Bruce Lee was a world-famous martial artist, author, film star, and philosopher.  His teachings have had a great impact on the world and now we will apply his philosophy to Business Analysis.  Here are the seven principals for achieving success as a Business Analyst as explained through some of Bruce Lee’s most famous quotes.Advice to Business Analysts from Bruce Lee

1.      “Preparation for tomorrow is hard work today.” – Bruce Lee

Preparation is key to succeed as a Business Analyst.  Before you begin a project, you must first work to understand the business need, develop your knowledge about the enterprise architecture, and identify any organizational process assets.  This will help you to define the scope of the initiative, understand the capabilities of the business, which will help you prepare for discussions about potential solutions.  Once you understand the scope of the initiative, you can begin identifying organizational process assets, which can be information on prior projects, process flows, systems diagrams, and other assets that you can leverage to increase your knowledge and get a jump start on requirements elicitation.

From there, you can prepare for requirements elicitation – whether through a requirements workshop, JAD session, or one-on-one interviews.  You can best prepare for requirements elicitation by performing a stakeholder analysis and creating process diagrams or other models.  Other elements of preparation may include planning your Business Analysis activities based on the type of initiative, creating a communication plan, developing a Work Breakdown Structure, and creating an Activity List.

Does all of this preparation take time?  Yes.  Does it make you more effective? Absolutely – it’s worth you investment of time.  You can either go into meetings unprepared, without a basic understanding of the scope, stakeholder needs, and business processes, or you can do your homework and come prepared to meetings with the necessary knowledge, know what questions to ask, and run effective and efficient meetings.  You’ll look like a rock star if you come prepared.

2.     “If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.” – Bruce Lee

While preparation and planning is key, don’t get stuck in planning mode and never deliver anything of value to the customer.  We call this analysis paralysis.  Master Lee also said “Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.”  Make time to appropriately plan and then execute on that plan.  I’ve helped many Business Analysts through roadblocks in which the team is focused on overcoming a single obstacle and ignoring other progress that can be made.  Make sure you see the big picture and work to drive the initiative forward.  It’s Ready, Aim, Fire . . . not Ready, Aim, Aim, Aim, Aim.

What value does a huge stack of documentation provide to the customer?  In agile, we talk about valuing working software over comprehensive documentation.  That is, while documentation is needed and provides some value, we should create the minimum amount needed and work on executing the plan to deliver the customer something valuable that they can implement.  Always have a bias towards execution.

3.      “A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.” – Bruce Lee

Don’t be afraid to ask dumb questions and make sure you understand terms used by your stakeholders and SMEs.  Sometimes seemingly dumb questions can lead to uncovering new requirements or new solutions.  Don’t take a seemingly correct yet complex answer at face value – ask clarify questions to ensure you understand the response.  Failing to do so can lead you down the rabbit hole to the wrong conclusion, especially with smart subject matter experts.  SMEs who have been working in the same area for a significant amount of time gain a lot of knowledge and experience.  Unfortunately, they may have a limited view of what is needed and potential solutions due to their expertise in their domain.  They fall into the trap of “that’s the way it’s always been done”.

4.      “Empty your cup so that it may be filled; become devoid to gain totality.” – Bruce Lee

The concept of emptying your cup refers to the idea of letting go of preconceived ideas of what customer needs or the solution.  Look at a problem with a beginner’s mind.  In the beginner’s mind, there are many options.  In the expert’s mind, there are but a few.  Failing to empty your cup can cause you to make false assumptions and prematurely determine a solution.  While you should use your existing knowledge and leverage materials from past projects, attack the problem with an open mind, ask probing questions, and look for upstream and downstream impacts to any change.

5.      “Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it.” – Bruce Lee

Seek out organizational assets, subject matter experts, and others who have managed similar projects.  The best Business Analysts will research a topic before getting started to gain a solid foundational understanding of the issues, terminology, and key stakeholders of any change initiative.  Keep in mind that not all of the information you get will be relevant to your project.  As Master Lee also said, “Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”  This is how we should build our requirements . . . seek existing information, adapt that which is relevant and useful, reject that which does not add value, and add new information specific to your project.

6.     “Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.” – Bruce Lee

Admit your mistakes and shortcomings.  This will allow you to earn the trust and respect of your team.  If you make a mistake, let those impacted know about it and let them know how you will address the issue.  Attempting to hide mistakes will lead to distrust and people may be reluctant to work with you.  Having the courage to admit mistakes and taking action to address them will earn you respect.  In agile and other iterative delivery models, we have the concept of failing early.  When we fail early, we can make course corrections along the way and still arrive at the envisioned end state.  Take the concept of failing early to your Business Analysis activities as well.  It’s ok to make mistakes as long as you learn from them.

7.       “Obey the principles without being bound by them.” – Bruce Lee

Within larger organizations, there are rules, procedures, and templates you must use to perform your job.  However, make sure that everything you do adds value to the customer.  Certainly there are documents that need to be produced for audit or compliance reasons – remember that auditors and regulators are your customers as well.  Don’t get caught in the dogma of the Business Analysis process.  Work to understand the “why” behind each of your deliverables and adapt as necessary.

In Agile, we value individuals and interactions over processes and tools.  We value responding to change over following a plan.  That is, while the processes, tools, and plan are important, we should be adaptable and do what works.  If a step in your process adds no value, why are you doing it?