False Dichotomies and Political Narratives: It Matters To All of Us

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

Confessions of a BA: Deleting my ‘CYA file’

Image Credit: © Africa Studio — stock.adobe.com #188432485

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.

Happy Anniversary & THANK YOU! Ten years of AR’s Blog

Adrian Reed in a hat and jazzy glasses (celebrating)
Business Analysis isn’t all serious 🙂
(Photo taken at #BA2019)

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.

The Brake, The Car Horn And What It Tells Us About Organisational Conflict

Image Credit: © nalidsa — stock.adobe.com #115478526

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:

What Kind Of Message Does Your Process Send To Your Customers?

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:

  1. There were fewer hangers than I needed
  2. The hangers were of the “anti-theft” type, where the hanging loop is permanently attached to the rail
Picture of coat hangers with anti-theft 'loop'

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?

The Countdown: Two weeks until #BA2019

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… 

It’s Time We Revisited Our NFRs: Let’s Add Sustainability and Diversity & Inclusion

Sticky notes with question marks written on them
Image Credit: © Anton — stock.adobe.com #230524608

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. 

Reflections on studying (and passing) the IIBA®-AAC (Agile Analysis Certificate)

As I’m sure many readers will be aware, the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA®) recently launched the IIBA®-AAC.  AAC stands for “Agile Analysis Certificate” and as you’d expect this is a certification program aimed at BAs working in an agile environment.  I recently sat (and passed!) the exam, and since then a number of people have asked me if I have any tips.  With this in mind, I thought I’d put together a blog post whilst the experience of studying was fresh in my mind. I hope that you find this useful.

Non-Conformance: What A Hedge Can Teach Us About Process Improvement

Imagine the scene: You’re just about to start the analysis for a project which involves a large contact centre employing hundreds of people.  The call centre manager hands you a dusty folder marked Procedure Guide.  “Here you go, this is exactly how we do things here.” says the manager, “this will save you interviewing our busy front-line workers!”. 

I suspect many of us have experienced this situation (although it’s far more likely to be some kind of electronic repository rather than a dusty manual) and when it happens we try and hold back a wry smile.  Procedure guides are extremely useful artefacts, but so often they are not properly managed and maintained and they quickly fall into disrepair. In some cases, the work that is conducted on the shop floor often bares only a passing resemblance to the ‘official’ processes, and in many cases there are unofficial ‘enhancements’, ‘interpretations’ and ‘workarounds’ that have crept in over the years.

With this in mind, when we are carrying out business analysis and improvement work it’s important that we understand how the work really works.  Elicitation techniques such as observation, apprenticing, scenario analysis and many others can help here.  If the process hasn’t been well-managed and well-maintained it’s highly likely that we’ll find variation.  Differences between teams, and even individual workers may have emerged.  There may be entire new ‘steps’ in the process that have been created, or steps might have been removed, re-ordered or changed in some other way.

Standardisation Isn’t (Always) Our Friend