Better Practices for No Meetings

In the first post in this series, I introduced you to Judy Rees’  Double Doom Loop. Loop 1 starts with poor experiences in meetings that lead to attendees not coming prepared which results in lack of engagement, and thus lack of achieving the meeting objectives. Loop 2 starts with too many meeting that have too many attendees which leads toa lack of focus which results in poor meeting experiences. Begin Loop 1 again. Rinse and repeat.

I covered Loop 1 in the first 2 posts. Now, let’s address how to avoid meetings that create that 2nd loop altogether.

Build asynchronous work into the meeting: Asynchronous work is work that can happen outside of the meeting on the attendee’s own time. Attendees can read a draft document, prepare a status report, or contribute to a shared output before the meeting so the synchronous (time together) work can focus on issues or decisions where group interaction is essential. Good “async” work reduces overall meeting time and leads to positive outcomes (and happier people).

Decline meetings if you don’t know why you’ve been invited: I give you permission to do this. In fact, look at your calendar right now and decline 2 meetings where you do not know why you’ve been invited. One of two things will happen:

1.Nothing. The Organizer won’t even notice.

2.The Organizer will reach out to ask you why you can’t attend. Ask why you are needed. This can lead to a teachable moment where you coach the Organizer on these practices!

    Just don’t have a meeting at all: Can you spare your attendees another meeting on their already-booked calendar? Be ruthless in your meeting planning to avoid wasting anyone’s time. Can solve this asynchronously? Can a group chat in your team channel get that issue resolved?

    Here’s my formula for deciding if I must have a meeting.

    1.Is this a critical issue? You might need to meet. Maybe.

    2.Has work been done on this already? Review that work first.

    3.What issues/questions are still outstanding? See point #1. Which are most critical?

    4.Who can answer the questions or resolve the issues? That is the person or people to talk to.

    Now assuming you’ve decided you need a meeting, consider the number of people you’ll need and whether meeting-less approach is possible:

    1-3 people – start with an email or group discussion but move to a meeting if issue isn’t resolved in XX days (or XX number of responses, etc.) where is X is defined by priority or complexity of the issue. (you decide what the X value is)

    4-6 people – schedule a short meeting, provide a detailed description of issues/questions, what output is needed for each one and who is needed for each topic 

    >6 people – why are so many people needed? Are there multiple issues? If so, break out the issues and go back through this formula.

      The best meeting is no meeting, as I always say!

      Good Practices for Better Meetings

      Meetings are expensive. Bad meetings kill morale and waste valuable time. Want to make your meetings better? Here are some things you can start doing today to make them better.

      Keep meetings short:

      End meetings on time: Similarly, ending on time or early makes for better meetings. Ending at the stated end time is a show of respect for attendees. Meeting organizers with a reputation of achieving their meeting objectives early have better engagement.

      Keep the attendee list short (and keep cutting): When you know what you need to achieve in a meeting, you generally know the key people you need to invite.

      I use a topic/time/attendee format when I organize meetings that require more than 5 attendees. To do this I:

      1.Tag agenda items with the attendees needed for each topic/question

      2. Include the amount of time we will allocate to each topic

      3. Identify which attendees are required for each topic

      4. Sequence topics so ones that need the full group are first. Ones that need a few or specific people are last.

      5. Identify “phone-a-friends,” or people that are optional so they understand why they have been included on the invitation and why we might need them.  

      This method allows attendees to know why they are needed and for how long. More importantly, it gives attendees options. They can show up at the time allotted, contribute, and leave when their topic is done.

      For larger meetings, identify helpers: Managing large meetings (10 people or more) is difficult, especially when they are remote. One person cannot facilitate, take notes, manage time and, if needed, contribute. Trust me. You will need to identify several people in advance of the meeting to help with these tasks. Do not wait until the start of the meeting to do this.

      A few of the roles you may need:

      Facilitator – It’s difficult to be a meeting contributor and trying to facilitate a meeting. Facilitators, especially ones that are independent, third parties, can keep things moving without being personally invested in the outcomes.

      Scribe – I find it difficult to take notes if I’m trying to contribute or facilitate. For large meetings, identify a scribe. This person will take notes, capture action items and help with the administration of the meeting.

      Timekeeper – a time keeper is helpful when you must stay on track (hint: you should always stay on track). Plan with them in advance how they will call time.

      Get a deep dive into the identifying the right participants for your meeting in my post Plan Your Best Meeting: Identify the Right Participants.

      Share notes/recaps after the meeting: “Meeting FOMO – fear of missing out” is the way I describe those people that like to be included on meeting invitations for no real reason. They want to make sure they don’t miss anything; however, if you invite them as observers, they can derail meetings. For these folks, I let them know I’ll share the outputs of the meeting with them afterwards.

      A few considerations:

      1.Indicate this in the invitation (some folks will opt-out and get notes instead)

      2. Balance notetaking with return on investment. You generally don’t need a word-for-word recap. Just bullet points of the decisions, issues and action items (with due dates and owner)

      Share the notes in a common, searchable repository such as a team channel (Slack, Teams, etc) or wiki so they are freely available to everyone

      The Cure for Bad Meetings

      Too many meetings are exhausting. Too many bad meetings are just plain terrible. Why? It’s what Judy Rees refers to as The Double Doom Loop.

      Loop 1 starts with poor experiences in meetings that lead to attendees not coming prepared which results in lack of engagement, and thus lack of achieving the meeting objectives. The second loop starts with too many meeting that have too many attendees which leads to a lack of focus which results in poor meeting experiences. Enter Loop 1 again. Rinse and repeat.

      Bad meeting practices cost organizations real money. By some estimates, it’s in the billions or trillions of (US) dollars annually. It doesn’t have to be this way. There are small steps we can take to make a dent.

      Meeting Preparation Matters

      Let’s start with the first loop of the Double Doom loop. Lack of preparation is a common problem with bad meetings. Whether you’re remote, hybrid or in person, meeting preparation makes the difference between a productive meeting and a bad one.

      Things like:

      • Taking time to prepare your meeting purpose, objectives and outcomes
      • Creating and sharing an agenda in advance of the meeting
      • Selecting attendees based on your agenda topics
      • Limiting or not inviting attendees that don’t lead to the outcomes of the meeting
      • And preparing your participants before the meeting to be productive in the meeting

      These can help to improve attendee engagement and create meetings that achieve their stated outcomes. But there’s more you can do to reduce bad meetings. (stay tuned for the next post in this series!)

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      Keys to Establishing Virtual Professionalism

      As virtual work is the norm these days, it’s become increasingly important to establish a professional virtual presence. Virtual presence is as much about our online image as it is about “showing up,” the slang phrase that means being present. Whether you’re a knowledge worker, a manager or an executive, your online image, or lack of one, can impact your ability to create professional, productive relationships with your customers or colleagues. In this post, I’ll explore some of the keys to establishing yourself as a leader through virtual professionalism.

      Invest in tools that support good virtual communication

      Virtual professionalism starts with getting your message across in a reliable and consistent manner. Tools that support good quality audio and video are a priority for any kind of remote work. The camera and microphone on your company laptop will likely sufficient for this task. Professionals who rely on virtual communication as part of their work must invest in tools that will support high quality audio and video.

      • A free-standing microphone or wired headset will ensure that you have the best possible audio.
      • An HD camera that can be mounted and moved ensures that your image is clear and crisp.

      Finally, what is good quality audio and video without reliable internet to carry your message? A strong internet signal with plenty of bandwidth is an essential part of the tool kit for virtual professionalism.

      Develop a Professional Virtual Presence

      Virtual presence is defined by both the static and interactive components that make up your online presence. The static components include things like the photo used in your profile or the work history listed in a social media profile. But in virtual communication, your presence is also defined by personal attributes like:

      • your expressions and gestures
      • your speaking voice
      • your writing style and tone

      Speaking, writing and body movements take on more importance because they are the way we “come alive” online. Professionals working remotely must understand how these parts of themselves can impact their ability to be seen as trusted, credible and reliable.

      Create Visibility in Your Workplace

      Remote work can make us invisible in hybrid workplaces or to clients that are on the other side of the world (or town). The key to visibility is to communicate regularly and authentically in a variety of formats. Ways to increase your visibility include:

      • Turn on your camera whenever you can
      • Reach out to co-workers and customers regularly through chat tools to stay in touch and provide updates on your work progress
      • Participate in social events virtually or in person, if possible
      • Participate in networking opportunities

      And don’t forget the little things. Just including a professional image of yourself in the profile of all apps you use to communicate is a great reminder that there’s a human behind your virtual communication tools!

      Communicate Effectively in Virtual Settings

      Virtual communication is essential in the modern workplace, and it requires an additional set of skills than those used in purely face-to-face communication. First, the basics of verbal and written communication are a must:

      • Speak clearly
      • Be mindful of your tone and body language
      • Keep your written communication professional and appropriate for your audience

      Communicating successfully in virtual settings requires new takes on communication skills that you are already using.

      • Listening – Virtual professionals must know how to listen actively as well as empathetically. Active listening helps you understand what is being said. Empathetic listening helps you hear how the speaker is feeling so that you can respond with empathy.
      • Showing respect -Using people’s time wisely, being prepared for your virtual interactions and spending time reading emails and chats are ways that you demonstrate your respect for them.
      • Leadership – Leading virtually means making a point to communicate about how communication will happen, creating psychological safety online and ensuring that contributions from virtual colleagues or customers are transparent and fair.

      Being Self-Aware

      Virtual technology removes context from our interactions with others. Verbal and non-verbal queues are often hidden which can lead to misunderstandings. Those working in virtual workplaces must understand how they are being perceived by others in their digital communications. This requires self-awareness.

      Being self-aware means to understand how others perceive you. It involves understanding how your bodily and social queues lead others to come to a conclusion about you, your values and your emotions. While you can’t change how people come to their conclusions, you can become more aware of how your actions might be interpreted, or misinterpreted, by others.

      “Being self-aware” seems like a big task. Simply understanding that we must be attuned to our behaviors and their reasons is a good first step towards building self-awareness.

      Want to build your virtual professionalism?

      Virtual professionalism is essential for establishing yourself as a leader in your industry. Do you want to know about virtual professionalism and building your online presence? Take a deeper dive into the skills you need to excel with my free email course Improve Your Virtual Communication.

      Surviving a Layoff

      I was laid off early in my career. I have survived layoffs later in my career. Laid off staff are given support through salary, coaching or offering new opportunities in the company. Surviving a layoff means more work, uncertainty and sense of uneasiness for the survivors. This sense of loss impacts survivors in physical and mental ways. There are many articles out there that offer guidance to people who have been laid off but few articles for . For the layoff survivors out there, this article is for you.

      Conflicting Emotions

      If you’ve survived the lay off you may feel two conflicting set of emotions:

      • Relief that you survived
      • Fear, uncertainty or anger with what’s happened

      The leaders of your organization will likely focus your attention on the positive, new direction of your company which may make you feel like you need to lean in to the feeling of relief. But deep down those other feelings – fear, uncertainty and anger – are present. This is natural. There is nothing wrong with you that you feel both sets of emotions.

      Don’t Ignore Your Feelings

      The emotions you are feeling about the layoff are real. It’s important for you to pay attention to and address what you are feeling. Studies show that ignoring negative emotions can impact our both our physical and mental health. We may lull ourselves into believing that layoffs are “just business” but consider how much a part of your life is at work. Your colleagues are friends and may even feel like family members. Changes like this can be shocking, jarring and even traumatic.

      Pause Before Making Any Impulsive Moves

      Rage-posting, rage-quitting, and rage-applying (to new jobs). Your first instinct after the layoffs may be to lash out or leave. Short term this may feel good. Long term, these behaviors may not serve you.

      Studies show that about 25% of employees will leave after a layoff. This response is driven by grief and anger. See the prior point – don’t ignore your feelings. Work through your feelings first and then move from reaction to action.

      Job hopping before you’ve processed your feelings can mean that you take that negativity with you. These emotions can emerge in your interview and, if you get the job, in your interactions with colleagues and managers.

      I’m not suggesting that finding something new isn’t reasonable. I am suggesting that until you work through the emotions of surviving the layoff, you are vulnerable to making decisions which you may regret later.

      Talk It Out

      Surviving a layoff can trigger so many emotions, some that have nothing to do with the layoff itself. Before moving to action, make sure you take some time to talk (or vent or complain). Avoiding feelings can bottle up emotions that will hold you back.

      You may be feeling survivor’s guilt. In David M. Noer’s book Healing the Wounds: Overcoming the Trauma of Layoffs and Revitalizing a Downsized Organization, he describes layoff survivor sickness (or guilt) as “a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense; an emotional reaction that one has violated social mores. (pg. 14) You may feel as if you could have done more to save others. You may also question why you were selected to stay while others were let go. These feelings can have a great impact on your productivity, energy and mental health.

      Find a trusted confidante – a family member, colleague or other person – with whom you can share what your feelings. The act of verbalizing what you are feeling can assist you in finding your footing and determining what action, if any, you need to take next.

      And Then Consider Your Next Steps

      I was complaining to my dad a few days after a layoff. He replied “you’ll be miserable as long as you want to be.” He was right. I needed to move from “being miserable” to doing something about it. Complaining can make us feel you feel stuck, which prevents us from moving forward.

      When we switch our mindset from one of lack of control to one of control, we can see possibilities for how our situation can play out.

      In the next post, I’ll look into some steps you might consider next.

      Two Important Business Analysis Questions

      Work with me for any length of time and you’ll hear me ask one of 2 questions when I work with customers:

      • What problem are we trying to solve?
      • Can I draw you a picture?

      These are my two signature business analysis questions I use when I’m framing a problem with a customer and helping us come to a common understanding of how to solve it.

      The Background

      This happens a lot: the customer comes with a “need” that sounds suspiciously like a frankenstein-style solution that has been cobbled together to solve the symptoms of a problem. I wrote about this in my post Starting From Solutions: When a customer requests a solution. But how can you get the customer to stop talking about solutions and start talking about the problem? By doing 2 things:

      • listen to the customer
      • listen to yourself

      Listen to your customer

      While you may not agree with the solutions that your customer is offering to solve her problem, you can listen for some very important information:

      • who is impacted by this problem both directly and indirectly?
      • what are the tools or processes they are describing?
      • why is it important that they solve this now?
      • what’s the emotion behind this problem? (annoyed, excited, angry, etc)

      These clues give context about the nature and priority of the problem. The first 2 bullets tell you something about who and what are involved in this problem. The second 2 bullets help you assess the “pain” around the problem.

      It’s easy to catch the information from the first 2 bullets. You may even ask a few clarifying questions to understand this as the customer is giving you the details.

      The second 2 bullets require you to listen by engaging your emotional intelligence skills. This is where you need to listen to yourself.

      Listen to yourself

      As the customer is describing the problem, are they are using words or body language that indicate:

      1. the discomfort that this issue is creating
      2. how they feel about the problem
      3. ways that they would solve the problem

      These words are tapping into their emotions that are triggered by the problem. Listen to yourself for a moment. How would you feel if these issues were happening to you? Can you relate to how they are reacting? Emotions are data. The information they are sharing can help prioritize the area(s) that need the most attention.

      Now that we’ve listened to the customer and ourselves, let’s move the conversation in the direction of identifying what to do by asking my first signature question.

      “What problem are we trying to solve?”

      This question is to intended to reset the conversation. To move the speaker away from emotional responses to the problem and back into looking at the facts around the problem. I’ll often follow this question with a brief paraphrasing of what I believe the problem to be. For example:

      “What problem are we trying to solve? It sounds like the problem you are having is that the system is showing you all the available forms instead of just the forms you need to complete the policy processing.” Is that correct?

      Asking the questions in this way – and then paraphrasing the problem you’ve heard so far – gives the stakeholder a potential problem statement to focus on. Is there more information needed? Great! Using the question “What problem are we trying to solve?” opens the door to clarifying that problem.

      Can I draw you a picture?

      The second question is my introduction of a visualization of the problem. I’ll ask this question when I feel like we need help getting to the problem to solve. Pictures also help to focus the conversation on details which may or may not be meaningful. Often, seeing this information in a structured format can give the customer a new way of engaging with the problem.

      I use the term “picture” pretty loosely here. A picture might mean a table of information, a quick workflow or a diagram of some type. Don’t focus on finding the “right” technique. Instead, use something simple or your go-to technique. Attempting to find the perfect model will only waste time and take away from the conversation.

      The model represents a point-in-time understanding of the problem. Use the picture only as long as needed to identify the problem to solve and agree to the priorities.

      There you have it! These are my two signature questions. Do you have questions that you use? I’d love to hear about it. Share them with me.

      Letting Them Down Gently: Saying No Professionally

      At some point in the career of a business analysis or product professional, you’ll have to say “no.” This can happen whether you are a formal or informal leader. Saying no is hard because we feel like we are going back on a promise or we are failing to deliver. Regardless of how you got to “no” it’s important to deliver the message professionally and diplomatically so the work can move forward.

      You can’t just say “no” and leave. Delivering the news requires honesty, respect and listening. Let’s dive into what that looks like.

      Prepare Yourself

      Saying no can be hard. You need to be ready as possible to deliver that news.

      • Do you have the facts behind the decision and are you able to explain them confidently?
      • Are there options or alternatives that you need you to discuss?
      • Can the decision be reconsidered? Make sure you understand under what conditions the decision can be renegotiated or reversed.
      • Is there a timeline or important dates that the receiver needs to be aware of? Bring that information in writing, if possible.

      Finally, how do you feel about the news you are about to deliver? We can unintentionally bring our negative feelings into the delivery of the message. If you are feeling unsettled about the decision, give yourself a bit more time to get your emotions in check so that you can deliver the message professionally.

      Be honest

      Get to the point when saying no. Being vague or going on with details about how the decision came to be makes things confusing. This can come across to the receiver that you are hiding something.

      Delivering bad news can be especially hard when you are the messenger, not the decision maker behind the decision. Regardless, giving information honestly is essential. Honesty preserves the relationship. If you have a established trust with the person to whom you are saying no, the news is little more than just a conversation between 2 colleagues.

      Stick to the Facts

      Sometimes “no” doesn’t mean “never.” It means “not now.” Provide details, where you can, about exactly what no means. Don’t provide your opinions or discuss hypotheticals about a set of facts that don’t apply to this decision. Stick to the facts that led to this decision to say no.

      Allowing space shouldn’t be confused with allowing them to renegotiate the decision. Asking to reconsider is also a very human response. Assuming that the decision is non-negotiable, you need to explain that the decision is final and they need to be ready to move to the next steps. Help them identify what they can do next.

      Allow space for listening and answering questions

      I’ve been there. You want to swoop in, say “no,” and move on to the next thing on your list. Avoid that reaction. Delivering potentially bad or disappointing news is uncomfortable. It’s natural to want to get it over with. But don’t do that. You want to maintain the relationship with the person you’re letting down. To do that, you need to make space to hear their concerns and to answer their questions.

      Rejection – or perceived rejection – can trigger emotions that have nothing to do with a business decision. Give the person space to process their initial emotion. Do that first by listening. Are they disappointed? Do they want more information? Do they need to know what the next steps are? These are reasonable reactions and deserve your response. Be prepared to provide more information where you can so their questions are heard.

      Wrap Up

      Once you’ve delivered the “no” and answered questions, you may have a few loose ends. Go back through the highlights of the discussion and reiterate the next steps. Identify who owns the follow up and when it is due. Where possible, do all of this verbally and follow up in writing. This ensures that you both have walked away with the same understanding of what was discussed. Moreover, it “book ends” the process of delivering the news and marks its final milestone.

      The New Remote Business Analyst’s Responsibilities in On-boarding Part 2

      In Part 1 of this post I shared 3 L’s in the remote Business Analyst’s set of on-boarding responsibilities. There’s one more responsibility. – and, thus, one more L – to cover.

      First, A Story

      Year ago, I was hired at a medium sized insurance company at the beginning of a system replacement project. There was no formal on-boarding program for business analysts. I received a list of the tools I would use along with my IDs and passwords. That was it. Most of my team and my manager were located in a different building on campus. My desk was located amongst the underwriters and product managers in the company. I wanted to be ready as soon as our project started and in the days before the work started, I wanted to learn as much as I could. I could’ve just sat and earned paycheck while I waited for the project. But that’s not my style.

      First, I asked my manager to help me schedule short meetings with department leaders from across the company that I might be working with. I took an Insurance Basics course to learn about the products the company sold. The IT Support team let me do an internal internship with them for a few weeks to become familiar with the systems and customers they supported. Finally, when I had one-off business questions, I would roam the floor with a bag of candy and ask for some assistance. Eventually, business people sought me out because 1) I had candy and 2) they knew I was working on the new projects and they had questions for me!

      Lead Yourself

      The fourth L is “lead yourself.” As Business Analysts and, particularly as remote Business Analysts, we don’t always have someone closely directing our work. We must be motivated enough to identify tasks and create our own plan when no one has asked. Leadership skills, whether informal or formal, are a tool you must have in your essential skill toolkit.

      My self-created program not only got me involved in the organization but enabled me to build relationships so I could get additional help as needed. More importantly, it demonstrated to my manager that I could work and learn independently. These things helped me to build a solid reputation within the company

      How to Create Your Own On-Boarding Plan

      On-boarding doesn’t have to be official, lengthy or scheduled. But it does need to prepare you for your work in the organization. If your new employer doesn’t have a program, start looking for ways you can learn your organization. Here are some questions to guide your preparation:

      • Who will I work with? Schedule short introductory meetings with them. Ask if you can shadow their work or review some of their deliverables, if appropriate.
      • What products and services does my company sell? Identify any internal training or materials that will help you learn more
      • What tools and systems will I use to perform my work? Work with your Support team(s) to identify the tools and finding training available to you
      • Where are the processes, procedures and documentation that support the work of the company? Talk with your manager or team members to locate these sources and create your plan to go through them
      • What projects will be I part of? Arrange to meet members of the team. Learn about the status of their project. Review their documentation. Find out what’s next.
      • What else do I need to know? Along the way, you’ll learn new things that will inspire you to learn more. Document those things and develop your plan to learn them.

      Prioritize and Create a Schedule

      You’ll learn a lot by asking these questions. Start your list and begin prioritizing it. Use a prioritization technique like MoSCoW to prioritize what you must, should, could or won’t need to know. Now, schedule your tasks Create a spreadsheet to track what you are doing and when so you can see your progress.

      Finally, if you don’t have a 1:1 scheduled with your manager, make that part of your on-boarding program. Meeting regularly with your manager gives you the ability to share your progress and ask for assistance when you are stuck. This can also be a gentle nudge to your manager about the benefits of creating a formal on-boarding program.

      The New Remote Business Analyst’s Responsibilities in On-boarding Part 1

      In this series, I’ve talked about the responsibilities of the organization and the hiring manager in on-boarding new remote business analysis professionals. Yes, a lot of the responsibility for this program are on the hiring organization. But, remote business analysts, you are not a passive player in on-boarding. You have responsibilities too! Here are the 4 L’s that the remote business analyst is accountable for.

      Leave Your Ego at the Door

      Your organization may have hired you because you are a “rock star” (this is not a term I like, by the way) but if you arrive with the arrogance and flaky temperament of a rock star, you won’t keep your job. The first 90 days of your employment are your opportunity to get to know your employer, its culture and it’s their opportunity to get to know you. Behaving poorly in the first few months of your new job is a red flag to your new employer.

      You serve yourself and your new colleagues well by being humble, patient and coachable so you can build positive relationships.

      Listen (and Ask Smart Questions)

      Your first 90 days will be full of new faces, processes and projects. Our brains can only take in so much information into short term memory and “file it away” for later use. Make time to listen to comprehend. Listening to comprehend involves:

      • Being patient as information is shared with you,
      • Paying attention,
      • Paraphrasing what you’ve heard the speaker say, and
      • Asking questions to clarify what you’ve heard

      When I say “ask smart questions,” I’m not referring to the acronym SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound). I’m referring to asking questions that reflect that you have understood what you have learned and you are incorporating it into a view of the topic that represents your understanding. This not only shows that you are investing in the on-boarding program, but you are also modeling the (essential) skills of listening, interviewing and learning.

      For more on listening, check out my post The Difference Between Hearing and Listening.

      Learn and Then Apply Your Learning

      You’ve been hired by your new employer because you have the right mix of skills, knowledge, experience and personality for the position. But you don’t know everything about your new company. Your organization’s on-boarding program will expose you to the processes, tools, and culture that will make you successful. Commit to learning what they are providing you. They are giving you the keys to success in their company. Then as quickly as possible demonstrate that you can apply what you have your learned. This gives you the opportunity to show your commitment to the organization and it provides opportunities to clarify anything you may not understand.

      It’s not important that you love what you are learning. It’s irrelevant for you to talk about what you’ve done at other jobs before this one. In the early days of your new job it’s important for you to understand how things are done at your new company so that you can become productive as quickly as possible. Depending on the organization, you may have an opportunity in the future to improve the processes, projects or culture but in the early days, it’s important for you to learn how your organization works.

      But what if your new employer doesn’t have an on-boarding program? Well, that’s what the 4th L is all about and I’ll cover that in the next post.

      Preparing Your Remote Business Analyst to Build Relationships

      So, you’re hiring new remote business analysis professionals. You’ve got problems to solve in your organization so getting them integrated into your organization quickly is essential. But how? In the first post in this series, I talked about the importance of building an on-boarding program specific to the work of the BA.

      Where would I start in building this plan? Not by building a list of tools they will use or showing them where the process documentation is. I would focus on building a list of the people they will work directly and indirectly with and create a schedule of short introductions.

      Business analysis is a relationship business.

      So you must prepare your new remote Business Analysts to build relationships in your organization. This will them up for success in their role.

      The focus of business analysis professionals is identifying the right problems to solve within an organization. Identifying the right problem is more than just asking a stakeholder “what’s your problem.” Often (very often, I might add) our stakeholders can’t articulate that problem however. They may describe symptoms. Perhaps they’ve envisioned the outcome they’d like to see (check out this post on Starting From Solutions: When a customer requests a solution). But these are not the problem to solve.

      A seasoned business analysis professional has the skills to draw out information from stakeholders and others that can help identify the true problem to solve. Drawing out that information doesn’t happen by “getting down to business” and asking questions. It often happens through skillfully-led conversations. Notice I’m not saying skillfully led “requirements elicitation sessions” or “facilitating workshops.” These are formal mechanisms that can be used after problem identification to start working towards solutions.

      While problem identification is underway, discussions, conversations and informal chats are a great way to uncover information that may not be commonly available. So how can we have conversations that result in such discoveries?

      By creating authentic relationships with stakeholders and others in the organization.

      Internal networking

      If you’ve worked in an organization for a number of years, you may know a lot of people. You’ve worked on projects with them. Talked with them at company events. Know them through mutual colleagues. You’ve been networking internally!

      Have you spent time cultivating these relationships? Networking internally in your company not only builds your professional network but also leads to conversations that give you new perspectives on other parts of your organization. That knowledge can be a differentiator in the business analysis work you do. You will already have people you can call on for assistance.

      By cultivating I mean growing those relationships socially, without an end goal in mind. Creating these kinds of relationships can lead to friendships which enhance our work life.

      Make sure your on-boarding program assists your new business analysis professional with internal networking as well. Include short, virtual introductions with key stakeholders first. Schedule them on behalf of the new BA.

      As the business analyst begins working on projects or participating in social events in your company, encourage them to schedule other virtual meet and greets. Bring up internal networking as part of your 1:1 plan and be willing to listen to the new BA talk about the new people they’ve met!

      Relationship building requires trust

      The key to building relationships is trust. We build trust by being:

      • honest and authentic in our communications,
      • doing what we say are going to do,
      • confidential and respectful when someone is sharing sensitive information with us, and
      • genuinely focused on contributing to the relationship rather than focusing on what you can get out of the relationship

      These components are part of the trust equation described in The Trusted Advisor. I recommend this book (and there are several books and workbooks in this series) as part of your business analysis development program, in addition to your remote business analyst on-boarding.

      You must talk about the importance of these elements but to be most effective these elements must be modeled and practiced regularly. Build time into your on-boarding program to discussing the importance of building trust and how this leads to better business analysis outcomes.