When I recently cut a slice of brown bread for breakfast, I discovered a white blob in the middle. Strange. Yet I ate it, and you know what? I did not die. Seriously, I didn’t even get sick.
We really need to be ok with having more white blobs when innovating.
When you are working in a start-up with a small number of people, you can take decisions quickly, independent of existing products or services, strategies, organisational structures and so on. That’s one of the advantages of being “two kids in a garage”. In theory, you could simulate such an environment in an established organisation. In reality, it proofs difficult to keep corporate interference out of the way.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.