Yesterday, I attended the IIBA’s Business Analysis Professional Day in Melbourne.

The day had some excellent talks and workshops, all of which left me with plenty to muse upon after the event.

Geared up and ready!
Geared up and ready; for the IIBA's Business Analysis Professional Day 2016!

Rita Panahi - Good Thinking (Keynote)

Rita provided a fantastic introduction to the event. As a journalist and opinion columnist, she underscored the need to thoroughly investigate data as opposed to “taking the simple path”.

This is a point that she unapologetically illustrated, drawing parallels to her own coverage of politically-delicate issues:

  • The occupation of homes by “squatters” amidst the fallout of Melbourne’s Eastwest Link; and the resultant impact upon domestic abuse victims awaiting state housing.
  • Hyperinflation of the narrative surrounding the Gender pay gap, due to improper scrutiny of data.
  • The trend within universities with relation to trigger-warning policies and social-justice activism; and some unintended impacts this has had in relation to free speech and education.

Within each of these stories existed a subtext, which required an analytical scrutiny beyond the initial dataset.

The intent of the above, was to draw parallels between the work of a journalist and that of an analyst. Whilst the comparison may have romanticised both professions, the content was profoundly interesting, and I feel it was a good mindset to adopt for the kick-off the conference.

Taruni Falconer - Communicating With Stakeholders (Workshop)

Taruni’s workshop focused on highlighting the difficulties associated with communicating technical ideas (something which - as analysts - probably didn’t require a lot of convincing ).

The more interesting part of the workshop invited participants to consider the additional difficulties we face when communicating across different cultures. As part of this discussion Taruni drew on sources including the artwork of Yang Liu.

We explored the tendencies of different cultures with respect to:

  • Direct vs. Indirect communication styles
  • Definition and importance of punctuality
  • Organisational hierarchies in relation to societal hierarchy
  • Team structure

Craig Martin - A journey through business design using hybrid thinking (Workshop)

I found Craig’s workshop to be intense to say the least.

We were challenged to work in groups to find the problem (or ‘a problem’) within a defined problem domain (in our case; the checkout at the supermarket).

We were then tasked with using something termed ‘hybrid thinking’ in order to develop a (commercially viable) solution to the problem. Whilst this might sound like a straightforward exercise, in practise, it proved to be quite a challenge. Describing this experience probably requires it’s own blog post!

In any case, immediate takeaways I took were:

  • The difference between:
    • 1st order design (symbols)
    • 2nd order design (things)
    • 3rd order design (actions / transactions)
    • 4th order design (systems / environments)
      Note: this model is based on the work of Richard Buchanan.
  • That often when considering a large problem (i.e. crime), we should resist the urge to jump to obvious solutions (i.e. more police on the street). Instead, targeting a small aspect of the problem with a targeted solution, can be much more effective).

Sonia McDonald - Leadership is an Attitude (Closing keynote)

The final talk of the day, posed the question “what is leadership?”.

Sonia explained that we tend to view leadership as something grandiose, beyond the responsibilities of most staff, and the reserve of managers and senior employees. Her message of the day, was to challenge that notion. Instead consider that all people are able to lead, and indeed, do so - through even through the smallest of actions.

As part of this discussion she shared a TEDX clip by Drew Dudley who describes and idea called “Lollipop moments”.

The clip provided a terrific example as to how small action can lead to great events, and that leadership doesn’t need to reside only in grand gestures.