Flexibility & Adaptability (Blog 2 of The 21st Century Business Analyst series)

As Business Analysts, we are required to be very flexible and adaptable in our environment. Our environment can include clients, motivators, opportunities, deliverables, and our overall space. In competitive markets and fluctuating economies, clients are constantly faced with competing and changing priorities. The very nature of our work is to implement change, whether through implementing new processes, technology, strategic direction, etc.  As such, Business Analysts must harness their skills in flexibility and quickly change their priorities (such as deliverables) to meet their client’s needs. I’d like to introduce 3 concepts to help Business Analysts continue to remain flexible & adaptable.

  1. Changing Priorities

Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve been working on a deliverable for a couple of months? Have you had your Project Manager, or Client approach you to inform you that priorities have changed, and the deliverable you have been working on for months is no longer required? We have all been there. It’s quite the frustrating experience. However, as opposed to giving into that frustration, it might be best to leverage the power of perception instead. For example, in this situation, are you going to be the type of person to say “this is months of hard work wasted” or are you going to say “this is possible work and documentation that another BA can leverage”. Or perhaps the company can also leverage this work in a future roadmap. This scenario is important as it highlights the nature of our work. As Business Analysts, we are going to be in environments with changing priorities. How we handle ourselves in these situations all work toward our professional image. We need to be conscious of the image that we put forward. Ideally, we would like to present ourselves in all situations with class, dignity and integrity. When frustrations arise due to changing priorities, it is important to learn to let the deliverables go.

In a downturn economy, remaining flexible can also include re-evaluating your motivators. As organizations change priorities, they can also choose to change people. An extreme situation such as a lay off, may present a catalyst for this re-evaluation to occur.

2. Resilience 

Resilience – Allow yourself to grow.

We’ve all experienced difficult challenges in some way, shape or form. It is through experiencing these challenges that we are able to increase our resiliency. Resilience is essential to success, in our personal and professional life. It is often a quiet skill that is most sought after. Increasing your resilience can also lead to a tangible and desirable skill; being resourceful. Being resourceful in this sense can be defined as having the ability to find quick and clever ways to overcome difficulties. Many of us have experienced situations that have increased our resilience. Especially in a downturn economy, we all know someone, or have experienced a lay off firsthand. In these difficult times, remaining flexible is key.  Flexibility in your motivators can include your career path in this sense. For example, if you have been laid off as an employee, in order to stay competitive, you may have had to switch motivators and become a Business Consultant. Changing motivators allows you to take new risks. Risk taking is a fear that many of us share. We are often faced with the questions of “Am I good enough?” “Will I fail?” These fears tend to manifest as our excuses for not trying; “I don’t have time”, “I don’t have money to invest in this”, “I can’t do this because…”. We have all been there, and this is a difficult habit to break. However, the key to resilience, is to break this habit and try. Afterall, if you are afraid to start a new challenge, chances are it is the right challenge for you to grow.

Another topic I want to cover, is conquering our fear of rejection. Many of us have a fear of hearing the word “no.” And “no” is not that powerful of a word, it has as much power as you enable it to have over you. “No” could be an opportunity, as it is likely to be followed up with the question “why?”. If you happen to pitch an idea to someone, and they respond with “no, why?” this is your time to speak up and convince them; engage your critical thinking skills and pitch your idea. That’s how you become an entrepreneur.

3. Resourceful

Resourceful –  Having the ability to find quick and clever ways to overcome difficulties.

The next skill I want to focus on that will help Business Analysts remain flexible and adaptable; be resourceful. Many employees and consultants demonstrate value in their roles through demonstrating their resourceful skills. In the definition provided above, “Resourceful” is described as a skill to think of clever ways to overcome challenges. If you happen to have been laid off, or your contract ends, be resourceful! Reach out to your network, ask if they know anyone for you to connect with. People genuinely want to help other people, you just need to allow them to help you. One of the lessons I have learned from others, is that there is no self-made person. People help each other achieve successes. If you have a goal, or an idea that you would like to explore, the best thing you can do is share that within your network of trusted and like-minded contacts. If you are vocal enough about what you would like to achieve, people will help you achieve that goal. But like anything, it takes hard work and risks.

Risks – The starting point; it all begins with an idea.

Taking risk is key, not only to professional growth, but also on the road to success. And really, it all begins with an idea. It’s alright to have an idea, and not pursue anything from it. It’s alright to have that choice. However, there are some of us out there who have an idea, and it happens to always be sitting at the back of our mind. If you are passionate about an idea, but too afraid to take a risk and get started, it may be best to think about the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Assess if there is an appetite for your idea in the market. If you are able to get people interested or “hooked”, it might be valuable to investigate if anyone has had a similar idea to yours. Sharing ideas and experiences with like-minded people will help you overcome your fear. Allow yourself to learn and grow from others. Try to turn a “no” into a potential “yes”, because it can be done. This can be achieved through your confidence, your passion, your approach, your flexibility, your adaptability, and your critical thinking. These are all skills that BAs have in our back pocket, and these skills come the most naturally to us than any other profession.

I’d like to share a story that encompasses all of the skills mentioned above.  In grade 2, I had my own bookmark company. In the age of Scholastic book fairs, I remember kids paying $5 at most for a new bookmark. At that time, my motivator was candy. I thought “if I make my own money, I can buy my own candy.” A simple goal, with a simple idea. I decided to make my own bookmarks and sell them at 5-10 cents each. I went door to door (that is to say, I went to all of my friend’s houses who lived on my street) around dinner time. Dinner time, as we all know, isn’t the best time to get sales. Immediately, I had an idea, ” I need to think bigger”. I went to my room and found an old art supply kit shaped like a briefcase. I dumped out the art supplies and filled the compartments with bookmarks (according to size and theme), and took it to school with me the next day. I tried selling my bookmarks during recess to no avail. After recess, I returned to class, ready to give up on my endeavour. Almost immediately, the teacher had to step out of class briefly. While she was gone, everyone approached my desk wanting to buy bookmarks! I knew, now was not the time to sell bookmarks, however, I knew I needed to sell my bookmarks! What was I going to do with 200 bookmarks for myself?

I popped open my briefcase and quickly completed some transactions, but I wasn’t quick enough. The teacher had returned to the classroom to empty seats and children surrounded around my desk. Needless to say, she was not impressed. That day, I got my briefcase (with my bookmarks and profit) confiscated. I also got a stern lecture from my teacher (outside of the classroom, so other students knew it was serious).

After the embarrassing lecture, I went back to school the very next day. And the day after that, and the day after that. How fearless are we, as children, to have an idea and do it? How fearless are we, to shrug off the lecture and opinion of others, and show up the very next day? Skills like defining motivators, resilience and resourcefulness are often learned at a young age. The biggest lessons we learn are at a young age. We tend to miss applying them to our career when we grow up.


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