Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Communicate With Impact: The Bottom-Line to the Top

by Kitty Hass and Lori Lindbergh, PhD

We cannot stress enough the importance of effectively communicating assessment findings to participants, managers, and your leadership team. Not communicating the findings to all of these groups will undermine the value of your findings. However, presenting basic findings alone, such as BA practice maturity level, strengths and opportunities, and project status is not enough. You must communicate the impact of these findings on your organization’s bottom line.

Not all BA competency and BA practice maturity assessments provide the information and analyses for you to do this, however. This will not be possible with an assessment that provides a single BA competency score, a single practice maturity score, or lacks a reliable and valid data collection instrument. A research-based assessment is the only way to evaluate the impact of your current BA capability level and practice maturity level on your organization’s bottom line.

Let’s take a look at a comparison between typical one-dimensional assessments versus a mature assessment similar our BA workforce capability and BA practice maturity assessments. For this comparison, we are assuming the organization conducted an assessment of its BA workforce competency.

You can see the difference in the findings you will be able to communicate and how you can measure impact in your own organization before and after your improvements and training are implemented and sustained. Linking your BA assessment findings to the bottom line is the only way to get you the attention of the top line.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Time to Check in….

We wanted to take a little break this week and give our readers a chance to let us know how we are doing and provide a few suggestions for our future BA assessment blog entries. We appreciate everyone following and reading our blog each week and want to make sure our entries are helpful and answering your pressing BA assessment questions.

Please take a few minutes to comment on our blog and provide your suggestions for future posts. We would greatly appreciate it!

Thank you,

Kitty & Lori

Monday, May 7, 2012

Avoid the “Deer in the Headlights” Reaction: Humanize Your BA Assessment Findings.

by Kitty Hass and Lori Lindbergh, PhD

When presenting assessment findings to clients, we often see a silence come over the audience and experience a blank stare that we call the “deer in the headlights” reaction. What we are finding, however, is that this reaction is not uncommon and can be challenging to overcome. Many business professionals are unable to develop a connection with statistics and data analyses.

As assessment experts and business analysis professionals, crunching numbers, calculating statistics, and thinking analytically are important capabilities we need to be successful in our jobs. We must remember, however, that our passion about the numbers may not be shared by others. So how can we communicate our passion in a way that fosters understanding and movement in our audiences? Well, at the least a little eye blinking and head nodding would be a great start!

In our April 23rd post about communicating assessment results to executives, we discussed four steps to developing memorable messages. How do you know if you have created a truly memorable message? You will see movement and action, which is how we want our clients to use our assessment findings. Our ultimate goal is to have our clients clearly Visualize the Data so they can make better decisions about their BA performance improvement actions.

What we mean by Visualizing the Data is something called the “Human Scale” Principle. This is a technique used by Covey, Tufte, and other strong presenters; you see this principle used in journalism and marketing, as well. The basic premise is to humanize your data. Make your presentation more than just a series of numbers, statistics, charts, and graphs. This involves knowing your audience and communicating your findings in a way that will have a lasting impact on your clients and guide their behaviors. Humanizing the issue through stories and examples is essential to engage people in the passion of your BA assessment.

Let’s take a look at a generic example. Here is a statistic from the American Council on Sports Medicine:

Only 30% of Americans engage in recommended levels of physical activity.

Sounds pretty bad, right? Bad enough to get you moving? Some of us may have a clear picture of what this means; however, it doesn’t really create a visual image for most. To humanize this finding, we could say this, ”If you walked around your neighborhood and knocked on 10 of your neighbors’ doors, you would most likely find 7 of them sitting on the couch watching television and eating junk food, taking a nap, texting on their phones or iPads, or surfing on their computers. This brings the statistic to life. Your audience can visualize the impact more so than from the statistic.

Here is a BA assessment finding example:

When developing a business case, only 37% of your BAs indicated they have a clear understanding of what the organization is trying to achieve and why.

Again, seems unfavorable, but it’s somewhat of a subjective concept/statement. To humanize this we could say, “If this was the situation for your favorite football team, then only 4 of the 11 players on the field would know which goal was theirs and what to do with it.” The use of this human metaphor gives your audience a visual of the potential chaos in the organization and the impact this finding could have on the achieved business value of their projects.

By now, I think you understand what we mean by Bringing Your Data to Life. Do we use this technique with all of our clients? DEFINITELY NOT. This is where Scalability comes into play.

You need to know your audiences and gauge how they
 would respond to this technique. You have the “Just the facts, ma’am-Show me the numbers” end of the spectrum; these people know what to do with the numbers. And you have those who freeze up like the deer in the headlights and need more than numbers to compel them to act. It took us a little while and several “sleeper” presentations to realize that not everyone is as excited about assessment data and statistics as we are.

Remember, if you do use this technique, be sure to create relevant analogies; you must understand your audience’s desired performance and business outcomes. Presenting your findings in a more creative manner may be the key to helping your audience understand the impacts of their decisions and actions, or non-actions, on the organization. At least you will increase the probability of eliminating the blank stares, stimulating critical thinking and questioning, and creating the movement and action necessary to accelerate your BA performance improvement.