Saturday, October 3, 2015

Too many analysts are trying to acquire skills the wrong way.

If you want to be a successful analyst, don’t get all excited about tools and techniques. Instead, learn where particular tools and techniques are applicable, and then make sure they are applied correctly. This is the essence of effective analysis. Here’s why:
One day I was having an interesting chat with a colleague who had been invited to participate in a meeting to try to develop some training on how to conduct a “brainstorming session”. Lots of people who said they were interested were invited to go along, discuss and learn. With genuine and sound intent, this group was trying to develop training for others on how to conduct the “brainstorming session”.
I asked several of those involved why they were interested. The stock reply was something like “well, another analyst has used brainstorming sessions so I should learn how to conduct one too”. There was almost a subtle feeling of fear of being left behind, and not being such a good analyst, if an opportunity to be involved was missed.
BUT: focusing on conducting a brainstorming session, at least to me, is like a blacksmith focusing on how to use a hammer (rather than thinking through horseshoe manufacturing, and deciding if and when a hammer is needed). In my opinion, unless the blacksmith learns when a hammer is needed in horseshoe manufacturing (or unless there is someone to coach and advise on when to use a hammer) then you aren’t going to make any horseshoes just by learning how to use a hammer. Remember the old adage: a fool with a tool is still a fool.
As analysts we need to learn when to use our tools more than we need to learn how to use them (granted this is possibly more true for senior than junior analysts). But if analysts know when tools should be used, they can always find someone with the experience to use that tool at the correct time. So rather than learning how to run a brainstorming session, my preference is for analysts to first learn the various methods for eliciting requirements, their relative merits, and when they should be used.
I don’t mention this to be harsh to those involved in a worthwhile initiative; rather to help you plan your approach to planning training. Remember, the Need Powered Change way of training is top down, big picture, “understand-why-first”. We encourage analysts to follow this path, before getting in to the details.