Author: Michelle Green

Married with Children Volume 4: The Broken Home

In previous volumes of the “Married with Children” series on communication tips and tricks to a positive Project Manager/Business Analysis relationship..

you’ve met (The Dating Game: PM/BA kickoff meeting), developed a trusting relationship or at the very least, learned about each other enough to work together toward a united goal (The Newlywed Game: PM/BA one-on-one). You’ve had a few kids, or rather a project team of sponsors, programmers, analysts, SMEs and so on. You’re having regular family meetings (The Happy Family: PM BA Communication Do’s) where you’re showing your family or project team stakeholders that you are a unified team working toward project success. But what happens when the unified team isn’t so unified?

We’re finishing off this series with The Broken Home, or those major relationship “don’ts” that could damage your PM/BA team as individuals, impact project delivery dates, project value, stakeholder security, or in the worse cases I’ve seen, even lose you a job. That’s right – DIVORCE!

1. Interruptions, Assumptions and Bad Timing

Now this one is all me! I have the sort of mind that’s always thinking 20 steps ahead. I often jump in and finish sentences for my PM or stop them mid thought because I think I know what they’re going to say and I think they’re going down the wrong path. If I’m being completely honest, I do this with my real spouse too! I’ve actually seen this to be a pretty common PM and BA affliction that can lead to lack of trust and a degradation of team unity. Before butting in with assumptions and interruptions during team meetings, mentally place your idea on the Importance and Urgency Matrix shown below.

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Important and Urgent / Urgent and Not Important, you have a green light to forge ahead with your comment, theory or statement. If your thought lands on the gray side of the matrix, save your idea for later when you’re not in a group situation.

2. Over-Heading

Over-heading is an instantaneous trust-killer for a PM/BA relationship. You wouldn’t go call your spouse’s mommy because they did something you didn’t like, would you? No, you typically discuss issues with one another until you can come to a resolution or compromise. The same rules apply to going to your PM or BA’s supervisor, manager or other authority before giving them the benefit of discussion. Unless it’s a question of ethics or something similarly extreme, you should address your issues with each other first. Crucial conversations are a necessary evil of any healthy relationship, and trust is critical in the PM/BA relationship. Break it unnecessarily and it’s very hard if not impossible to get back.

3. Missing the Clues

This doesn’t just mean that you may miss some verbal or physical indications that someone needs you to jump in, shut up, or make a note of something for later, but it’s also about looking for holes in the boat before it sinks. In Volume 1: The Dating Game, we discussed the need to define your handshake agreements in your PM/BA kickoff meeting. Remember to employ them. Maybe even define expressive clues to each other early so that you don’t leave anything to guesswork. Twisting your earring, crossing your arms left over right, loosening your tie, placing your pen above your tablet instead of beside it are all examples of non-verbal cues you can provide each other during tense situations to keep you on the same page or to indicate that you need to talk later. Stay away from verbal statements such as “let’s take that off-line” unless absolutely necessary. Statements such as those can shut a person down to more than just that topic, but all other topics in your meeting.


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4. Talking in Circles

Ever have this argument with your spouse?

“You’re always late.” “Well, you yell too much!” “Then be ready next time!” “I was this way when you met me!” “Yeah, well I hated it then too!”

Talking in circles means to talk a lot, but not achieving anything, or to come back to the point you started from without being any further along than when you started. Nothing gets resolved by talking in circles. Avoid the blame game and look for the root cause and perspective in these types of conversations. If you find yourself stuck in a circle argument, employ the Rogerian Model below and in most instances you can steer the discussion toward a productive and compromising end.

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For our spousal argument above, maybe one spouse is always late because he/she has to have their hair just right to feel socially accepted and the other likes to be on time for the very same reason. A compromise would be to plan an extra 30 minutes in for “hair time”. Both parties benefit from the compromise while still meeting their individual needs.

5. Arguing with an Audience

Jane Blaustone stated, “The best security blanket a child can have is parents who respect each other.” Do your PM/BA relationship and your project team a favor, and never argue in front of your team. Normal project healthy debate is okay, but major heated disagreements on direction, process, etc. is not. It’s all about respect.

So go out there and give your project team the best security blanket you can… a strong and cohesive PM/BA team at the helm!

For additional information on many of the topics in the four-part series check out these links:

1. http://searchcio.techtarget.com/definition/project-scope
2. https://www.projecttimes.com/wp-content/uploads/attachments/Guide_PM-BA_Collaboration.pdf
3. Larson, Elizabeth. “Bad Business Analysts, Project Managers, and Relationships.” BA Times – Business Analyst Resources, www.batimes.com/elizabeth-larson/bad-business-analysts-project-managers-and-relationships.html.
4. PennyPullen. “What Are the Root Causes of Business Analyst and Project Manager Tensions?” PM Blog, 22 Jan. 2015, www.esi-intl.co.uk/blogs/pmoperspectives/index.php/what-are-the-root-causes-of-business-analyst-and-project-manager-tensions/.
5. “The Project Manager-Business Analyst Relationship: When Roles Collide.” TechWell, www.techwell.com/techwell-insights/2014/11/project-manager-business-analyst-relationship-when-roles-collide.
6. “Arguing in Circles”. http://www.sanluisobispo.com/living/family/linda-lewis-griffith/article39441612.html
7. “ENG 102 – Intro to Rogerian (Compromise-Based) Argument.” YouTube, YouTube, 23 Feb. 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhB75sFvG8w.
8. Nelson, Rochelle. “9 Ways To Stop Fighting In Front Of Your Kids.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 25 Sept. 2014, www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/25/how-to-stop-fighting-in-front-of-kids_n_5879630.html.

Married with Children Volume 3: The Happy Family

As established in Volumes 1 & 2 of our “Married with Children” series on communication tips and tricks to a positive Project Manager/Business Analysis relationship, nothing can positively or negatively affect a project team more than the PM/BA relationship.

In The Dating Game we concentrated on the first date, or the PM/BA Kickoff Meeting, where the foundational structure of the PM/BA team is laid. Then we continued with The Newlywed Game and establishing a regular PM/BA One-On-One where we may groom our relationship over the project life-cycle.

In this volume, The Happy Family, we’re going to discuss those major relationship “Do’s” you should follow to become and remain an effective PM/BA team that can help your project team weather any storm.

So, you’ve met, fell in love, or at the very least, learned about each other enough to work together toward a united goal. You’ve had a few kids, or rather a project team of sponsors, programmers, analysts, SMEs and so on. You’re having regular family meetings, but as a couple you have to communicate with each other through the daily grind, not just when time allows. You each have your own jobs, or project roles, but at the end of the day, you both come together for dinner every night, right? Here’s some major communication do’s or best practices to follow if you’re to remain a healthy PM / BA team:

1. Manage the Project and Product Scope

Every parental unit understands what jobs they “own” in the house, right? One pays the bills and approves the budget. The other figures out what the kids want for lunch and get them off to school. Do you know your role in your project house? As a PM you’ll need to remind yourself from time to time that you are in charge of the project scope. For the BA, you have the product scope.

Friction in a PM/BA team usually stems from one or the other treading too heavily into the other’s responsible areas. That’s not to say that you don’t both paddle to the other side of the pool from time to time, but at the end of the day you should have control of your area of responsibility. Responsibilities you hopefully discussed and set during your kickoff or one-on-one meetings earlier in your relationship.


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2. Communicate Change

If anything affects either side of the project or product house, the other has got to hear about it as soon as possible. The sooner you engage in change control, the easier it is to mitigate, even if it means doing nothing. The important thing is that you are both aware so you can adjust as needed.

3. Check in with the Sponsor – One Voice

Now here’s one thing that enough PMs and BAs do not do, and it’s becoming more of an issue as technology continues to replace human to human interaction. Check in with your sponsor. This is not a status report, they can read those anytime. This is an honest to goodness conversation. And don’t have it together. A sponsor will often have a different level of comfort and communication style with the PM than the BA, especially in environments where the BAs are sourced from the business or the PMs and BAs are part of their own independent centers of excellence. You want to have a casual conversation, lunch or just a quick drive by their desk on a semi-regular basis to ensure you maintain rapport, build trust and understand underlying motivations of the project sponsor. Ask simple questions or leading statements such as “How do you feel the project is going so far?” or “Just checking in to make sure what I’m doing is still aligned with your goals for the project.” Take what you learn that could have a potential impact to the project and share it w/ each other. Then talk about your thoughts and findings in your PM/BA Status Meeting! You want try to communicate to the project team with one voice whenever possible – and that voice should be aligned with the project sponsor and most importantly aligned with each other at all times.

4. Maintain Peer-to-Peer Thinking

This last one isn’t something you typically tackle together, but you’re both responsible for it. There is no one person that leads a project to success. It’s a team effort, and remembering that and keeping it in your mind with all your interactions is vital to a healthy partnership. The PM is not more important or better than the BA and vice versa. The PM is not the BA’s manager or boss. The BA is not the sole voice of the business. Keep your scope in mind and your intentions pure, and you’ll be able to successfully wade through the waters together.

Following this simple but often overlooked list of PM/BA Do’s will add another level of trust in your relationship, and keep your project family feeling secure in the fact that they have a strong leadership team at the helm.

Look out for the final installment of the Married with Children series, The Broken Home – PM/BA Relationship Don’ts, coming soon.

Married with Children Volume 2: The Newlywed Game

As stated in Volume 1 of our “Married with Children” series on communication tips and tricks to a positive Project Manager/Business Analyst relationship, nothing can positively or negatively affect a project team more than the PM/BA relationship.

In The Dating Game we concentrated on the first date, or the PM/BA Kickoff Meeting, where the foundational structure of the PM/BA team is laid.

Now you’ve said “I Do”, have your new house, or project, and you find yourself married and living together in newlywed bliss. That’s the beginning of the marriage where things are going smoothly and everyone is excided. This is the optimum time to establish regular communications with each other so you both can grow and positively affect your project. It’s time to play The Newlywed Game, or quite simply have a PM/BA One-On-One. This is the project equivalent of “honey how was your day?”. For an effective PM/BA One-On-One, follow this simple guide:

1. Schedule It

The PM/BA One-On-One should be a weekly meeting where you can provide project updates to each other. It’s not a formal project status report, nor should it require documentation other than any deliverables that may come out of it. Each of you bring different perspectives and have different type of relationships with the same project team members. You may attend meetings the other may not attend. This is your chance to keep each other informed. Keeping a scheduled cadence offers you the ability to groom your relationship and can even be something you look forward to in times of project stress. Schedule a recurring meeting to carry you through the entire project duration.

2. Review the Project Status

Quickly review the project plan to have a joint understanding of where the project is at the moment. Similar to a scrum meeting, but at the project level, just provide a short completed this week/doing next week/roadblocks update so you both have a handle on where you may need to course correct and how you can support each other if needed.


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3. Review the BA Workplan Status

In any good marriage we learn to speak in each other’s language if we want to gain joint understanding and get things done. Having a weekly communication meeting speaks heavy to the BA’s communication preferences, but can seem non-productive to a PM if not approached with a plan and direction. An effective BA work plan contains a personal Work Breakdown Schedule, and is the single greatest thing you can create as a BA for your PM. It’s speaks in the language of the PM, and gives them an understanding of your personal impacts to the project schedule. It can also help them understand your work estimates more clearly and provide clarity for a PM that may have an idea that BA work is mainly comprised of gathering requirements. This document can also help drill home early in the relationship all the different tasks associated with BA work. The BA Workplan should include items such as BA tasks by project phase, estimated hours for tasks with start and end dates, completion percentages, and associated stakeholders.

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4. Provide Feedback

In “The Dating Game” we discussed creating a PM/BA Prenup or getting a handshake agreement on how to communicate issues, concerns, and provide mentoring or feedback to each other during the course of the project. The weekly PM/BA One-On-One is the perfect platform for following through on your agreements. This should be a safe place to go over anything each other has seen the other do, say or react to that could use some work On the flip side, highlight something that was awesome. Who better to mentor you than someone who sees you in action more than any one other individual on a project? Now don’t go crazy. You don’t have to be on the lookout for mentoring opportunities every week, or look for something to harp on…just state it if you see it and ask for advice if you need it.

The PM/BA One-On-One is your time to get project updates and feedback, but we are all human, and just as parents complain about their kids or their day at work, sometimes you may just use this meeting to complain to a sympathetic ear. As long as it’s not a habit that’s okay! It’s all part of relationship building. The important thing is that you meet and continue to groom and mature your partnership for the benefit of your project team or any future projects you may have together.

Be sure to look out for the next installment of the Married with Children series, The Happy Family – PM/BA Relationship Do’s.

Married with Children Volume 1: The Dating Game

Throughout my years as a Project Manager and Business Analyst, I’ve learned that like parents to their children, nothing can positively or negatively affect a project team more than the PM/BA relationship.

PMs who don’t understand what exactly a BA does other than gather requirements, BAs who think all the PM does is monitor a Microsoft Project schedule, PMs and BAs who argue in front of the team and more all contribute to stakeholder perception of a project’s status, stability, and risk. Adversely, a well-synced PM/BA partnership can drive a team to be more cohesive, creative and highly functioning.

To kick off this “Married with Children” series on communication tips and tricks to a positive Project Manager/Business Analysis relationship, I’m going to concentrate on the PM/BA Kickoff Meeting and how this single meeting can set the groundwork for your PM/BA relationship for the life of your project.

So what is this PM/BA Kickoff Meeting? It’s rather simple really. Before you get married, you have to have a first date right? This is where you play The Dating Game and feel out each other to see how you’re going to work together right off the bat. Make this meeting deliberate, with an agenda, to cover the following main discussion points:

1. Work/Project History

Not unlike dating, your past experiences mold who you are and how you respond to situations today. The good, the bad, and the ugly. If you’re a BA whose last PM undervalued you, you might have preconceived notions about your next PM doing the same and treat them with a level of distrust. If you’ve had managers who micro-manage you, you may have difficulty making critical decisions on your own. If you’re a PM and you’ve had a BA who was a valued partner, you may be more inclined to trust a new BA just the same. Be open and truthful with each other. Discuss how to mitigate and get through your past together. Figure out what to watch for and determine comfortable approaches to addressing relationship issues as they arise.

2. Strengths/Weaknesses

As with your work history, honestly discuss what you’ve done well and not so well on past projects. What strengths do you have, such as negotiating, or technical acumen? What weaknesses do you have that your BA or PM can help you with so your weaknesses aren’t so exposed or can be turned into strengths?


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3. Communication Preferences

It’s important that for a PM and BA their communication preferences are taken into account at the onset of the relationship. If you have an issue following up via email, but your PM sends everything to you via email it could lead to a relationship stressor for the both of you. If you communicate better in person, but your BA works remotely, you may be able to determine a way together to work around the issue such as Video-enabled meetings opposed to phone-only.

4. Stakeholder Assessment

In the dating game, it’s critical to understand your family members, or project team, to understand how to proactively handle potential roadblocks in your future together. What do each of you know about your team separately? Talk about the relationships you’ve built that you each bring to the table? What you know about them? Who likes to see weekly status reports, loves meetings, is your dooms-dayer or will block anything that costs more money, or the opposite, who’s the one that will vote on value over cost every time? Get all this on the table and together figure out how to communicate with these individuals, or even how to turn their quirks into project strengths.

5. State of the Union/Risk Assessment

Your kickoff meeting should include anything you know about the project as a whole that could potentially affect the approach, scope, etc. Talk about what you see as project risks, technology concerns, etc. and how you may be on the lookout for or address those concerns now or in the future. This is value-added communication to prep you for the months ahead.

6. Handshake Agreements

Finally, get a Prenup! A Prenup sounds silly right, but it’s critical to get joint consensus, or a handshake agreement, before you move into your project. Determine what you each agree are your responsibilities during the project and how you will back each other up. Determine verbal and non-verbal queues or prompts that you’ll both use in uncomfortable or uncertain situations, such as “I need a bio break” – ‘bio’ instead of ‘restroom’. And most importantly, determine how you will air your grievances. You don’t ever want to argue in front of your team – you don’t fight in front of your kids. Don’t go over each other’s heads if you can at all avoid it – I wouldn’t call my husband’s mom because he won’t ever do the dishes. There may come a time or two when you need a time out with each other, and that’s okay if you plan ahead of time for how you will address those moments as they arise.

Although it’s recommended that the PM/BA Kickoff meeting occurs at the beginning of a new project, it’s never too late to have these discussions, especially if you’re experiencing relationship issues within your current project team. The important thing is that you reach out and are willing to be honest and vulnerable. Remember, relationship building starts with you!