Always be experimenting

The ever-changing world that requires us to constantly be experimenting, to resist creating safety, is driven by the fact that the stakeholders we serve are curious, dissatisfied, or uncomfortable. Everyone else can largely be ignored and refuse to show interest.

The good news is that two amazing things we can leverage, big shifts in the way we can test feasibility with our stakeholders:

  1. It’s cheaper, quicker and easier than ever to create a prototype or a proof of concept. This is true for paper mock-ups, as well as for high-fidelity models or usable MVP’s.
  2. It’s cheaper, quicker and easier than ever to find the early champions, to engage with stakeholders who are seeking better.

This means each of us is in the hot seat to make a proposition. Shape a promise. Choose your dimensions, find the stakeholders who seek to change, and show up with your best work.

Call it an experiment if you want to.

But it’s project life.

The project life of engaging with what’s possible, and of mobilising stakeholders who want to make a change.

Always be seeking, empathising, investigating, solving, seeing, believing, and yes, experimenting.

The other way to read this is: always be failing.

Well, not always. Sometimes you’ll succeed. But a lot of the time, you’ll be failing. And that’s okay.

Comfort in safety

It’s tempting to create a safe product or service for all your stakeholders.

Safe, because safe is beyond reproach. It meets spec. It causes no disruption.

All your stakeholders, because if all your stakeholders are happy then no one is unhappy.

The trouble is that the groups of stakeholders who are happy with safe are comfortable. They aren’t looking for change.

Change and safe don’t really coexist, and so the stakeholders who are comfortable aren’t looking for you. In fact, they’re largely ignoring you.

What do you want?

Let me take a stab …

You’d like to be respected, successful, rewarded, suitably challenged, and maybe a little renowned for what you do. You’d like to do work you’re proud of and do it for a goal you care about.

What’s missing from that list?

That you need a window seat with a particular view. That you have to produce your work in an iterative way, not sequential. That you want all your stakeholders to arrive fully prepared for your meetings.

These details aren’t what matters. What matters is that just as your stakeholders wish to move along their emotional journey, through fear to hope, so do you.

This opens up the realms of possibility. Many windows of opportunity.

It helps to follow certain career truths. If you want to be rewarded, you probably need a salary increase or a new position. If you want to be promoted, you probably need to consistently deliver value to the right people who will happily recognise you for it. If you want to be proud of your work, you probably need to avoid pushing the pencils around and criticizing the way things are done around there.

Within the organisation, though, there’s a huge amount of whitespace. Space for you to dig in deep and figure out what change you want to make, and how (and who) you seek to serve.

This might be a good time to go back to the X/Y map exercise, to work through it again to find some new axes, new dimensions, new promises. First, find stakeholders worth serving, and then find the change worth making.

Where’s the block of ice?

When a stakeholder doesn’t act as you expect them to, find their fear.

It’s tricky to imagine a better place when you’re about to hit an iceberg. Even (or especially) if all the barriers are in the unconscious mind.

No one is excited to call a business analyst

They’re not. Despite what the analyst wishes, this isn’t often a sought-after interaction.

They’re anxious.

A little bit fearful.

Yet also quietly relieved.

And keen to get things done already.

But worried about changing.

Stressed about the cost.

Thinking about opportunity lost or gained.

Concerned about what happens next.

Worried about their customers.

The business analyst is a hurdle (sometimes with a water jump) on the way to their goal. And much of what the business analyst does is simply superfluous, a roll of red-tape, because it simply slows progress towards the already known need.

If you think about projects in organisations, most of the people who are allocated a business analyst to attend to their problem get one by being assigned whoever the next available person is.

Given that, here’s what I’d ask a Business Analyst seeking better: How will you choose to show up for the business? Will you listen and relate? Will you investigate and probe? Will you work to deliver better, faster, more value?

Just as no one needs a drill bit, no one needs a business analyst. What stakeholders need and want is what it feels like to reach the place an analyst can take them to.

(And the same thing is true for business managers, for service providers, and probably for you…)

Like business analysts, most of us do our best work when we deal in empathy, not functions.