Lessons in baby proofing.

Lessons in baby proofing

Blog post by Josh Deadman

What’s the connection between being a BA and parenting? Being open to how we communicate, and to even adapting the rules.

16 October 2012 marked the first day I could legitimately call myself a Dad (despite my years of Dad jokes…). The first couple of months were a bit of a blur, and since the birth of my second child the blur is only just clearing (again) after 9 months. Looking back, I can see a lot of lessons that apply to the Business Analyst role.

Stakeholders

Having children  introduces  new little stakeholders to the house. Stakeholders that are definitely not very logical, and sometimes just a little weird! The biggest challenge is the lack of the ability to communicate easily and work out what they need.

So how do you address that? You build relationships and over time you get quite good at recognising what they need in the absence of words to express it.

In a Business Analyst role you might use similar skills, whether it is responding to the energy or engagement levels of stakeholders, or noticing where stakeholders’ body language disagrees with what they are saying.

Empathy

Building on the difficulty of communicating with children, you need to become quite good at anticipating what they might need and make decisions that affect their health and happiness.  For example adults realise that touching the heater can be a painful experience, however to a small child it’s just another object to be touched (or licked…).

The lesson here is that you need to think about how your environment is experienced by the child. This may be in a more permanent sense, such as how you set up a room and prevent injury. Or based on the current situation – you may be feeling a little hot and bothered, which might explain why your baby is particularly grumpy today!

In a Business Analyst role you might be holding a workshop and use your knowledge of the participants to try and make it more comfortable for them. This could be through limiting the number of participants, or making sure that the people are supplied with materials and water.

Applying your experience

Like any part of your life, you learn from your experiences and hopefully grow and adapt. My experience was that for Jim (child #1) we were terrified of anything bad happening and our focus was to remove any possible source of danger.

 

As you can see, our response was to set up baby gates to create a safe zone bordered by the couches. This worked ok, but in hindsight was unnecessary. It was inconvenient (there is a photo of me collapsed on the floor having tripped getting over the gate – photo not supplied!) and stopped Jim from being able to explore.

We learnt from our experience, adapted, and the baby proofing strategy for Emily (Child #2) looked more like this:

That’s better! Now the red zone (heater, tv, power boards) is safely fenced away, and the rest of the room is free for roaming.

Adapting is a key skill for the Business Analyst, and failure to recognise that there might be better ways of doing things can be quite limiting. You might have planned for a set of elicitation activities, and realise partway through that the stakeholders you are working with are finding it hard to engage. Rather than stubbornly sticking to the plan, use your experiences and come up with a new plan!

So, I’ve found a bunch of lessons from my experiences in baby proofing – and could probably come up with more.

What lessons have you learnt that can be applied professionally, or to other areas of your life?