In this episode, eight thought leaders in the business analysis field share their biggest mistake and what they learned from it.

Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” – Otto Von Bismarck

The above quote is the idea behind today’s episode.  I’ve brought together eight leaders in the world of business analysis to share their biggest mistakes.

The goal is twofold; first, to help you learn from the mistakes of others so that you don’t make the same mistake and secondly, to help you to realize that most mistakes aren’t fatal – you can make a big mistake and still have a successful career.  The key is learning from those mistakes.


Richard Larson

Richard Larson  |  Founder and President of Watermark Learning

Richard shares the story of how his career was sidetracked from his true calling.

What Richard learned: Your career is almost never a straight line.  It can take many twists and turns.  It may even seem like you’re moving in the wrong direction.  Just remember that you often pick up new ideas, skills, and knowledge through all those twists that you can apply later in your career.


Elizabeth Larson

Elizabeth Larson  |  CEO of Watermark Learning

Elizabeth tells us about how failing to follow some good advice limited her effectiveness.

What Elizabeth learned: You’re more than just a translator or liaison.  To be successful, you need to spend time to understand your stakeholders and develop trust and credibility.


Roxanne Miller

Roxanne Miller  |  President, Requirements Quest

Roxanne tells a story of how a missed requirement led to huge negative consequences for one organization.

What Roxanne learned: Ask the right questions.  Often, we’re given a solution to implement and don’t look outside the parameters we’re given.  ‘What if’ can be a powerful way to start a thought provoking conversation.  Developing an understanding of your industry and looking at things from the customer’s point of view helps you ask the right questions and address assumptions.


Cheryl Lee

Cheryl Lee  |  Co-author of the book Effective PM and BA Role Collaboration

Cheryl tells us how having overconfidence in your subject matter expertise can lead to problems.

What Cheryl learned: Beware of the curse of knowledge.  It’s great to develop subject matter expertise, but when you use your knowledge exclusively to develop requirements or solutions, you’re likely to miss something.  Take a collaborative approach and avoid working in silos.


Paula Bell

Paula Bell  |  Paula A. Bell Consulting, LLC

Paula explains how the fear of sharing bad news can lead to a lack of trust.

What Paula learned: Be transparent and don’t avoid sharing bad news.  Being open and honest about problems lets us do something to resolve the issue sooner and it also leads to developing greater trust.


David Mantica

David Mantica  |  President, ASPE-Training

David tells a story of how overconfidence in one solution caused him to miss out on a great opportunity.

What David learned: Don’t get stuck in the weeds.  Make sure you pick your head up once in a while and see what’s going on around you.  Don’t get caught up in your own hubris; check your ego.  You can love what you do and still be open to other people’s ideas.


Bob Prentiss

Bob Prentiss  |  Bob the BA

Bob shares two mistakes; one personal and one professional that helped shape who he is today.

What Bob learned: Don’t avoid crucial conversations; the longer you wait, the harder it is to have those difficult discussions.  The regret you’ll have is often harder to live with than facing what you need to do.  Also, don’t let your ego get you in trouble.  Understand that everyone plays a role in the success of the project.  We all need to be open and collaborate to achieve success.


Kupe Kupersmith

Kupe Kupersmith  |  President, B2T Training

Kupe shares a story about how he almost lost his job because he didn’t consider the human side.

What Kupe learned: Don’t forget the human side of things.  Your solutions may be perfectly logical, but if we forget the human side, we’ll meet resistance.  Many of us get tripped up when we don’t successfully navigate political waters and take personalities into account.  Be aware of the human side of change.


There are some common themes in what these industry leaders have learned.

  • Act with openness, transparency, and collaboration
  • Check your ego at the door
  • Understand that the human side of change is just as important as the technology.

I hope you’ve learned something from this episode so you don’t make the same mistakes.

Listen to the full episode to hear the biggest mistakes made by these eight thought leaders (as well as my own biggest mistake).


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