One of the questions that comes up with reasonable frequency when I’m facilitating the ‘Making Analysis Work for Business’ workshop is whether or not analytical teams should sit together or whether they should be distributed amongst the organisation in order to be close to the customers and stakeholders they are supporting. There are significant benefits in integrating analysts into stakeholder teams however very often the practicalities and logistics of doing this are simply not workable.
Most organisations keep their analysts in teams located in the same physical area. There are good reasons for this – it’s generally better for knowledge and best practice sharing, building camaraderie and for providing mentoring and support. However, this ‘silo’ based approach can lead to much of the interactions with colleagues and stakeholders being through email and phone, which are highly prone to misinterpretation. We’ve all experienced receiving an email where our initial reaction was to feel offended, confused or angered only to then meet the sender in person and find that the written words don’t align with their intended message and sentiment. Dr Albert Mehrabian (author ‘Silent Messages’) conducted research on nonverbal communication – he concluded that when conveying feelings and attitudes only 7% of any message is communicated through words, 38% through vocal tone and 55% through nonverbal signals (gesture,posture facial expression). The scope for misinterpretation is considerable – and it will only lead to one thing for the analyst – the inability to deliver work right first time.
For this reason, it’s so important for analysts to recognise they need to make a greater effort to engage face-to-face with their customers pro-actively. Often analysts complain about not being ‘in the loop’ or the last to know when the goalposts move on a project – this is common, especially when working in silos. So, extra effort needs to be made to get out into the business and meet face-to-face with the customer, even if it’s just attending their customer’s team meeting once a month or making a point of saying ‘hi’ at the coffee machine. Not only will this help improve that vital commodity of trust and credibility with your internal customers, it will improve commercial awareness and you will begin to develop mutual empathy with your customers. In my experience, the additional investment in time that this takes in the short term is often paid back many times over in the longer term.
So, don’t wait to be asked to meet your customer, be pro-active, get off your arse and force yourself into the loop!
Steve Hulmes. Head of Demarq Academy