but I’m sure you understand my point!

 

Perception really matters – I’ll give you an example.  A few years ago I was working as a “Lead Business Analyst” in the Financial Services industry in the UK.  I’ll let you into a secret — when people hear the term “business analyst”, their eyes glaze over.  Even more so because it’s in Financial Services (which sounds dry, boring and dull at the best of times) so by the time I’d said “Business Analyst in the Financial Services Industry” people were generally either asleep or looking for an opportunity to get out of the conversation.

Using Your BA Skills to Set Career Development Goals

  • Adrian Reed 
  • 2 min read

I’m pleased to say that one of my recent blog articles has been published on “Techwell.com”, where I have contributed as a guest author. I’d love to hear what you think, so please take a look and add a comment on the site. A short excerpt is shown below.  The article relates to setting career goals–so if you’re… 

Man in a suit with boxing gloves

The PM and BA debate

  • Adrian Reed 
  • 3 min read
Man in a suit with boxing gloves

PM and BA: Friendly rivalry?

I recently came across an extremely interesting and lively debate in the BA Times LinkedIN discussion forum, where the perennial discussion of the relationship between the Project Manager and Business Analyst was discussed.  A number of views were stated during the discussion, and it’s clear that in some organisations, a view exists that there is a natural career path from senior BA to PM.  Some take this view further, and in her 2007 article entitled “The Yin and Yang Of Project Management and Business Analysis”, Juliet Alters argues that interested BAs should be “groomed” for project management roles. 

 

I’ve always found this view curious.  Whilst there are certainly some overlap between the roles, the disciplines of Business Analysis and Project Management are distinctly different.  As Elisabeth Larson quite eloquently points out in her article “Can You Be Both PM and BA on the Same Project”:

 

 “The PM’s role is to meet the project objective (PMBOK® Guide Fourth Edition Section 1.6). The BA’s role is to help organizations to reach their goals (BABOK® Guide 2.0 Section 1.2). This is a subtle but important difference”.

 

There may be similar shared competencies, but there is a very different focus.  To draw an analogy, an Electrician and Plumber may share similar core competencies (dexterity, ability to read schematic diagrams, ability to communicate with customers), but I can’t imagine anyone arguing that an Electrician should expect to “progress” to a Plumbing role.

Businesswoman in a new environment

Get Up to Speed in a New Business Domain: 5 Ideas That Really Work

I’m pleased to say that my most recent blog article has been published on “Bridging-the-gap.com”, where I have contributed as a guest author. I’d love to hear what you think, so please take a look and add a comment on the site.   Excerpt: “While core business analysis techniques work irrespective of the industry or organisation… 

A picture of a smiling clown - first impressions count

5 Tips to Enhance Your Split-Second Credibility

I’m pleased to say that my most recent blog article has been published on “Bridging-the-gap.com”, where I have contributed as a guest author. I’d love to hear what you think, so please take a look and add a comment on the site.  This article covers the important (but often overlooked) question of credibility, specifically focusing on the…