This is blog is part of a wider series of blogs which looks to uncover ‘‘What can Business Analysts learn from Stephen Covey’s work?’ and is focused on the habit of ‘Think Win/Win. This is the fourth habit and the first within the ‘Private Victory’ category. Let’s take a look at the habit, and review what can be learned from this from the perspective of an individual business analyst to increase effectiveness.
What is the habit?
This habit is focused on negotiation between one or more individuals and can be applied to personal and work based negotiations. To fully apply the habit, it is useful to have first made progress on the first three habits. These are ‘Be Proactive’, ‘Begin with the end in mind’ and ‘Put First Things First’. To understand the Think Win/Win approach it is useful to compare it to the other negotiation outcomes. These are:
- Lose/Lose – both parties in the negotiation arrive at an undesirable outcome. This could have a negative impact on both.For example – a negotiation on choice of restaurant between two friends ‘Sam’ and ‘Sandy’. Sam wants to go to a Thai Restaurant. Sandy wants to go to a Chinese Restaurant. At the end of the negotiation they end up going to an Italian restaurant which neither particularly like. To read more about this type of thinking take a look at the Abilene paradox https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abilene_paradox. This short video also provides an explanation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwFUkm-p404.
- Lose/Win – The ‘lose’ party experiences a negative or undesirable outcome. The ‘Win’ party gains a positive desirable outcome, typically this is at the expense of the other party. In our example of the two friends, Sandy’s preference prevails and they end up going to a Chinese restaurant. Sam perhaps regrets agreeing to go out for the meal and wishes that she had stayed in to eat takeaway!
- Win/Lose – This is a reverse of ‘Lose/Win’. In our example, Sam’s preference prevails and they end up going to a Thai restaurant. In this version of events it is Sandy that wishes they had done something else with their evening.
Covey also introduces a fifth negotiation outcome which can be invoked by either party. This is the ‘No Deal’ outcome. Essentially, ‘No Deal’ indicates that one party is not prepared to be in a compromise or losing position and consequently would rather that ‘No Deal’ took place. This is similar to the concept of BATNA (Best Alternative Negotiated Agreement) developed by Ury and Fisher (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Best_alternative_to_a_negotiated_agreement)
In our restaurant example, after some negotiation of restaurant choice either Sam or Sandy could say that they are not going to go on the culinary outing. It might be that one party doesn’t like the food at the proposed restaurant, has previously suffered food poisoning at that restaurant, have a physical intolerance for the type of food or simply cannot afford to eat there.
Opting out of a decision may also occur because one party has historically always decided and the other have simply had enough of not having their views listened to.
Given the context of the other potential outcomes let’s now look at ‘Win/Win’. To obtain this outcome requires an investment of time and effort in the understanding of the other person’s negotiation position. More of this in later habits.
Using our example, it might be that the Win/Win outcome is that the friends sit and watch their favourite movie at one of their homes whilst eating takeaway from their respective favourite restaurants. Or perhaps there is a new Asian style fusion restaurant that has opened up, selling both Chinese and Thai food that they decide to visit. For it to be a genuine Win/Win, both parties will have worked in a collaborate fashion to achieve an outcome that is better than either could achieve independently.
What can Business Analysts Learn from this habit?
Business analysts should use a collaborative approach to help achieve beneficial outcomes for their stakeholders and the overall organisation. All too often the BA is put under pressure to help deliver solutions that appear to not provide any measurable benefit. This may be, for example, due to a poorly conceived or non-existent business case. Perhaps there are wider politics at play or there is simply a lack of foresight or analysis regarding the change. In this situation the BA could perhaps feel as though they are in a lose position in contrast to a project or programme manager (or sponsor) requesting on time, on cost delivery against scope.
If the BA does not recognise this, there is also a potential for the organisation to lose ultimately due to the change initiative delivering damaging outcomes. With this framework the BA can seek to negotiate to a Win/Win. This might be on time, on cost delivery within an agreed scope for changes that provide beneficial outcomes.
For some BA’s negotiating for the Win/Win will not be possible due to resistance from other parties involved in the change. This is where some BAs may make an active choice to present the ‘No Deal’ outcome or to accept the ‘lose’ position.
Some BAs may decide to accept the ‘lose’ position as this might protect their job and lead to outcomes that are not as bad as they might have otherwise been with no BA involvement at all.
In some contexts, a ‘No Deal’ option could equate to non-provision of BA support for the change initiative. This approach is not without risk and if done in the wrong way at the wrong time can be damaging to relationships and future career prospects.
Perhaps this forces the BA to think about the first habits and consider what they can do in order to be ‘Pro-active’ to prevent this situation repeating. They could work on defining the end state of business analysis service provision and on getting this agreed prior to situations such as the one described materialising. Perhaps the need for earlier involvement of BAs in the formation of ideas for change needs review alongside associated business case and resourcing processes. If we are striving to make ourselves and our teams of BAs to be more effective then practising this habit should be a cornerstone of habit development for all of us.
View other blogs in this series:
Stephen R Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Simon & Schuster (1989) available from Amazon.co.uk