Mastering & Improving …

I am honored to be a guest contributor to ThoughtWorks Studios’ blog this week. This post coalesces some of my thinking about the effort Business Analysts should be putting forth to grow as individuals and as a profession. Please go check out and comment on Mastering and Continuously Improving Stories with Shu Ha Ri.

Image of post on ThoughtWorks Studios website

It was different writing a guest post for ThoughtWorks. I often ask for feedback on my posts before publishing them, but this was much closer to having an editor. The suggestions were deeper and more serious than I usually get from friends and colleagues. I think the post turned out better for it. Also, they wrote the title and suggested the calligraphy image. I suppose I could have asked or been insistent about changing these (Kristi doesn’t understand why this picture was chosen), but I was much more honored to be asked for this than I am concerned about the title and image.

I want a conversation about what it takes to learn and master our craft, so please do comment on the post!

Be Like Aaron

A colleague of mine died on Friday and the internet is aflame with sorrow and anger. I pray his family sees the outpouring and feels within the lives he touched and love he generated.

Aaron Swartz, a technical prodigy and activist was being prosecuted for allegedly stealing thousands of documents. A quick search will leads you to lots of details about the circumstances around Aaron’s involvement and the justness of Justice in his case.

Aaron and I first met last June and again in November, but I couldn’t say he knew who I was. Our meeting was on a bus and we were part of a rolling conversation covering the the state of business analysis at ThoughtWorks, activism, world affairs, media and branding, privacy, the security apparatus surrounding international travel, and more. In these many topics it was quickly obvious I knew about one or two issues. Aaron knew about everything else. It was intimidating, even more than usual, to be around someone who was so young and obviously better informed than I am.

As many have said, Aaron was a prodigy. And when you read enough, of his own words and those who knew him, you learn his technical abilities were only part of the story. In truth he was much more.

How many times have you wondered how something worked or why something wasn’t just a little better? Aaron wondered that, too. Aaron’s curiosity was childlike, asking why without any pretext or presumption. He understood the problem was with the systems trapping people into a course of action instead of the individuals. He worked to put together all the parts into a coherent whole and the motivation behind that whole. He believed he could work hard and make a change. He believe he, and we, could change the world. And then he worked to make it that way.

Forget about his prodigious skill. Forget about what he built so far. If you can, forget about all we have lost with his passing. Instead, dedicate yourself  to doing what Aaron did. Find a problem. Choose to understand the big picture instead of complaining. And then do something to fix it.

Aaron asked lots of questions, and then he offered himself and his talents to the solution. As we start 2013, I cannot think of a better resolution to make than to be more like Aaron.

Scale

Measuring the Analysis Process

I’ve previously written about measuring requirements and business analysts. I am concluding the series with my current thoughts on measuring the analysis process.

What_gets_measured_gets_done

This quote is a truism is because it’s how we work. Measurements help us identify areas we should focus on or improve. Measurements let us know when we succeeded, or not. I love the idea of measuring BAs and yet, I have spent years balking at the idea of measuring requirements and BAs. It doesn’t work very well in practice.* I had cause to rethink the how to measure BAs when one team I worked on took down the following action item, ”Decide (if,) how and what BA velocity to track.”

512878595_dae3c75aab_o

Measuring Business Analysts; Don’t KPI Me

Good managers often ask, “How do I know my team is performing well? How can I spot which folks need help? Who should I reward for a job well done?” In today’s busy world, where managers have significant responsibilities in addition to nurturing their team, measurements and metrics can be a a help.

Unfortunately, it is really easy to measure analysts poorly.

book jacket

Read “Discover to Deliver”

In Discover to Deliver: Agile Product Planning & Analysis, Ellen Gottesdiener (author of The Software Requirements Memory Jogger and Requirements by Collaboration) and Mary Gorman tackle one of the largest problems facing Agile and Scrum software projects, how to successfully integrate the ideas and tools made so popular over the last decade into working, valuable solutions.