Saturday, October 3, 2015

Be professional and human: practice situational evolution!

As a practicing business analyst you are in a position of trust and privilege. You help organizations identify and solve business problems. You help to bring about change, and can have an impact on the lives of many employees, and the whole enterprise too. Professionalism is key; you want to be seen as an objective and trusted partner who gets things done. But if you remain aloof or detached you will undoubtedly miss opportunities to get the most value out of your stakeholders. So we practice situational evolution, so relationships start off on the right foot, and develop effectively.
So what is situational evolution and how do I do it?
It’s all about timing really. Imagine you are about to be interviewed about your current position by someone you don’t know (a business analyst). If that business analyst walks in and says “Hi, how you doin’? Went to a great party last night and boy am I hung over. OK let’s get down to it. Tell me about…”
Doesn’t create a good impression does it?
Consider a different situation. You have been working with business analysts on a project for six months full time. It’s the end of the project and one of the business analysts says “Our project is finished on time and on budget. I will see you at the presentation. Thank you for your exemplary efforts”. You ask the business analysts if they’d care to join your department for your next lunchtime pot luck, and you are told “thank you for the offer but we have work to do.”
You would probably be a bit hurt that your offer of friendship was rejected.
And that’s why we need to understand situational evolution.
At the start of a project, err on the side of formality. But as you get to know your stakeholder colleagues, start to drop some of the formality and interact with them in a lighter way. Now, care is required to time this correctly and not commit any social mistakes. And I would always recommend erring slightly on the professional side of things if there is any doubt. But your stakeholder relationships, and the quality of your work, will improve if you allow your relationship situation to evolve as you work together.
A major issue with this can be if you are working with a group of stakeholders with which you are very familiar, and where the situation has evolved to one where there is some joking and social activity. But then someone new joins the group. Remember that the new person’s situation is yet to evolve from the “professional” start point. So fall back to this until the new person “warms up”. It usually only takes a few days.
Have you ever been bitten by an error in situational evolution? Do tell – post a comment!