Solve the Problem by Making it Bigger

blog-Nine-Dot-1The title is quirky, but not a joke or a slip. Many intractable problems are intractable because the problem being considered is too small. Many performance problems fall in this category. For an example, consider a project team that is under-performing. They have lots of change requests. They're over budget. They've blown timelines, angered customers - you name it, they've messed it up. Management steps in and finds that the business analyst on the team is the worst offender. All the problems in the project can be traced back to requirements that are badly written, late, or just plain wrong. In an effort get the project back on track, Management decides to bring in a very senior and experienced BA to take charge. The novice BA - Our Little Failure - remains on the team to assist Our Hero, and to provide continuity.

Unfortunately, this corrective action doesn't fix the problem. Our Heroic BA fails just as hard as Our Little Failure.

blog-Nine-Dot-2In this example the solution to the problem was a more competent BA - except the solution wasn't really a solution. The problem remains. This means the project's problems must stem from something other than a lack of BA competence.

Perhaps the customer organization is a hideous and chaotic mess and they are changing their requirements at a moment's notice and demanding that the project team adapt. Perhaps the contract negotiated between the customer organization and the project organization expressly forbids the BA from having follow-up meetings with stakeholders "to minimize non-billable time at the client organization." Perhaps there's some other factor (or factors) that hamper performance, but which have nothing to do with the competence of the BA.

If Management is competent, Management will recognize that they asked "Who is to blame?" when they should have asked "What factors hamper performance?"

If Management is incompetent, Management will hire someone even more competent (read: expensive) and continue to fail.

If Management is using the business analysis talent they've hired, Management would not have blamed 'Our Little Failure' in the first place.

Business Analysts have a responsibility to expand the problem scope when the problem is unsolvable in the current scope. This does NOT mean scope creep is good or that project managers are bad or anything beyond that one statement.

 

Business Analysts have a responsibility to expand the problem scope when the problem is unsolvable in the current scope.

 

This responsibility can be very difficult to bear. It is not absolute: you may have to choose where and when you spend political capital to achieve the greatest effect.

Still, it is your role.

Julian Sammy

A passion for business performance has driven Julian’s decades-long, evidence-based exploration of human behaviour, emerging technology, and information science. His insights are often surprising, and are shared in a provocative, engaging style in print and in person. Julian has delivered inspiring and informative keynotes, created and delivered many track sessions, and advised senior managers and executives from many industries. As the Head of Research and Innovation for IIBA, Julian led a global team of volunteer researchers in the creation of a scientifically testable theory of business performance. As a member of the Core Team developing the next version of A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK® Guide) for IIBA, he drove the collaborative development of the Business Analysis Core Concept Model — a work that is so fundamental to the profession that it is the foundation for the new definition of the profession. In March 2014 Julian Sammy and Kathleen Barret co-founded MicroMarketplace, to get on-demand expert advice to managers, one hour at a time.

Why Will MicroMarketplace Get Into Research?

TheOffice_SteveCarrel
TheOffice_SteveCarrel

tl;dr: To increase our chances of eliminating millions of hours of wasted effort and avoidable frustration.

That Seems Lofty.

We’re a tiny startup, and still starting up — but we also have a history of trying to solve big problems for everyone, everywhere. With that in mind, let’s make some wild assumptions and estimates and see where they lead.

Imagine that every person working in your organization is forced to waste one hour per year dealing with red-tape and bureaucracy that serves no purpose and achieves nothing. We’re not talking about rework (which may not be avoidable) or administrative work (like time sheets that I may not want to do but which the organization needs for a good reason). This is completely avoidable wasted time and effort. Useless meetings might be a good candidate for this example. What if we collected evidence that the use of a five line checklist could eliminate one wasted hour from a person’s year? This is plausible: evidence-based checklists have been used to dramatically increase safety and quality in domains ranging from aerospace to manufacturing to medicine. Why not in management or meetings?

What would happen if one person in one thousand adopted that checklist? At such a small adoption rate and with such a small savings, the impact would be small change for any one organization and any single individual. But consider the global implications. There are about three billion people in the worldwide labour pool. Continuing our wild assumptions, imagine only half of them experience the red-tape induced waste we mentioned. With a 0.1% checklist adoption rate the global impact would be...

1.5 million hours of waste reduction per year.

That's 171 years of saved time and effort, or two long lifetimes of frustration elimination. And what if our research turned up evidence for a up a way to save another hour? Or the checklist actually eliminates an average of 10 hours of waste - one for each person in the meeting? Or had a 1% adoption rate? Or affected 75% of the workforce? At these scales the impacts are vast. Measure the consequences in economic terms, ecological terms, or emotional terms - this kind of discovery could make a real difference.

Great. So What?

At it's core, MicroMarketplace exists to strengthen managers. This is not because we love managers (though we do), or feel sorry for them (though we do). It's because managers profoundly affect working conditions and performance. Making it easy for managers to connect with expert advisors is the first step: one hour of on-demand, experience-based advice can make a lot of lives better. We also know that experience can only take you so far down the path to better conditions and better performance. In large part this is because humans are not rational: competent people with good intentions routinely make decisions that cause harm. To take the next step, managers to incorporate evidence-based practices into their work. We want to be make it easy for managers to do just that.

Title edited on 24Feb2015 from 'is getting' to 'will get'.

Julian Sammy

A passion for business performance has driven Julian’s decades-long, evidence-based exploration of human behaviour, emerging technology, and information science. His insights are often surprising, and are shared in a provocative, engaging style in print and in person. Julian has delivered inspiring and informative keynotes, created and delivered many track sessions, and advised senior managers and executives from many industries. As the Head of Research and Innovation for IIBA, Julian led a global team of volunteer researchers in the creation of a scientifically testable theory of business performance. As a member of the Core Team developing the next version of A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK® Guide) for IIBA, he drove the collaborative development of the Business Analysis Core Concept Model — a work that is so fundamental to the profession that it is the foundation for the new definition of the profession. In March 2014 Julian Sammy and Kathleen Barret co-founded MicroMarketplace, to get on-demand expert advice to managers, one hour at a time.

Gold From Garbage - Harnessing Human Irrationality

Harnessing Human Irrationality
Harnessing Human Irrationality

Magicians and scientists know humans are irrational and unreasonable. They have learned to take advantage of the gap between how we think we act and how we really behave. Organizations often choose a different approach, by expecting people to act rationally and reasonably -- which is akin to forcing someone to be tall. We will uncover some key relationships between human behaviour and business situations as we explore questions like:  "What makes a business case compelling?" "How much documentation is enough?" and "How can change resistance be minimized?"

Become more effective by learning a magic trick of your own: how to make use of human nature to turn garbage into gold, by countering irrationality when it is damaging, and using it to benefit your stakeholders when it helps.

Learning Objectives

  • Facilitate (and make) better decisions by calling out “fear management” masquerading as risk management.
  • Improve change management by accepting the fundamental irrationality of all humans.
  • Recognize business implications of human limits to memory and perception.
  • Use arguments, disagreements, and resistance to reveal key information.
  • Practice a new mantra to improve stakeholder relationships.
  • Learn to NOT trust your gut when making decisions.

Presented at…

Julian Sammy

A passion for business performance has driven Julian’s decades-long, evidence-based exploration of human behaviour, emerging technology, and information science. His insights are often surprising, and are shared in a provocative, engaging style in print and in person. Julian has delivered inspiring and informative keynotes, created and delivered many track sessions, and advised senior managers and executives from many industries. As the Head of Research and Innovation for IIBA, Julian led a global team of volunteer researchers in the creation of a scientifically testable theory of business performance. As a member of the Core Team developing the next version of A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK® Guide) for IIBA, he drove the collaborative development of the Business Analysis Core Concept Model — a work that is so fundamental to the profession that it is the foundation for the new definition of the profession. In March 2014 Julian Sammy and Kathleen Barret co-founded MicroMarketplace, to get on-demand expert advice to managers, one hour at a time.

The Cyborg In The Mirror

You are already a cyborg.

You are already a cyborg.

Presenter: Julian Sammy
Format: Keynote, Track Session

cyborg: an organic being enhanced by technology

You're a cyborg, just like everyone else. Humans automate and integrate technology into our bodies, minds, and relationships; we've done it since before we were humans. As a BA you help stakeholders design, install, and then deal with technical solutions every day – but how will automation affect you? What parts of your job could be done by a machine? What will it mean to be a business analyst in three years, or five, or ten? We used to say that this profession was future proof because it couldn't be outsourced or automated -- but 'future proof' doesn't mean what it used to.

The Cyborg in the Mirror explores the business consequences of the inevitable and relentless integration of technology into the human condition.

Learning Objectives

  • Refocus your professional development on aspects of business analysis that can not be automated.
  • Begin to assess technological change in terms of meaning instead of functionality.
  • Recognize what technology can change - and what it can not.

Presented at...

Julian Sammy

A passion for business performance has driven Julian’s decades-long, evidence-based exploration of human behaviour, emerging technology, and information science. His insights are often surprising, and are shared in a provocative, engaging style in print and in person. Julian has delivered inspiring and informative keynotes, created and delivered many track sessions, and advised senior managers and executives from many industries. As the Head of Research and Innovation for IIBA, Julian led a global team of volunteer researchers in the creation of a scientifically testable theory of business performance. As a member of the Core Team developing the next version of A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK® Guide) for IIBA, he drove the collaborative development of the Business Analysis Core Concept Model — a work that is so fundamental to the profession that it is the foundation for the new definition of the profession. In March 2014 Julian Sammy and Kathleen Barret co-founded MicroMarketplace, to get on-demand expert advice to managers, one hour at a time.

Why Are Projects a Problem?

You've been framed. Break free! Also, smoking is bad for you.

Why do we discuss business analysis in terms of projects?

Is it because projects are popular? They're also prone to failure. A crowd of "Popular Failures" isn't the crowd I want to be associated with.

Is it because projects are valuable? Projects don't deliver business value. Solutions deliver business value. Projects are just one way to manage change to a solution.

Is it because business analysis is a project discipline? Project managers may be the only change professionals who work exclusively in projects. Business analysts have something to do as long as there is change or potential change, to either the business or the business environment. Business analysis is a business discipline practiced when doing business.

The project-centric view of the profession has many consequences for business analysis:

  • We struggle to make a compelling case for the value of the profession and the professional.
  • We can't find meaningful measures of BA performance.
  • We can't get support for key work, such as ensuring that changes stay aligned to business objectives.

This analysis indicates that business analysts should seek distance from projects. So why do BAs have so much trouble talking about their work without talking about projects?

The solutions to intractable problems can sometimes be discovered by reframing those problems. In this case, knowing how projects seduce us is the first step: you have to realize that there is a box to have a chance to think outside the box.

 

It doesn't have to be like this.

 

 

 

Why Are Projects Popular?

Change is necessary for organizational survival, but it is not sufficient. Stability is also necessary.[1] Successful organizations can provoke changes that increase performance, and prevent changes that decrease performance. Projects are one way to control adaptation and maintenance, but not the only way. If projects cost a lot, fail a lot, and don't deliver business value, what makes them so popular?

The answer may be counterintuitive: projects are popular because of human nature. Some basic aspects of our species - what we are and how we think - make projects seductive. Four aspects seem most relevant to this discussion: thinking fast[2], attention to danger[3], natural change strategies[4], and an optimistic bias[5].

'Project' is a simple idea.

It is a rare person who has not been part of projects from early childhood.[6] Who doesn't instantly understand “on time, on budget, on target”? Our brains are efficient[7] so we prefer things that are simple and familiar. Projects are both. Any approach that is unfamiliar[8], more complex[9], or both[10] has an uphill battle for attention. Soundbites work for a reason.

Projects are interesting.

Humans can't ignore danger, and change always carries an element of danger.[11] Projects are one way to make changes; therefore they grab attention. Projects take time to complete, so they also hold attention[12]. Stable operations that just tick along are the opposite: it feels like nothing new is happening, so we get bored. Continuous improvement methodologies can become boring in a similar way.

This wouldn't matter if humans were rational, and allocated resources based on risks. In reality we 'steer where we're looking' and put resources into the things that have our attention. Until a lack of maintenance is seen as a clear and present danger it can fall below our threshold of attention.

Consider a manager or leader trying to accomplish something. Any tool that helps them get attention and hold it is likely to help them get resources. Projects are a simple, obvious way to help them accomplish their goals.

Projects are successful enough, often enough.

The Standish Group Chaos Report (2011) showed 34% of projects are successful, and 66% are not (15% fail and 51% are challenged). Projects - sometimes a single project - can use a significant portion of an organization's resources. This makes projects seem hugely wasteful - but we don't see a huge number of businesses closing their doors because of failed projects. Organisations do fail, but badly executed projects are rarely the root cause.[13]

This means that for most organizations, projects are successful enough, often enough. Change capability is one factor in the success of the organization - but it is one among many.[14] Imagine a world where 100% of changes are successful - the new solution works as expected, and the cost of the change matched the estimates. Will companies still fail because of uncontrollable factors such as disasters and market shifts? Will new organizations still invent disruptive new business models that destroy existing business models and the companies that rely on them? Will strategy still matter? Will the ability to execute on strategy still matter?[15]

Projects are personally rewarding.

No matter what return the business expects for investing in a project, for the change agents[16] working on a project it is often in a high-yield and low-risk scenario. It is usually easy to avoid blame for failure by finding root causes[17] that have nothing to do with my heroic efforts to rescue the change. It is also easy to gain recognition by claiming some responsibility for success. Change methodologies that tie personal responsibility to outcomes (like Agile) can be quite frightening - and may be too dangerous for individual change agents to support. Projects are also personally rewarding because they provide a sense of accomplishment when they are completed. Operations and maintenance are like doing the laundry: the job is never really over[18].

 

What can you do?

There are other approaches to controlling organizational transformation[19] but they do not have the seductive power of projects. Humans have intrinsic motivations and cognitive biases, and several are triggered by projects. We may know that projects are not the optimal way to manage a change, but our rational side is often overwhelmed by our inherent irrationality.

If you are in a position to choose the organizational approach to change, consider this question: "What rational arguments can I use to change my stakeholders' irrational behaviours?"

Exactly.

You will need to find ways to address the irrational factors that attract people to projects. The key change lever is not likely to be an argument about cost savings or efficiency or agility.

If you are in a position to educate people on the purpose and value of business analysis, take some time to root out the project-centric thinking in your own work. Business analysis does not happen before or after a project, any more than it happens inside, outside, to the left of, or underneath a project. Business Analysis is the practice of enabling change in an organizational context by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders.[20]

Business Analysts don't work in or around projects. Business Analysts work in a business, provoking and preventing change.


[1] An organization that can't adapt to changing conditions will struggle and may fail (e.g., newspapers, BlackBerry). An organization that can't maintain stable conditions will struggle and may fail (e.g., dam failures (Lawn Lake http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawn_Lake_Dam), Val di Stava Dam http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Val_di_Stava_Dam_collapse), bus companies http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/12/bus-company-crackdown-operation-quick-strike_n_4430482.html).

[2] Thinking, Fast and Slow, D. Kahneman (2011)

[3] This is why "it bleeds it leads" is so powerful.

[4] On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, C.Darwin (1859)

[5] "Optimism bias" is the name for the tendency we have to underestimate difficulty or danger as it applies to ourselves, and overestimate our own chances of success and gain.

[6] What grade were you in for your first teamwork assignment? Your first class project? It's not just renovations or packing for vacation that can be thought of as a project: they're all around us.

[7] E.g., Lazy.

[8] E.g., Experiments.

[9] E.g., Continuous Improvement.

[10] E.g., Data-driven decisions, Agile.

[11] Danger refers to the possibility of suffering a loss, harm, or injury; danger is often associated with fear. Risk (in conversation) refers to danger. Risk (in business) is often intended to refer to the probability of an event occurring, where that event could be a loss or a gain. Since humans almost never say "we are at high risk of success" the business version of risk is at odds with human nature. To avoid arguments about this, this discussion uses 'danger' - a word that hasn't been co-opted yet.

[12] An earthquake grabs attention and then it's over and our attention is diverted. An infectious disease holds attention as the change continues to spread. Note: These examples do not imply that projects are diseases or disasters. Much.

[13] Running the wrong project is likely to be much worse than running a project badly. A change that increases business value realization by less than desired still increases business value realization - the 'return' part of the return on investment (ROI). The wrong change is one that decreases or destroys the ability for the business to realize a return.

[14] For a much more detailed look at the relationships among change system performance and operational system performance, see Improving Business Analysis Performance - A systems-model for evidence-based performance improvement (J.Sammy, V.Bhalla, Y.Jordan, J.Merkle, D.Oluge, R.Scott, A.Yagodkina) IIBA, 2014

[15] As Captain Picard said to Mr. Data, "It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness; that is life." As it happens, I recalled this as, "You can do everything right and still fail. That is part of being human." I quite enjoyed the delicious discord of flawed memory meeting perfect digital memory.

[16] Everyone involved in making the change is a change agent, including sponsors, change managers, business analysts, subject matter experts (SME), project managers, testers, and builders (developers, engineers, designers, etc.). In many cases the individual change agent also has a role as a stability agent, sustaining the operational systems. For example, a developer who writes code for a new feature may also correct code for an existing feature.

[17] 'Find root causes' is doublespeak for 'blame'. In many cases blame is victimless (no scapegoat is needed for 'changing market conditions'). If a victim is required one can always be found ('Alex did not properly anticipate changing market conditions' or 'Tony did not make use of market projections').

[18] This was stated poetically by the Eddings, when they wrote "A deed once done, is done forever, but a task returns every day."

[19] Change is a controlled transformation of organizational systems, as stated in the Business Analysis Core Concept Model (BACCM) from IIBA.

[20] This is the new definition of business analysis from IIBA, taken from presentations about version 3 of A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK® Guide).

Julian Sammy

A passion for business performance has driven Julian’s decades-long, evidence-based exploration of human behaviour, emerging technology, and information science. His insights are often surprising, and are shared in a provocative, engaging style in print and in person. Julian has delivered inspiring and informative keynotes, created and delivered many track sessions, and advised senior managers and executives from many industries. As the Head of Research and Innovation for IIBA, Julian led a global team of volunteer researchers in the creation of a scientifically testable theory of business performance. As a member of the Core Team developing the next version of A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK® Guide) for IIBA, he drove the collaborative development of the Business Analysis Core Concept Model — a work that is so fundamental to the profession that it is the foundation for the new definition of the profession. In March 2014 Julian Sammy and Kathleen Barret co-founded MicroMarketplace, to get on-demand expert advice to managers, one hour at a time.

The Dangerous Question

PresenterJulian Sammy Format: Keynote, Track Session

Project Managers ask ‘When?’ This is a question of costs and resources. Business Analysts ask ‘Why?’ This is a question of purpose and intent. In this interactive session we use an experiential approach to explore a central challenge faced by business analysts: that our role exists to question the motives of our stakeholders. You will gain a visceral – and occasionally uncomfortable – insight into the threatening and aggressive aspects of the dangerous question. You will also discover approaches to using ‘Why’ judiciously and successfully. You will not leave with a new skill or technique. You will find a new perspective that improves your ability to use all your skills and techniques.

This session is 'advanced' because it is carefully structured to resonate with a worldview and mindset that is common to those who self-select the practice of business analysis. This includes practitioners focused on business rules, business process, business capabilities, business architecture, and business analysis. People who have self-selected disciplines focused on other questions may feel like a fish out of water - and may learn something important about the intrinsic motivations of business analysts.

Learning Objectives

  • Learn the meaning of ‘why’ (you might be surprised).
  • Experience the psychological and cognitive implications of ‘why’.
  • Consider ‘why’ in the context of the BABOK® Guide.
  • Recognize when ‘why’ is the wrong question to ask.
  • Discover several surprising careers that are role-models for effective business analysis

Julian Sammy

A passion for business performance has driven Julian’s decades-long, evidence-based exploration of human behaviour, emerging technology, and information science. His insights are often surprising, and are shared in a provocative, engaging style in print and in person. Julian has delivered inspiring and informative keynotes, created and delivered many track sessions, and advised senior managers and executives from many industries. As the Head of Research and Innovation for IIBA, Julian led a global team of volunteer researchers in the creation of a scientifically testable theory of business performance. As a member of the Core Team developing the next version of A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK® Guide) for IIBA, he drove the collaborative development of the Business Analysis Core Concept Model — a work that is so fundamental to the profession that it is the foundation for the new definition of the profession. In March 2014 Julian Sammy and Kathleen Barret co-founded MicroMarketplace, to get on-demand expert advice to managers, one hour at a time.

IIBA Edmonton Chapter Career Development Day - 2014-04-23

http://Edmonton.IIBA.org

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

NAIT, 11762 106 St, Edmonton, AB, CANADA

Kathleen Barret

  • Keynote: The Future of Business Analysis

[Tweet "Keynote @KathleenBarret Edmonton Apr23: The Future of Business Analysis #baot #pmot #IIBA #PMI http://micromarketplace.org/iiba-edmonton-chapter-career-development-day-2014-04-23/"]

Change Management Lessons for a New Business

Change Management Lessons for a New Business

Last week Kathleen Barret and I attended the ACMP annual conference called 'Change Management 2014'. If you're interested in the details I take my notes in Twitter - so a search for "#ACMP2014 from:SCI_BA" will give you a feel for my experience. If you'd like the highlights - especially as they relate to getting started as a business - read on.

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