Medium 9781567262124

The Art and Power of Facilitation

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A Volume of the Business Analysis Essential Library Series

The heart of the business analyst's role is to drive various constituencies through processes to achieve consensus on the needs of the business. Successfully facilitating meetings — whether a one-on-one interview or a larger presentation — is essential to business analysis. The Art and Power of Facilitation: Running Powerful Meetings provides powerful tools that the business analyst can use to negotiate through the myriad of meetings, informal work sessions, and formal workshops that are necessary to develop business requirements.

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Chapter 1 - To Meet or Not to Meet, That is the Question

ePub

In This Chapter:

Think Before You Meet

Meeting Types

The business analyst uses different types of meetings—one-on-one interviews, small-group working sessions, or formal requirements elicitation workshops—and various facilitation techniques to get the job done. The ability to plan and facilitate effective meetings, bring a group to consensus, and drive resolution of issues and conflicts is essential to the successful business analyst. Therefore, meeting planning and facilitation is at the core of the business analyst’s skill set. As Ellen Gottesdiener notes in Requirements by Collaboration:1

The cost of ineffective meetings is staggering. The average person attends seven to ten meetings a week, half of which are unproductive, and the average meeting involves nine people … who have as little as two hours’ prior notice.

People come together in teams to complete project work, and yet the underlying group meeting process is often poorly managed. The successful business analyst becomes adept at planning and facilitating sessions for groups of people, conscious and respectful of the participants’ time. As facilitator, the business analyst is ever mindful that when people work in teams, there are two equally challenging dynamics at play. Being results-oriented by nature, people focus on the purpose of the meeting, so that work is actually accomplished. Frequently this is the only issue team members consider. The second dimension of meetings is the process of the group work itself—the mechanisms by which the group acts as a team and not simply as people who happen to be together in a room.

 

Chapter 2 - Meeting Management Best Practices

ePub

In This Chapter:

Establish the Meeting Foundation

Design the Meeting to Meet the Objectives

Determine the Meeting Participants

Prepare the Meeting Agenda

Open the Meeting

Establish Meeting Ground Rules

Conduct the Meeting Using Appropriate Facilitation Techniques

Close the Meeting

Followup after the Meeting

Meeting management skills are often undervalued and underrated in the business environment, even though meetings consume so much valuable time and so many critical resources. Why is so little effort expended to make meetings more effective? Here are a few reasons to consider:

Business leaders do not recognize the relationship between ineffective meetings and the productivity measures of their organization.

Mid-level managers do not have the knowledge or the skills needed to plan, conduct, and facilitate an effective meeting and then follow up on decisions.

Project managers and business analysts do not appreciate the importance of planning a meeting for better results.

 

Chapter 3 - Facilitation—It’s an Art and a Science

ePub

In This Chapter:

Facilitation versus Subject Matter Expertise

The Roles and Responsibilities of the Facilitator

What is facilitation? Facilitation is different things to different people. We offer the following definitions for consideration. Facilitation is:

A process in which an objective meeting chairperson helps a group, composed of people with diverse expertise and styles of interaction, work together effectively to achieve a predetermined outcome

A process to foster team collaboration, manage group behaviors, and minimize conflict to accomplish meeting objectives, reach group consensus, or solve identified problems

The facilitator focuses on fostering positive group interactions to drive toward a stated goal. Just like the project manager, the business analyst is often thrown into the facilitator’s role—that of a group leader or team leader. Business analysts, as a rule, have no decision-making authority. Indeed, their goal is to combine the creative juices of the participants to pull the best decision from the group. The business analyst, however, contributes to the substance of the discussion by asking leading questions, summarizing discussions, and continually testing for consensus. The business analyst as facilitator leads the group process and helps to improve the way the participants communicate, examine and solve problems, and make decisions.1 Good facilitators help groups stay focused, think outside the box for maximum creativity and innovation, and be more efficient and productive than they would be without expert group process guidance.

 

Chapter 4 - The Business Analyst’s Facilitation Toolkit

ePub

In This Chapter:

Group Analysis Skills

Group Communication Skills

Group Process Skills

Brad Spangler specifies the skills required of an effective facilitator:1

Facilitators must have a variety of skills and techniques to be effective. Strong verbal and analytical skills are essential. Facilitators must know what questions to ask, when to ask them, and how questions should be structured to get good answers without defensiveness. Facilitators must know how to probe for more information when the initial answers are not sufficient. They must also know how to rephrase or “reframe” statements to enhance understanding, and to highlight areas of agreement and disagreement as they develop.

Other skills include redirecting questions and comments, giving positive reinforcement, encouraging contrasting views, including quieter members of the group, and dealing with domineering or hostile participants. Nonverbal techniques include things such as eye contact, attentiveness, facial expressions, body language, enthusiasm, and maintaining a positive outlook. A facilitator must also develop the ability to read and analyze group dynamics on the spot in order to guide the group in a productive way.

 

Chapter 5 - Requirements Elicitation Meetings

ePub

In This Chapter:

Challenges

Roles and Responsibilities

Individual and Small Group Interviews

Facilitated Requirements Elicitation Workshops

Requirements elicitation involves conducting initial requirements-gathering sessions with customers, users, and stakeholders to begin the documentation process. Requirements-gathering techniques include discovery sessions, facilitated workshops, interviews, surveys, prototyping, review of existing system and business documents, and note-taking and feedback loops to customers, users, and stakeholders.

The purposes of requirements elicitation are to:

Identify the customers, users, and stakeholders to determine who should be involved in the requirements-gathering process

Understand the business goals and objectives and identify the essential user tasks that support the organizational goals

Identify and define requirements to understand the needs of the users, customers, and stakeholders

 

Chapter 6 - Requirements Analysis Meetings

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In This Chapter:

Challenges

Business Modeling Workshops

Types of Analysis Meetings

Business Process Modeling Workshops

Prototype Review Meetings

Risk Management Workshops

Requirements are first stated in simple terms and are then analyzed and decomposed for clarity. Requirements analysis is the process of grouping requirements information into various categories, evaluating requirements for selected qualities, representing requirements in different forms, deriving detailed requirements from high-level requirements, and negotiating priorities. Requirements analysis also includes activities to determine required function and performance characteristics, the context of implementation, stakeholder constraints and measures of effectiveness, and validation criteria. Through the analysis process, requirements are decomposed and captured in a combination of text and graphical formats.

The purpose of analysis activities is to restate requirements in different forms to clarify and further define the nature and scope of the requirement. In addition, the feasibility of the requirements is analyzed and the risks are assessed.

 

Chapter 7 - Requirements Specification Review Meetings

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In This Chapter:

Challenges

Types of Meetings

Requirements Specification Review Meeting

The specification of what is to be accomplished supplements the scoping and analysis models. During the process of specifying what is needed, the business analyst continues to work collaboratively with the customers and end-users of the new solution and with key members of the solution development team. One or more text deliverables might result from this step. Typically the specification documents are the user requirements document and the software requirements specification document. Other requirements specifications include the requirements document, business requirements document, use case document, concept of operations (ConOps), requirements definition, requirements statement, system definition, functional specification, supplemental specification, and technical specification. Minimally, a business requirements document is created.

In addition to drafting the business requirements documentation, requirements specification involves progressively elaborating, refining, and organizing the requirements into a structured set of requirement artifacts. As requirements are documented during this activity, they are continually validated by both the business and technical teams.

 

Chapter 8 - Deliverable Verification and Validation Meetings

ePub

In This Chapter:

Challenges

Types of Meetings

Deliverable Inspection Meeting

Verification and validation are the processes of evaluating work products to determine whether they satisfy the business needs and are built according to specifications.

A major control gate review for projects occurs upon exiting the requirements phase and transitioning to the design phase. All requirement artifacts are presented to management for review and approval at a formal control gate review session. At this point, the project schedule, cost, and scope estimates are updated, and the business case is revisited, to provide the salient information needed to determine whether continued investment in the project is warranted. Upon securing approval to proceed, the business analyst baselines the requirements, implements a formal requirements change control process, and transitions into requirements management activities in support of solution design efforts. At the conclusion of the requirements phase, a make or buy decision is made whether to outsource the solution design and development or do the work in-house. If the work is to be outsourced, a Request for Quote (RFQ) is developed and issued. As the project moves into the design, construction, and test phases, verification and validation sessions are conducted throughout the business solution life cycle (BSLC).

 

Chapter 9 - Closing Comments

ePub

Following a structured process to plan, facilitate, and follow up on business analysis meetings contributes to the quality of the requirements generated. As you develop your business analyst skills, focus on sharpening facilitation skills like listening, restating ideas for clarity and asking pointed questions, and the basics of meeting management. Hone your belief in the power of the team, demonstrate patience, and remain objective. In general, a good facilitator is energetic, respectful, and supportive of the team process. There is no substitute for experience. You will become better with each meeting. Take advantage of each experience to objectively evaluate your abilities to effectively use group process techniques, and grow with each experience.

To become a great facilitator, focus on the following development activities:

Enroll in facilitation classes.

Enroll in presentation and communication skills classes.

Consider becoming a professional certified facilitator.

 

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