sharing insights on innovation in established organisations

altershape blog

April 29, 2016

Say yes to no

An important task for any BA is finding out why. Why do we need this project? Why do we need this requirement? Without understanding the why (the rationale), there is a significant risk of building the wrong solution or implementing features in an ineffective way.

Saying no to strategies, projects and requirements, is a quick and fun technique to uncover a stakeholder’s reasoning and increase your understanding of the project and proposed solution.

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Business stakeholders want projects to deliver fast. They often come to the project team with a clear view of the solution, expecting a quick start and not leaving much room or time for challenging and proposing alternatives. However, this mind set carries with it an important risk: blindly building the proposed solution does not guarantee business value.

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Remember the last time you’ve made a non trivial purchase, like a fridge, a smartphone or a new car. Would you be comfortable if you were given only one fridge, smartphone or car to choose from? Probably not. However, in business, we often tend to stick to the first solution that comes to mind, even though the investment is typically much bigger.

What role can alternatives play when defining and implementing business changes?

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I remember some legendary tennis matches from my childhood. Matches between top players like John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Boris Becker. But most of all, it was Andre Agassi that kept me hooked on TV. Apart from being a great tennis player, he had some rock star allure, was funny at the right times, was just enough underdog to earn extra sympathy points and he made an impressive comeback. So when he’s interviewed by HBR, I’m all ears. And he has some interesting life lessons to share.

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October 30, 2015

No goals, no glory

Take a minute to think about your latest change project. Did you achieve the goals of the project? Can you actually, honestly tell? If not, you’re not alone. Most projects fail to specify concrete, falsifiable goals. Goals that allow you to check whether you have achieved them or not.

Why is this, and how can we improve?

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Often, the trigger for new projects consists of ideas at two levels: very generic and very specific. For example:

  • Generic: “We need to improve customer experience.”
  • Specific: “We should let customers enter their personal data online before their visit to our branch office.”

Both levels are relevant. Both contain useful information. But something is missing: the link between them. Luckily, the BA is in the perfect position to make that link visible.

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Roger L. Martin‘s recent HBR article on adaptive (= reactive) strategy vs proactive strategy got me thinking.

In his article, he disagrees with the VUCA driven school of thought that claims that, due to the increased volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity in today’s world (hence VUCA), strategy is now fast reaction thinking. People that regard strategy as planning are likely to take this approach. However, as Roger also explains in his book, strategy is not about planning. It’s about making difficult choices and organising your company around these choices.

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