In my last post I talked about about presenting new ideas to people.
But sometimes you need to be a little bit more convincing – Especially if you do not yet have credibility with the group or if your idea might by challenging what people currently think.
Let’s say for example, that you are telling business analysts that they are not needed anymore, or if you are explaining to a project manager that they do need a BA even though it will cost them money. People will not accept these statements at face value.
You can plead with people to believe you, but that rarely helps. You can yell and scream – but nobody will care. So what can you do?
When you need to be more convincing
I have found that it can be useful to deliberately structure your message so that you address the questions or points of doubt people want to consider before accepting the idea.
To do this I use the following frame:
In other words, rather than just saying “this is what I think,” I include 4 quick statements:
- This is what I think.
- This is why it is relevant.
- This is why we should believe it is true.
- This is the implication of it being true.
There is confusion about the role of the BA in modern projects (my idea). For example, we heard at the recent conference that less that half of the agile projects in Australia have even a single BA working on them (my evidence). If this happens in our organisation, then a lot of the projects starting next year will have no BA (relevance). This in turn means that a lot of us here will be sad (implication).
Structuring your message like this forces you to consider what you are saying and be to be clear when you talk; which is particularly useful when you are in a workshop and want to engage many people at once.
Why say all four things?
Not everyone cares about each of the 4 dimensions of your explanation.
One person might, for example, only listen for one of the statements you make.
For example, when people tell me things, I am quick to consider if something is relevant and generally want to understand the implications more before I stop to look for evidence of something being true.
Other people wont move forward until they hear some kind of evidence or don’t seem to connect the dots to decide themselves when things are relevant to them.
So someone might only listen for one or two things, but different people still listen to different things. So unless you have an audience of 1, and you know that person well, you are guessing what they need before they accept your suggestion.
Using the complete frame works well because it helps people answer whichever of the 4 questions that they would ask when considering the point you are making.
It also works well because you move quickly through the questions rather than dwelling too long on one of them.Then when people have considered your idea, they can ask for more evidence or discuss the relevance and implications of what you are saying.
You have given them more power to decide whether they like what you are saying and this somehow seems to make the message more compelling, or at least acceptable.
Do you need to say these things in order?
While it is good to include all four points, you don’t need to do them in the order I used above. Here is a similar statement, where I have flipped things around:
Two years ago, all projects had multiple business analysts on them. Then most had only one. In the last year, there were quite a few projects with no BA. In fact, outside our organisation, 50% of agile projects have no BA (a lot of evidence). It is budget time and we want to know which projects need us next year (relevance). If downward trend in demand for BA’s continues though, we will be stuck testing instead of going on boat cruises (implication). So I think need to be really good at explaining the value we bring (my idea that I want to discuss).
How do you make things relevant?
Sometimes you can just say “this is relevant because we need to make a decision today.” But often you want to do a little more work with important messages.
One way to help people see the relevance is to tell a story or show a video that lets people make their own connections. This takes longer than just stating a fact but can be worth doing.
A shorter story could just include these words:
- Last week this happened to me. I think it could happen a lot to our crew.
- John was telling me earlier today that he got caught up in a conversation about agile and I think that might be happening a lot.
- Professional BA’s are good at facilitation and we are professional BA’s.
The idea though is to connect the idea to something that people can relate to. Don’t just tell a long war story, tell people quickly why this new information might apply to them.
What evidence do you need?
It is good to have great evidence.
If you are a lawyer or a scientist then you might even present a heap of data to prove your theory.
But you don’t want to do that in the introduction when you first present an idea. It is better to state your claim with a hint at the evidence and then provide more information later, for those inclined to validate it.
In the introduction, you can usually add some kind of simple evidence like this:
- Personal comments – “John and Mary both had this happen to them”
- Anecdotes and mythology – “People tell me Steve Jobs was mean to BA’s. Here is a story about him talking to one
- Appeal to authority – “this important person told us to do something”
- An example – The bank we compete against have done this, so did Apple.
In some of these cases you might use a story to provide evidence. This can provide both some evidence and some relevance at the same time, but make sure you cover both.
When you first try framing ideas like this, it is likely to feel mechanical and contrived. But if you take the effort to write your points out this way, I think you will find that it helps you both communicate more clearly and get people to listen to what you are saying.