Adaptability: Creating Transforming Understanding
You walked in someone else’s shoes to understand them better but now it’s time to flip it around. Someone is going to walk in your shoes for a while. You walked in those PM or QA shoes a bit and learned a lot. How about they walk in your BA shoes?
Helping others understand your role as a Business Analysts has many benefits. Primarily it helps you work together with other roles in your organization more effectively. This was outlined in my previous blog, so I won’t go into a lot of detail here about being adaptable.
Finding and picking the right person to walk in your shoes is no easy task. It makes it harder when you don’t get the chance to pick the person. Ideally having a person that you can build a working relationship with is the best. In either case it’s important to build a working relationship in which you can trust each other.
Don’t be fearful of the depth of your knowledge. When someone else is walking in your shoes they don’t have that depth. They need you to be strong and confident in your understanding of Business Analysis and how it works in your organization. Not to say you should know everything, rather be confident in the things you do know. If you don’t know or can’t answer a specific question, reach out together to others in the organization who have that knowledge. This is a great learning moment for you and the person walking in your shoes.
See them as a great person and not a chore. The person walking in your shoes should feel they are able to connect with you in a regular manner. Setup meetings and schedule time to talk with each other daily or weekly to keep those communication lines open. Don’t make them feel like they are an interruption or necessary evil you have to deal with. Setting up time in advance is an important way to avoid this feeling. Fire drills happen every day so if the meeting gets cancelled, don’t just push it off forever. Reschedule the time and make sure to connect.
Be patient and stay positive. It’s tough sometimes to learn a new role. Even harder when you have preconceived ideas about that role. You are going to be busting up a lot of myths about your role and what you do. Being defensive is a big turn off for someone learning your role. Carefully explain the rationale or “why” for a specific task or process. Knowing the why helps the person walking in your shoes understand the tasks or “how” more easily. Show the big picture and how it all relates back to each other.
Be honest and open about your role. It’s easy to soft pedal and skip over the more difficult parts of your role. Show your role “warts and all” in an honest and open way. Hiding things from the person walking in your shoes may sound like a great idea, but if they really are expected in the future to play your role in real life you have given them a big handicap. Show the person walking in your shoes the difficulties you have and how you overcome them. Teaching somebody to avoid the pain builds trust.
Share your experiences in your role and insights. It’s time to become the story teller. Giving insight into your role by telling stories is a great way to help out the person who is trying to learn more about your role. Share what you learned. Sharing is both ways. The person learning your role sharing their experiences is important to provide you with a broader understanding.
Help navigate the politics. Every organization has their own set of politics. Sharing how to navigate them successfully is a powerful thing. Teaching someone your role without this knowledge of navigating the politics is leaving them in a bad place. Knowing the ways in which you move through political issues helps them to move through them as well. Additionally, they might have insight into the politics that you had not seen before.
Learning is a two-way street – learn from each other. Teaching someone your role is not just information moving in one direction. Information moves in two directions naturally. Take the time to learn from each other and see things from a broader perspective. You might just learn a new approach that can help you out.
Be committed – take the time – don’t leave them hanging. See it through to the end. It’s human nature to start out gang busters and then wind up barely interested in a few weeks. If the objective really is to have someone learn your role, then make sure both of you stay interested and committed to finishing it out. Don’t schedule meetings at the same time of the day or in the same location. Mix it up. Recent studies have shown constantly changing times and locations changes the mind set into being more flexible. Same time and same bat channel lead to boredom.
Where to find stuff is the hardest part of any role. You know is located on that file server or x:\ drive somewhere. Ugh. There are always 5 million files with file names that don’t make any sense in a maze of file folders that would keep Indiana Jones busy for years looking for that document. Over the years I’ve learned to be specific about where things are located and what they are called. File names can make sense to you in your role, but to others in different roles they may not. I’m not advocating a file re-naming binge. Don’t assume the person that is learning your role knows the location you are talking about or even that they have access to that location. Many times email becomes a central repository of documents. Open the gates and let the email forwarding begin! This takes time for the person filling your shoes to figure out. Be patient and give them a little breathing room to work through all the documents.
If you both can’t overcome it, ask for more help. Issues will be brought forward that neither you or the person learning your role will be able to overcome. It’s that immoveable roadblock. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Show the person that is learning your role how you work to overcome road blocks. That a great lesson to learn.
If you don’t know it, figure out a plan to address it together. Issues some up that sometimes just don’t make any sense. The person learning your role or performing it for the time are going to run into issues or problems that you as the expert have run into before. This is a great opportunity to share the wisdom you have gained in resolving these issues and problems. Help other to avoid the issues and problems that caused you so much pain.
Helping others is gratifying. It’s a great feeling to know that you were able to help someone understand your role as Business Analyst, Project Manager or whatever your role may be. It’s a great feeling to help someone better understand your role so you can work with them more effectively. It takes time and commitment but it’s well worth the investment to you and your organization.
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