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Coffee Mug Blame Business Analyst

If you are a business analyst, do you ever get the feeling that stakeholders avoid you?

As you are walking around the building, do you see developers avoiding eye contact?

Worse yet, do you notice testers actively making detours that take them on a path that will never cross yours?

You might be suffering what I call the Colombo Disorder, named after the brilliantly bumbling detective in the 1968–2003 TV series.

As a business analyst, you need to be exceptionally talented at drilling down to the essence of any problem. That can make you as unwelcome as the detective trying to force a suspect into a confession.

Getting a reputation for asking challenging questions means you can irritate the hell out of people. When you do that, they tend to start avoiding you as a self-defense mechanism.

  • Stakeholders don’t have time for interviews
  • Developers don’t want to talk with you
  • The Product Owner doesn’t know what to do with you and “forgets” to invite you to the 3-amigo conversations

Problem is, you can’t do your job if you allow yourself to be ignored and you are setting yourself up to be thrown under the bus.

How Can You Get Stakeholders to Talk to You?

Asking questions can be an irritant, in particular if the person you are asking does not know the answer, is unsure why you are asking, or has a reason for not wanting to answer truthfully.

Since you are not trying to pin something on the other person, you need to make them feel comfortable answering. Figuring out how to give the person that feeling is the fine art of persuasion. To persuade someone to do or not do anything they resist, reason seldom suffices. You need to appeal to their non-conscious mind (aka inner Lizard).

According to current scientific research into how our mind works, we are not consciously aware of the vast majority of decisions we make.

Most decisions are made by our inner Lizard, so called because it is the function of the non-conscious mind that we have in common with many other animals including reptiles.

Your non-conscious mind monitors your internal and external environment and keeps you alive. It decides well before your conscious mind even knows you have decided.

Make Them Want to Contribute

So, if you want someone to chat with you, don’t make them think they should; make them feel it. The Lizard is not convinced by logic (seriously, never try to argue with a snake); it just wants to feel good.

Feelings are a state of being. If answering your questions makes the other person feel good, they will not only quit ignoring you, they will look forward to chatting with you. Make them feel uncomfortable and they will avoid you like the plague.

Bottom line: be a person first and a business analyst second!

You just might benefit from reading (or rereading as the case might be) the classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. He might have lived in a different era, but his philosophy resonates with every generation.

If you, like me, need to understand the non-conscious mind and the scientific basis for feelings to become more human, I highly recommend “7 Secrets of Persuasion” by James Crimmins, PhD.

As a Business Analyst, your job is to help the stakeholder figure out a fix for a process or product.  To achieve that, you have to get them to communicate with you.

Good business analysts know which questions to ask. Great business analysts are great communicators who know how to ask in the language of the Lizard. Sounds like a great technique to have in your Business Analysis Bag of Tricks (BABoT).

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