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Mindful Stakeholder Engagement

This post is written by Kathy Berkidge of Mind at Work Consulting. I first met Kathy at a conference and I was absolutely blown away by her presentation, and I’m so pleased she agreed to write an article. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! — Adrian


Effective stakeholder engagement can mean the difference between successful project delivery and project failure. We BAs work closely with stakeholders to understand their needs and ensure they are translated into solution requirements. If we don’t engage with our stakeholders successfully, requirements may be missed or misinterpreted leading to products and services that fail to deliver the outcomes expected.

There are many barriers that may affect a stakeholder’s engagement, including:

  • Lack of vision or not understanding the project context
  • Resistance to share information
  • Failure to understand what’s in it for them
  • Misinterpretation of their needs
  • Lack of available time
  • Poor communication
  • Lack of trust
  • Previous history or negative perceptions from past experiences and projects
  • Fear of change

Also, stakeholders often have very different expectations on what is, or is not, going to change. Something that seems like an improvement to one group of stakeholders may be perceived as a retrograde step for others. For example, an energy company that wants householders to download an app to submit meter readings and receive bills – the householders just want to keep things the same as they are now – it’s much easier!

Thanks For Following My Blog. You Might Also Be Interested In ‘BA Digest’ And Our #BACommunity Webinars

Hi there,

Adrian Reed

Thanks so much for being a subscriber/reader of my blog, I really appreciate it. 🙂  I hope that you’re finding the content useful and interesting.  In a break from my regular ‘blog style’, I just wanted to let you know about some other resources that might be of interest to you.


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I’ve been creating the BA Digest newsletter for a few years now.  I send this out every 4-8 weeks, and it is a round-up of a whole range of articles/videos/interesting content from around the web.  I recently realised that not everyone who reads my blog might be aware of this 🙂

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Zooming Out: Thinking Beyond ‘Customer’ Journey Maps

I am a real fan of journey maps.  They are a great way of cultivating a conversation about the value that a stakeholder is seeking and the types of experiences that will satisfy them.  A few recent experiences have moved my thinking on journey mapping, and this blog post is my attempt to capture these thoughts.

‘Customer’ or ‘User’?

You may have noticed that some practitioners talk about ‘customer journey mapping’, others talk about ‘user journey mapping’.  Sometimes these terms are used interchangeably, but in terms of journey mapping I have found them rather problematic.  For example:

LinkedIN is Not Facebook (or Is It)?

Laptop and phone showing social media with a cup of coffee beside, notifications coming in on phone.
Image Credit: © Urupong — stock.adobe.com #197572271

As many of you will know, I am an avid user of social media.  I’ve found social media a great way to connect and exchange ideas with people that I never would have met otherwise, and one platform I’ve found particularly useful is LinkedIN.   As you’re probably aware, LinkedIN has always marketed itself as a professional networking community.  It’s a place to meet others in and beyond your own industry, and maybe even schmooze with clients, suppliers, or maybe even your next boss! As such, the posts tend to be more professional in tone than other networks.  Well, most of the time, anyway.

If you’re a LinkedIN user you may have noticed a trend recently of some folks posting ‘motivational quotes’ or pictures of their holiday snaps.  Next time you see something like this, scroll down and read the comments—sooner or later, someone will have angrily written “This is LinkedIN, not Facebook, this is no place for a post like this!”.  I’ve seen a few comments like this, and it opens up interesting questions of purpose and perspective.   Or put another way: What is LinkedIN for?

One Platform Multiple Purposes

The answer to this question is almost certainly ‘it depends who you ask’.  There are some people who use LinkedIN purely to search for jobs.  Other use it to advertise jobs.  Some use it to make sales or search for leads. Others use it to learn, network and engage.   Which of those is the ‘right’ purpose? 

An often overlooked technique, that can be very useful in situations like this is the ‘PQR’ formula for giving shape to a root definition (this forms part of Checkland’s Soft Systems Methodology (SSM), which I’d highly recommend reading up on, although it should be noted I’m using it outside of the context of SSM).    The PQR formula answers the key questions of what, how and why.  Elaborated it is:

It’s Time to Challenge the Bravado of the ‘JDI’ Approach

Portrait of an angry businessman yelling at phone
Image Credit: © Minerva Studio — stock.adobe.com #107212107

JDI and it’s slightly more risqué cousin ‘JFDI’ are management maxims that we have probably all come across from time to time.  The acronym ‘JDI’ stands for ‘Just Do It’, and its implications are that we should stop thinking about anything except the immediate task at hand, and plough on—often without questioning the validity of the task or considering whether the results of the task will actually be desirable. 

It has to be said that there are some contexts where JDI really is the best approach—where urgent action without deliberation or hesitation is necessary.  If you are in a meeting and the fire alarm goes off, there is some very clear action that needs to be taken (evacuate via the nearest and safest escape route). This is likely to be fairly uncontroversial, and even if people had different views on how the situation could be handled, the urgency of getting out of the danger is sufficient enough that we need to quickly decide, commit to action, and then ‘Just Do It’.  Of course, once you are out, there will be time to reflect and it is highly likely that someone will want to assess the root causes of the problem (in this case the fire). 

Organisational Problems are Rarely Clear Cut

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

Six Tips to Break the Estimation Doom-Loop

Swirling picture of clocks, a visual representation of "the complexity of now"I’m guessing that many readers of my blog spend their lives working on projects. Whether you’re a business analyst, project manager, or architect, chances are that you’re working on at least one project right now. And whatever type of project you’re working on, you almost certainly have to estimate work as well as comment on estimates that other people have produced. If you work in an internal business analysis/change team, your estimates are likely to be around effort and time. If you work for a managed service provider (MSP) or vendor, you may well be delivering estimates to clients that relate to cost as well as time. As hard as we try to highlight that we are providing an estimate (rather than a final concrete figure), the stakes can be extremely high. As soon as a number is agreed upon it tends to be seen as the definitive number. And if it changes, we’ll find ourselves in a very difficult situation!

 

Estimation often feels like a dark art. We often need to estimate very early on in a project, long before we have a full and thorough understanding of the scope. If we’re unlucky, we’ll find ourselves bartering with our stakeholders. I’m sure we’ve all seen or been involved in dialogue that goes something like this:

 

Estimator: “This is a pretty big task, it’ll take 4-7 weeks with the resources we have”

Manager: “Great, thanks, but we need it done in two weeks. You’ll find a way, I have every confidence!”

Estimator: [Walks away thinking “not again!”]

 

In fact, there are many good Dilbert cartoons around this dilemma.

 

Breaking the estimation doom-loop

The good news is that this cycle of estimation and disagreement can be avoided—although it takes a change in tact. Here are some tips:

 

Upcoming Speaking Engagements

As many of you know, I’m enthusiastically believe in the value of Business Analysis and Business Improvement, and I love speaking and presenting on these topics. I have two speaking engagements in the next couple of weeks, one of which you can tune into virtually (for free!).   It would be great to see you at either of…