Posted by Phyllis Rieff, CSPO, January 16, 2017

BA Agility & Adaptability: It’s All About Trust

Transitioning to Agile can be scary…but you can do it!

As a BA, when you first join an Agile team, there may be an element of fear associated with letting go of familiar, traditional BA processes and activities. This usually stems from a ‘fish out of water’ feeling, or as some put it – ‘working without a net’. It’s hard to let go of 72-page BRDs, FSDs and multi-tabbed spreadsheets containing everything we think we need to know about a project. Without these artifacts, it can feel as though we’re on a steep staircase that has no banister, or riding in a roller coaster car with no seat belt or safety bar for protection.

Things are different in Agile, that’s for sure…but don’t let it throw you.

One thing to keep in mind is that trust is an antidote to fear.

Yes, overall, the agile methodology requires a team to trust one another, but most importantly, for the purposes of this article, I’m referring to the need of trusting yourself. Trust in yourself is simply another way to describe self-confidence.

When you have a good foundation in business analysis, and possess a proven skillset (hopefully cultivated along the way of your experiences), then you are more than capable of transitioning, and utilizing those skills to, and in, any type of methodology or environment. Yes, you may need some additional awareness education, but that falls in line with your personal commitment to professional development and is no more of a problem than packing up your BA tool bag on one job site and unpacking it somewhere else.

We should remember that agile is a standalone word that functions as an energetic adjective, chosen specifically for its attributes to serve as a creative description for a software development method.

Describing someone or something as agile implies agility: the ability to be nimble, flexible, quick-footed…, and adaptable.

Let’s do a little exercise…

Imagine yourself as a talented, multi-faceted, professional musician and vocal artist. You possess an impressive natural ability to learn and play a variety of instruments. You have an amazing voice and are one of six equally musically talented members of a wildly popular band that you’ve been playing with for years.

The band tours all over their own country, and although their performances always include the same set of songs using the same group of typical instruments, from time to time,  to keep things fresh, new songs are thrown into the playlist, and alternate, less common instruments make an appearance (think xylophone or ukulele).

Then one day, by a vote of 4-2, the band splits up based on a proposal to expand the next tour by adding international destinations to the schedule. Up until now, the group has never ventured to perform globally. You and your fellow musicians part company with the notion that at some point in time, you will meet up for a fan-pleasing, moneymaking reunion tour.

Four members go on to enjoy continued, remarkable success as solo performers all around the world.

The other two, devastated by the breakup are unable and/or unwilling to tolerate the level of discomfit brought on by this change.

One of the two embarks on a search to join another band who only tours nationally and with no immediate desire to go abroad to distant lands far from home. They can pick up where they left off, so to speak, and continue to perform as before – within their comfort zone, in their own country. This suits them just fine.

The other drops out of the music scene altogether to find another line of work – or not.

Considerations:

Given that you are no longer with the larger band, which group would you fall into – one of the four or one of the two?

Your answer determines your agility as a business analyst.

While you were touring with the band, did it matter when the venues changed?
No. The band was an accomplished entity that was never dependent on the city or the arena where they played. It was about the musical talent and artistic skillfulness of the band and their ability to replicate their success wherever they went.

Individual musical talent and artistic skills contributed to the band’s success as a whole, but when the band split, did any of the members lose their individual musical abilities or artistic skills?
Of course not.

Were the four members who went on to pursue successful solo careers any more musically talented or competent in the performing arts than the two who could not bring themselves to adapt?
No. In our story, we stated that all of the band members were of equal artistic measure.

At the time of the split, just like the six, the other two were at the top of their game. Because their musical skills and talent did not leave them – they were just as likely to be as successful as their counterparts were.

Presuming that their decision to avoid international travel was not due to lack of a passport, what might have caused them to back out of a seemingly lucrative opportunity? What prevented each of these two from proceeding on a journey that up until this point had been successful, and professionally rewarding?

Fear. A powerful, sometimes irrational emotion that at minimum can make us resistant to change. We find a way to get along, proceeding as usual, and make a conscious decision to give in to our fear, rather than attempt to conquer it.

At worst, fear can affect our ability to think straight and cripple us to the point of inertia. No way forward, no way back. Do nothing. Stay safe. Lose interest…give up or drop out.

In our story, given that all the band members possessed the same artistic skills – what is the one social skill that the four had but the other two did not?

Based on what we know about the four members, we can make the following assumptions:

  1. By recognizing the depth and scope of their individual musical talents apart and aside from the collective band, each believed they could prove themselves valuable to their audience with or without the other members.
  2. By appreciating their success and the desire to increase the benefits of that success exponentially, each was eager and willing to pursue new levels in their career.

What is the common thread demonstrated in these assumptions?

Self-confidence. A trust in one’s own abilities, qualities, and judgments.

This is not to say that one or more of these four members did not experience some degree of fear before or during their new experience, but their ability to trust in themselves to move forward, is in stark contrast to the lack of confidence evidenced by their counterparts’ decision to remain behind.

Here’s the key:

Fear is born out of a lack of trust (a lack of confidence).

Trust breeds confidence.

Confidence wards off fear.

Over time, if confidence isn’t growing, it’s eroding.

It’s important to understand that there are long-term benefits and consequences depending on how you manage your fear. Are you shrinking away from challenges through avoidance, or are you leaning into them to expand your potential for growth?

When transitioning to Agile, you can draw confidence by appreciating and understanding how your own current and past business analysis experiences make you a valuable asset. When you recognize that value, it should make no difference to you whether you are working your talent in Toronto or New York, in Waterfall or Agile, on a team or by yourself. Once you have this principle down, you’ll be amazed at how quickly your degree of fear dilutes when your self-confidence level improves.

On the other hand, if you choose to shut yourself off from new opportunities, refusing to stretch out of your comfort zone, like our two band members, then you run the risk of stagnating your skills, losing your edge and undermining your ability to conquer the fear that is feeding your lack of confidence. Not only will you limit your professional growth experience, but also, your current skills fall vulnerable to changing economic and employment conditions.

The conclusion of our band story can illustrate this quite simply….

Most of the six members remain in touch and after about five years; they revisit their plan to regroup for that exciting reunion tour. With their previous brand recognition, combined with the additional fame attained by the four soloists – there is no doubt amongst all – they will make millions.

The four soloists are in. One of the two former members is hard to find initially, and the other will take some convincing, but eventually both agree to participate. The band begins a rigorous schedule of rehearsal.

Early into the practice sessions, it becomes apparent to the four solo artists, that what should have been an easy and familiar experience among former colleagues, is instead a frustrating mix of confusion and lack of professionalism, specifically caused by just two single personalities. While the four, throughout their travels, picked up new skills, tricks, and techniques along the way, by contrast, the others had done nothing to improve or maintain the skills and abilities they once exhibited.

The one, who had joined another band, was no better, in fact a bit below the level of expertise at the time of the split; while the other, who found another line of work, was so rusty, that it was hard to remember they had ever belonged to this band at all.

After days of exasperation and annoyance, worried about the success of the reunion, the group of four held a vote of ‘no-confidence’ on their former colleagues. By unanimous decision, they asked the two former members to leave the group. They refused. What’s more, they gambled on an assumption that their refusal would guarantee their place in a show set to go on. They lost that bet however. Rather than compromise the integrity of the band’s brand, the four made a subsequent decision to cancel the reunion tour altogether.

There was no going back, no going forward. Interest was lost. Better to be safe than sorry.

Fear was at work here too, but in this case, fear inspired a lack of trust in others, who if they had not suffered from their own crisis of self-confidence early on, would have been able, ready, and willing to enjoy continued success. Millions of dollars lost.

Given that you attended those rehearsals, were you one of the four or one of the two?  

  • Are you an analyst who can be agile?
  • Are you an analyst who can adapt easily?
  • Do you know how to apply your existing business analysis skills to any project regardless of methodology?
  • Are you prepared to position yourself as an analyst who can provide value to an organization in any environment?

If you are an experienced BA who is new to, or unsure of transitioning into an agile environment, we invite you to register for our Live six-week Agile Analyst course that will help you:

  • Gain the confidence to call yourself an Agile Analyst – one who can adapt and thrive in any organization or environment
  • Learn how to apply and improve your existing business analysis skills to any project regardless of methodology
  • Expand your opportunities for employment and career advancement by amplifying your BA marketability

Designed to unleash your inner agile analyst, this course focuses on:

  • Encouraging you to recognize your value as an agile/adaptable analyst within the scrum framework
  • Get comfortable with the agile mindset, team roles, process activities, and what it means to be an agile analyst in the true sense of the word
  • How to hone and use your current business analysis skills to jumpstart elicitation, write better user stories and utilize use cases to create more effective acceptance criteria.
  • How to overcome the fear of ‘working without a net’, and other challenges BAs face when transitioning to an unfamiliar methodology like agile.

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