This is the second of a series of blogs which looks to uncover ‘‘What can Business Analysts learn from Stephen Covey’s work?’ This blog is focused on the habit of ‘Begin with the end in mind’. This is the second habit 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 seeking to increase effectiveness.
Begin with the end in mind
What is the habit?
This habit, can be applied to any aspect of your personal or working life. As its name suggests the habit encourages focus on the end results right at the very beginning of any task or endeavour that you have a desire to be effective within.
If we take the analogy of a journey between two locations (for example London and Cardiff), it encourages that you plan the journey with the end destination in mind. It might be that you consider specific location within Cardiff (for example Cardiff Castle or Principality Stadium). You would also be likely to consider how much you are willing to spend by the end of the journey. This will influence the mode of travel (chauffer driven car, self-driven car, first or standard class train or airfare). Other factors to include might be how you feel at the end of the journey, how will you know when you have arrived, what you will do when you get there and, importantly, what time you seek to arrive. With this detailed view of the end destination you can prioritise and plan your journey effectively. All of this might appear to be ‘common sense’ as it is something that we are likely to do naturally. Covey essentially agrees as he argues that the habits are ‘universal’.
What can Business Analysts Learn from this habit?
In order to be effective, ‘Business Analysts’ need to conduct their work with the desired outcomes clearly in sight. Within any change initiative, this outcome-focus encourages BAs to gain a detailed understanding of the post-project target state, including a ‘holistic’ view of which changes will need to have taken place and how the successful achievement of the changes will be measured. Effective BAs can play an active role in identifying options and their corresponding benefits and costs. They can also help to build understanding of risks and impacts, allowing for objective assessment between options. These factors combined provide a foundation for informed decision making and planning. All too often, projects proceed at pace without these pre-requisites in place. In the worst case, the BA can be seen as a blocker, preventing the commencement of the perceived ‘real work’ of software development; the inevitable change failure follows.
Through being proactive in ensuring that projects begin with the end in mind the BA can play a pivotal role in ensuring that change is beneficial and that we do not blindly allow for technology solutions to influence the development of our respective businesses. Instead, we ask what the business outcomes need to be and ensure the work travels along a route that will take us there.
On a different level this habit can also be applied to the BA as an individual. Using the ‘begin with the end in mind’ frame of reference for effectiveness, you could practice asking what you should achieve in the following situations:
- Following a meeting or workshop?
- Following a working day/month/year?
- Following a period of your current employment?
- Following an engagement with a stakeholder or colleague?
- By the end of your career?
We need to build in this habit into our approach to work and life. As with the previous habit, Be Proactive, beginning with the end in mind is an important approach to adopt and attitude to develop. Effective business analysts ask the question ‘what problem are we trying to solve?’ in order to determine what they need to do – this is the essence of this habit.
Stephen R Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Simon & Schuster (1989) available from Amazon.co.uk