Make Something That Matters

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Mar 01, 2020
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‘Making something that matters'

I recently came across these words and they really resonated with me.

This might be because I personally prescribe to the desire to make a difference. Not just in my family or community, but also in my work. Given that most of us typically spend most of our waking hours earning a living (i.e. working), we should make a concerted effort to ensure that we:

a) really enjoy what we do every day and

b) do our best possible work while working on whatever we do daily.

But the question that begs asking is, can we choose to work on something that matters?

This is not always within our control, or is it?

If we could choose, I’m sure that most conscious-aware people would choose to work on something that makes a difference in the world, but if we are not in such a position, then we should ideally do whatever we get to work on in such a way that it does make a difference.

Seth Godin calls this art. He says that if you make art (i.e. do something as a labour of love) instead of just doing something because someone (like your boss) is telling you to do it, you will want to do more of it.

He says the following:

“Artists are people who make art. Art is not a gene or a specific talent … Art is
the unique work of a human being, work that touches another … Art is who we
are and what we do and what we need. Art isn't a result; it's a journey. The
challenge of our time is to find a journey worthy of your heart and your soul.“[3]

To find a journey worthy of your heart and your soul… wow, I bet that is not what you say you are looking for during an interview for a new job, is it?

But why don’t we?

Has society become so unimaginative in the products, services, organisations and societies that we choose to create? Have we started giving up on ‘inspiration’ and ‘excitement’ as values with the way in which we create schools, workplaces and organizational cultures?

Why are more organisations not focusing on pursuing true value-driven or life-changing endeavors? Is it only about squeezing every drop of profit out of areas of focus that don’t really make a difference anyway? Really?

My personal belief is that Business Analysts are ideally and uniquely
positioned by make an incredible and positive difference in the world.

Business Analysts are, by the nature of the role, already in areas, projects and situations where change or improvement is needed and in fact asked for. This is half the battle won. People (for the most) want you to help them change something for the better.

The decision of whether to ‘make art’ is of course up to each of us. This is different from just doing your job, this is next level…it is going for excellence.

If we choose to do this, we make a difference. Our mindset changes from doing the mundane, trivial or transactional to participating in the creation of something that is transformational.

What a mind shift that is!

Far-fetched? I don’t think so. Just imagine…

  • When working on that project for the public hospital’s admission process, your excellence in designing a process that significantly reduces waiting periods could save endless pain, suffering and possibly even lives. That is something that matters!
  • Maybe you are part of a team doing requirement specification documents for airport traffic control software. Performing your work with excellence ensures the safety of thousands of passengers every year. That is something that matters!
  • You get asked to work on formulating requirements for an electronic filing and workflow system that integrates the digitally documented evidence gathered during police investigations with the justice and court systems. The system is required due to the increased instances of paper-based evidence mysteriously getting lost, which end up in criminal court cases being thrown out of court and criminals getting back out on the streets. Your diligent and detailed analysis and design for a secure system will stop that from happening. That is something that matters!
  • As result of your help in creating an optimized anti-fraud process for an internet banking system, thousands of customers no longer have to fear that their hard-earned money is at risk from being stolen. That is something that matters!
  • After redesigning a food distribution process for a non-profit organisation that receives donations of fresh food, you doggedly insist to keep on improving the cold-chain process and to minimize the time spent during transit. Your efforts prevent tons of food from spoiling and keep thousands of people from going to bed hungry at night. That is something that matters!
  • You help create a mobile app that anonymously and securely allows whistle-blowers to report corruption in government tender processes, thereby saving ordinary, hardworking taxpayers millions. That is something that matters!

Everyday things, done with excellence and deliberation, matter. Sometimes much more than we might think.

There is a well-known story about a master builder who came to the end of his career and he told his boss (the company owner) that he was going to retire. His employer was sad to hear the news, for the builder had worked for him for many years and he was a good employee. The owner of the company asked the builder to build one last house before he left for retirement. He asked the builder to do his very best work on this last house and to only use the very best material for it and to spare no expense.

The builder agreed but after starting work on it, he decided that he would not do his best work and he did not use the best material as was requested. Instead he took shortcuts and used sub-standard materials. He rushed the job, because he only wanted to get it over and done with.

After completion of the house, the manager visited for the final inspection and after walking through the property, with great excitement the boss took the house keys and handed them to the builder. He said that he was giving the builder this house as a parting gift in thanks for all the years of work and that the builder deserved just the very best and that he hoped that he would enjoy living in the house.

Imagine how the builder felt after receiving the key. Imagine how he would have done it differently, had he known who he was building it for. Imagine if he had just been true to his word.

Maybe this (probably fictional) story can inspire us to always imagine that what we are making/solving/building or designing was intended for people who we personally know and care about. That it matters. Maybe then we will aspire to greater levels of excellence in our daily work…

Go on – go make something that matters!

“Make a difference. Live a life that matters.”
- Frank McKinney

References/footnotes:

  1. Font created with Fontmeme: https://fontmeme.com/permalink/200217/94d2bf03f54bb9d64e9bd2f6062ea08a.png
  2. Image from: https://i1.wp.com/epacst.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/innovation.jpg?resize=624%2C312&ssl=1
  3. Paragraph quoted from Seth Godin’s book, called “The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?”

 


Author: Danie Van Den Berg, CBAP

Danie van den Berg is a consulting business analyst from Johannesburg, South-Africa. Over the past two decades he has worked in a variety of industries. His specialities include Requirements gathering & elicitation, Business Process Re-engineering, workflow automation and process optimisation. He enjoys mentoring BA professionals, writing about and teaching on business analysis. Danie is passionate about the role a Business Analyst plays within organisations and believes it is central to changing and improving the world we work and live in. Some of his previous articles on modernanalyst.com include:







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