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Who’s there?

When you receive a deliverable in a broadcast email, thrown over the organisational wall, someone is avoiding. It’s delivered, but it’s not sincere. We don’t feel engaged, only the obscuration of an administrator.

On the other hand, when a business analyst shows up and exercises emotional labour to take the lead—”Here, I created this”—then the silo is broken down for collaboration and contribution.

The most effective project teams don’t always have a business analyst or a signature on every deliverable. But they act like they do.

“Here, we created this.”

The goal isn’t to share the work, it’s to make it shared.

Doing what we don’t feel like doing

It doesn’t take much to be yourself. You just need to have enough confidence to disclose your true feelings, with sufficient guts to bounce back from personal rejection.

On the face of it, being your true self sounds good.

But you’re not a professional If you do your best work by being your true self, you’re a lucky amateur. Lucky because you have a job where whatever you feel like producing in a given moment actually helps you move things forward.

And there’s often a good deal of avoiding happening too—avoiding the important work that’s needed to enable change. If all you do is follow your (one-size-fits-all) process, you’ll probably discover that the process is leading you towards a dead-end, and it’s blinkering you from seeing the important work that needs doing.

For the rest of us, there’s the chance to be a professional, to exercise emotional labour in search of empathy—the empathy to stand into your stakeholder’s shoes, to see what they desire, to understand what they want to hear.

Emotional labour means doing the hard work. It’s about gritting our teeth when dealing with challenges, or biting our tongue when we know listening will have a greater impact.

We don’t do business analysis work because we feel like it in the moment. We do business analysis work, the exhausting emotional labour, because we’re professionals, and because we want to enable change.

Emotional labour is the work we do to facilitate.


Business analysis projects (intentional choice of the homonym, projects) are the generous works of people who want to facilitate.

Adrian Thomas and the trainer understand that being your true self inside the organisation is unsolicited, that what stakeholders need is someone to understand and facilitate them, not to simply be the recipient (or victim) of whoever you feel like being at the time.

And when we produce the best version of our best work, our responsibility isn’t to create it for our own interest…it’s to deliver it for the stakeholders we seek to serve. We save our best version of the work for their benefit, not our own.

Just as a Product Owner doesn’t come home and manage her family like a backlog, you’re not expected (or welcome) to project every one of your self-doubts, personal concerns, or perceived constraints at work.

You’re here to facilitate.

The honest, endangered superhero

You know this persona: the business analyst who speaks up in the room, with the simple truths, ready to withstand the objections and the complaints from a room full of people that doesn’t get what they’re saying. Until they do, and then they (imaginary) fist pump.

This is a daydream.

It’s a treacherous daydream.

There will be a few exceptions that prove the rule, but in general, what’s true is that organisations need business analysts willing to facilitate.

Facilitating the change others seek to make happen.

Willing to lead a line that resonates with the stakeholder group that they care enough about to facilitate.

There could be a disconnect here. It’s possible that you could be feeling this way today, but there’s a chance you might not be. The version of yourself that you’re projecting to others runs layers deep, but it can’t possibly be the whole of you, all of the time.

A business analyst professional plays a role, doing their best possible work, regardless of the project or the stakeholder or the customer.

When Kulula Air Steward Adrian Thomas delivered his version of the pre-flight safety demonstration, hilariously, with a uniquely South African twist, it was a brilliant act, not a unique performance. After all, a version of it happened on every flight.

When a trainer improves his delegates prospects, day-after-day, by sharing information, he actually might be a brilliant teacher, but it’s more likely he’s simply presenting his material.

When the team of waitresses and waiters at Spur celebrate you with the Happy Birthday Song, they’re doing their job, not disclosing.

And that’s okay because disclosing isn’t what makes things better. Disclosing is saved for your closest family and your best friends, not your stakeholders.

Find your ego strength. You’re needed tomorrow.

“And we sell gear”

Situated at the base of one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Table Mountain, Trail and Tar in Cape Town is not just another running and cycling store.

No matter how wide a range or cheap a price their competitors offer, Trail and Tar manage to do pretty well. Because they offer something other stores don’t. They host weekly runs and rides that cater for all fitness levels, followed by the customary debriefing in their own coffee shop. They offer a social experience.

If you own a running and biking store that competes with anyone, “…it’s a social experience” is a pretty special feature.

That’s because experiences are better shared.

Experiences create a third feature: a chance to meet, to tell stories, to build dreams.

And so Trail and Tar is actually a running and cycling club that sells gear.

The gear we bought from them is simply the equipment we needed along the way to make our dreams become a reality.