By Kitty Hass and Lori Lindbergh, PhD
You often see this quote used in statistics and research textbooks and publications,
“I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about and express it in numbers you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind: it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your own thoughts, advanced the state of science, whatever the matter may be” (Lord Kelvin, 1891).
However, Lord Kelvin makes no mention of the quality of your measurements. Just because you measure it, does not make it is so. We believe that traditional BA multiple-choice competency assessments and one-dimensional self-rating competency assessments hover around that “beginning of knowledge” point referenced in the quote: Just barely enough information to advance your BA professional development and performance….in your own mind, not necessarily in your organization.
Our research indicates that BA experience and training are not enough to ensure success in many organizations. BA training improves competence and confidence initially; however, the organization eventually gets in the way of further improvement. We have provided an example to illustrate what we mean by this.
Which of the two organizations will achieve greater project outcomes?
If you base your answer on the one-dimensional, BA competency score (5-point scale), your answer would most likely be, Company A. Company A’s average competency score indicates that overall, BAs are highly proficient, which should obviously lead to greater success. Could organizational performance really be this simple?
Our research on BA Applied Capability indicates otherwise. After measuring the level and impact of the organization’s BA culture and overall organizational culture on BA competency and performance (what we call organizational culture index), here is what we would find using our assessment approach.
After using our multi-dimensional BA Workforce Assessment approach that integrates BA competency, BA culture/practices, and overall organizational culture, you can see that the BA Applied Capability is actually higher for Company B. Furthermore, compared to Company A, Company B can expect to achieve more successful project outcomes for all performance measures other than schedule. Both organizations can expect to be over budget, over schedule, and achieve considerably less business success; however, in spite of this, Company B will achieve greater scope and quality than Company A.
What this really means is that, based on the current state of each organization and its BA workforce capabilities, these are the average performance outcomes BAs, managers, and leaders should expect. (If you informed your leaders of this, I’m sure it would go over like a lead balloon.) Without this information, you can see why projects in some organizations consistently fail to meet stakeholder expectations.
This example illustrates the complexity of the organizational system and why one-dimensional competency assessments and solutions provide limited value. Things are not always as they seem: To improve BA, you may not need to focus on BA. The key is understanding the complexity of your organizational environment and the interrelationships between the three critical components necessary for BA performance improvement: BA competency, BA culture/practices, and overall organizational culture.
BA improvement is not as easy as implementing training, tools, and processes. BA Practice Leads and senior leaders must change their thinking. Single focus solutions or solutions that don’t target all three components won’t work in the long term. Remember, examine the entire forest, not just a few trees, and Think Out of Your BA Box! Review our February 27th entry to gauge the current thinking of your managers and leaders.