To date, this series has highlighted a number of valuable lessons that the modern business analyst may be able to draw from Lewis Carroll’s novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The focus has primarily been on the similar chaotic environments inhabited by both Alice and the contemporary organization as well as the illogical situations and difficult characters that arise within these environments. In the prior installment in the series, we dealt with one of Alice’s most memorable chapters, “The Mad Tea Party.”
From this examination, we ascertained some of the key characteristics of the successful analyst while also highlighting some common pitfalls that must be avoided. Notably, we came to understand the perils of confrontation, the value of intellectual curiosity, and the importance of storytelling in our culture. In addition to these lessons, we were reminded that nothing is personal in a workshop environment.
Previously in this series:
“Alice in Wonderland”: Lessons to Learn From the “Mad Tea Party”! Episode 3
When Requirements Elicitation Becomes a “Mad Tea Party”! Episode 2“Alice in Wonderland”: Meet Wonderland’s Stakeholders, Episode 2
“Alice in Wonderland”: Business Analysis in the Midst of Chaos! Episode 1
Moving on, we will investigate the importance of the business analyst’s often delicate relationship with individual stakeholders.
A business analyst is a facilitator of change, and in affecting these changes within a company, the analyst must interact with multiple stakeholders of varying personalities. When identifying and delivering the necessary changes within a business, the analyst must develop and maintain a relationship with each individual stakeholder. Human interaction is a tricky business at the best of times, and in a situation of change, which can often lead to upheaval, the analyst must take great care in their approach. Each stakeholder will wield a different level of authority within the company and hold a certain amount of power over those changes that are coming into effect. Noting this, the analyst must take part in a careful balancing act, juggling these relationships in order to facilitate change with minimal difficulty.
Throughout Alice’s time in Wonderland, she encounters a plethora of tricky characters, or “stakeholders,” with whom she must nurture relationships in order to find her way and navigate the chaos. This article will seek to examine a select group of these stakeholders, using each individual example to explore identities and unearth the kind of strategies that will allow the business analyst to deal with these kinds of personalities in a real-world scenario. From Alice’s successes and failures, we can come to understand some of the tactics that will work as well as those that may not.
Wonderland is inhabited by a wide variety of fantastical characters. The White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat, the Queen of Hearts, and the Mad Hatter each embody the illogical, chaotic nature of Wonderland in their own way. As we enter the world of business, we may expect to find order, singularity, and a sense of shared goals. In reality, this ordered organization is fissured by the individual components. That is to say, the varying identities of the stakeholders can create confrontational situations, and as we have learned previously, confrontation only serves to breed further chaos. The analyst, like Alice, must manage these strong personas in order to achieve their goal. Wonderland is inhabited by characters of unparalleled individualism. The collective collapses in the face of chaos, leading to unpredictable behaviors and a difficult time for the analyst.
Although Wonderland’s characters are exaggerated examples of individualist, chaotic personas, valuable parallels can be drawn between Alice’s situation and that of a real-world business analyst. In reality, individuals hold their own beliefs and values, and as a result, they are prone to unpredictable behavioral patterns. The stakeholders may reject the norm, or the collective, in favor of their own personal agenda, thus complicating the work of the analyst. In Wonderland, each of the aforementioned characters entirely disregards any sense of order. They exist purely to serve their own ends, blind to anything other than their own individual desires. Although Alice features exaggerated examples of real people, the business analyst will have to deal with characters of similar individualism in their line of work as well.
The White Rabbit
Our first example of a Wonderland stakeholder is the White Rabbit, Alice’s entry point to the chaos of Wonderland at the beginning of the novel. A recurring character throughout the story, the White Rabbit, in a sense, acts as Alice’s tour guide. His appearances generally progress the narrative, allowing Alice to explore Wonderland further, although he seems somewhat oblivious to his level of influence. Akin to a project manager, the White Rabbit could be viewed as the one who “hired” Alice for the position of Wonderland business analyst. Although nervous and jumpy, he is a prominent, well-connected feature of Wonderland and is capable of affecting change. The relationship between Alice the analyst and the White Rabbit as project manager is an important one in the context of this analogy. The well-connected, authority-wielding project manager is a key stakeholder for the analyst. A carefully nurtured relationship with the project manager is vital as it allows the business analyst to utilize their authority within the company. In order to successfully implement the necessary changes, the analyst must develop a productive relationship with their very own White Rabbit.
The Cheshire Cat
The Cheshire Cat is our next stakeholder. Perhaps Wonderland’s most unique inhabitant, the Cheshire Cat is inherently contradictory. Simultaneously an ingrained part of Wonderland and an observant outsider, the Cheshire Cat is the only character in the novel that holds a two-way conversation with Alice. While the others seem almost oblivious to her presence and her barrage of queries, the Cheshire Cat actually listens and responds to Alice’s questions. Through her interaction with the Cheshire Cat, Alice gains valuable insight into the chaotic nature of Wonderland. In the context of our business analyst analogy, the Cheshire Cat fulfils the role of subject matter expert. The subject matter expert is critical to the work of the analyst as they outline the workings of the company, providing information that will be vital to the success of the analyst. From her interaction with the Cheshire Cat, Alice comes to understand her identity within Wonderland. In an illogical world, her logical nature makes her the outsider. Ironically, since chaos is the norm, the logical approach makes her illogical in the context of Wonderland. This sense of confusion is alleviated by the Cheshire Cat’s insight, evidencing the fact that the analyst must form a positive relationship with the subject matter expert in order to facilitate change.
The Queen of Hearts
Perhaps the most antagonistic character in Carroll’s novel, the Queen of Hearts is the tyrannical ruler of Wonderland and is prone to violence and seemingly driven by anger. Although Alice is confronted with conflict-based situations at every turn, they are largely born of nonsensical rhetoric and perversions of logic. In the Queen of Hearts, Alice finds the clearest embodiment of malevolent conflict. The Queen of Hearts, in terms of her stakeholder identity, exemplifies a dominant, authoritarian boardroom figure who wields a great deal of power when it comes to the implementation of change. Although the Queen of Hearts may be a disagreeable character on a personal level, inciting fear within Alice, she is the inarguable ruler of Wonderland and a fundamental piece of the change process. A sponsor of such power and authority will be vital to the implementation of change, and so the analyst must strive to develop a fruitful relationship with such a figure. The Queen of Hearts is an undeniably intimidating figure despite the fact that her orders of beheading are never actually carried out. The sense of fear that emanates from such a stakeholder can easily lead to conflict or an underdeveloped relationship, but it is important that the analyst understands their expectations. The Queen of Hearts may be disagreeable, but she is vital to any potential change due to her position of authority.
The Mad Hatter
One Wonderland inhabitant who has already featured prominently in this series is the Mad Hatter. More than any other character in the novel, the Hatter embodies the nature of Wonderland, highlighting the chaotic elements and contradictions of logic that define Alice’s experience. He is argumentative and resistant to Alice’s attempts to breach the chaos with logical thought. Characterized by his blunt nature and rude conversational approach, the Hatter exemplifies difficult, confrontational stakeholders. Although the Hatter may be inherently antagonistic, it is important to remember that confrontation is detrimental to the goal of the analyst. As mentioned in the previous article, the correct way to deal with such a difficult character is to maintain a diplomatic, business-minded detachment.
From our examination of the eccentric, illogical characters encountered by Alice in her adventure down the rabbit hole, we have come to learn the value of analyzing each persona on its own terms. Like Alice, the analyst will be forced to develop relationships with stakeholders of wildly varying personalities in order to successfully carry out their objective: the facilitation of change within a company. These stakeholders, and the resultant relationships, are key to the successful work of the analyst, and so it is vital to nurture them right from the outset, giving each individual the necessary attention to keep them on your side throughout the upheaval of the change process.
Author: Adam Alami, Sr. Business Analyst
Adam Alami is a seasoned IT consultant with over 18 years’ experience. Business Analysis and Project Management is his passion. His experience revolved around major business transformation projects. He is a versatile IT professional. He accumulated a wealth of cross industry experience with Tier 1 businesses in major projects in the areas of Enterprise Transformation, Integration, Migration, and Systems Modernization.
Adam has a passion for research. His research interests are IT Offshoring, Global Project Managements, Banking Technology, Business Analysis, Information Technology and Culture, Enterprise Innovation and Business Solutions.