In college, I bought a set of disco lights. They were fairly basic by today’s standards, essentially consisting of a box with four coloured bulbs that would respond to the beat, flashing in a fixed pattern. However, they helped to create a real party atmosphere. There’s something about colourful flashing lights that just invites people to dance. Throw in cheap beer and Britpop and you’ve got a classic 1990s house party.
Although I bought the lights to use at my own house parties, I found that owning them had an unexpected (but positive) side effect. It meant that I got invited to more parties too. We could perhaps question the motivation of those inviting me (did they really value my presence, or was it just that they wanted to borrow the disco lights?), but back in those days I didn’t really care: a party was a party, and once you were in the door you could meet people, dance and have fun. And generally when people realised the lights were yours, you’d get invited to another party….
Although I didn’t know it at the time, I’d stumbled upon a really important lesson: Some things are seen as highly desirable, but expensive to obtain and are only used occasionally. It makes no sense for everyone to invest in them, but those that do will be in constant demand from a string of different people. In this example it was disco lights—at the time they seemed hugely expensive (I had to save up for them), were fairly scarce (there were only a few shops you could buy them from) and it just wouldn’t make sense for everyone to have their own set.
Zooming out, we could say that this pattern holds true of many other things too, including skills and competencies. Properly mastering a skill takes time, and nobody can be a master of everything. Skills that are essential or highly desirable can sometimes be a way of getting a ‘foot in the door’ with stakeholders that might not otherwise engage. This becomes interesting for those of us that practice business analysis. I’m sure we’ve all been in situations where stakeholders have involved us too late. Perhaps having our own (metaphorical) ‘disco lights’ is the way to gain earlier engagement. But what would those ‘disco lights’ be?
Sharpening Up Hybrid Facilitation
Facilitation is a core skill for business analysis. It is hard to imagine how any BA could function without conducting different types of facilitation amongst a community of often conflicting stakeholders. Facilitating in a virtual and hybrid environment is nothing new, I suspect many people reading this will have worked in dispersed teams for years, but the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 have changed the expectation of what ‘work’ will look like.