I confess that I was never satisfied with how we present the Business Analysis Mindset to people who do not work professionally as business analysts. For those who are already a BA, just say something like: “You know the way we think when we’re working? That’s it!” This simple explanation usually generates positive nods and a smirk among the more experienced ones. But it doesn’t mean anything to anyone who has never acted in the role of a business analyst.
I’ve been talking about the business analysis mindset for some time now and my specific goal has always been to break the boundaries of the specialist niche in the area. I want to “contaminate” other audiences with our beliefs and values and influence the way all organizations think and act. Unlike a formal role, function, position, or specific profession, a mindset is something that anyone can seek to develop in themselves. Furthermore, an organization can encourage the development of a mindset in its employees to drive a culture aligned with its strategic objectives. The business analysis mindset has the potential to create “nimble” and “business-driven” organizations, i.e., organizations that continuously transform themselves to obtain better business results.
Links to more articles and videos on the business analysis mindset are available at the end of this article.
After maturing this subject in conversations with several experts, studying it in depth, and benchmarking with other mindsets, I believe I finally found the best way to present it.
The business analysis mindset is a dynamic set of attitudes, behaviors, beliefs, emotional tendencies, mental models, and values that continually drives business improvements, instead of just doing the same work repeatedly.
The mindset is summarized in the following table with a comparison of its opposite:
|Resistant to change||Driven by growth and continuous improvement|
|Think limited, restricted to their silo||Think holistically, always consider the big picture|
|Pursue department/function success||Seek the overall success of the organization and its stakeholders|
|Do the things right||Do the right things|
|Focus on efficiency and local operational excellence||Promote strategic cross-functional collaboration|
|No patience for differing opinions||Take responsibility for collaboration and shared understanding|
|Sweep problems under the rug||Expose gaps as opportunities for improvement|
An illustrated and more elaborate model is also available at the end. The rest of this article details a little better the concepts of the framework that was used to structure the mindset in this format.
I count on your collaboration in improving and disseminating this material to expand our community of business analysis practitioners.
Definition of Mindset
“A way of perceiving the world and shaping one’s response to it.”
Aronson, E. (2017). The theory of cognitive dissonance.
“A particular way of thinking that determines a person’s behaviors, attitudes, and responses to the world.”
Each of us has a particular way of thinking and acting. Our brain is made up of individual unique neural connections that were created based on our DNA and evolved from our everyday experiences and learnings. Each person has their own individual mindset. Even the twins already live different experiences inside their mother’s belly. Just as no two people are exactly alike, no two individual mindsets are alike.
But the term mindset is also often used to refer to a shared way of thinking and acting. The collective mindset refers to the attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions that are common in a group of people, such as an organization, community, or society.
“A set of beliefs and assumptions that shape the perception of reality.”
” A set of mental manifestations (beliefs, way of thinking, psychic and moral dispositions), which characterize a collectivity, a class of people or an individual.”
Organizational psychologists often study a company’s collective mindset to understand its culture, values, and goals and how these factors affect employee behavior and performance. In this sense, a collective mindset can be seen as a result of the accumulation and integration of individual mindsets within a group.
When I refer to the business analysis mindset, I am referring to this concept of a collective mindset that is shared by people who practice business analysis and who, by doing it constantly and repetitively using techniques and concepts of business analysis, shape their way of understanding that needs always exist within a context and react in a similar way, seeking the root cause of problems and enabling changes that can create solutions that generate greater value for all stakeholders.
Consistent, repetitive practice develops the mindset.
The mindset turns practice into something automatic and natural.
Mindsets presented as opposites
In other articles about the business analysis mindset, I have already explained that a mindset is not something binary. It’s not something you HAVE or DON’T HAVE. It should be understood as a progressively developing scale. However, for didactic purposes and easiness of understanding, the most popular mindsets are usually presented in opposition to their contrary. This approach enables immediate understanding and facilitates the correlation with practical and everyday situations.
Below there is a list of some famous mindsets that have been presented in terms of their opposites. Here they are well summarized but you can find more details in the references at the end.
focuses on weaknesses and threats
focuses on strengths and opportunities
assumes that an individual’s abilities are fixed characteristics
embraces challenges, sees effort as the path to development, and learns from criticism
pessimistic approach, focuses on the lack of resources and competition
optimistic approach, focuses on the abundance of available resources
seeks to follow a plan and comply with established bureaucratic processes
encourages self-managed team collaboration with incremental delivery
Presented like this, as opposed to something contrary, it is much easier to understand the applicability of a mindset and assess whether in a given situation you are thinking/acting closer to one or the other opposite.
Companies, human resources professionals, professors, authors, and consultants have used this form of presentation to spread and promote these mindsets. Stimulating a collective mindset within an organization or group of people is a way of directing the corporate culture in favor of a desired strategic vision.
What is the opposite of the business analysis mindset?
To present the business analysis mindset in this form, it is necessary to define its opposite. The antagonist.
How does someone who IS NOT a business analyst think and act?
This definition requires imagining someone who never practices business analysis, regardless of their job title or role. Someone who only cares about executing the business tasks assigned to him/her and nothing else. Does not question or ask why. Doesn’t analyze the business, just operates it.
The opposite of the business analysis mindset is the business operation mindset.
Maybe you can think of another name, but after evaluating several options, this was the best I could find to create a chart with the main differences between the two opposites using all the components of a mindset.
Components of a mindset
A collective mindset can be described by a set of components:
- Beliefs – The convictions that individuals hold about the world, other people, and themselves.
- Mental models – The implicit and explicit theories that individuals hold about how the world works, which shape their perceptions and interpretations of events.
- Values – The core principles that guide an individual’s behavior and decision-making.
- Attitudes – The evaluative judgments that individuals hold about a particular person, object, or situation.
- Emotional tendencies – The tendencies that individuals have to experience, express, and regulate emotions in response to different situations.
- Behavioral patterns – The recurring patterns of behavior that individuals exhibit in response to different situations.
To describe the business analysis mindset, I sought to identify each of these components in the way they are shared by business analysis practitioners and contrasted them with their opposites, thus filling a framework for defining mindsets.
The framework that presents the business analysis mindset
Finally, based on this opposition and using the components of a mindset, we can present the business analysis mindset in a structured framework that is clear and easy to assimilate:
|Business Operation Mindset||Business Analysis Mindset|
|Beliefs||If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.||Things can always be improved or simplified.|
|The world is what I can see or feel.||My personal understanding may be biased. There are other angles to look at a situation that may present a better understanding.|
|Mind Model||Limited: I only see the tree.
I focus on the details of my work and consider impact only within the context of my department or role.
|Holistic: I see the forest.
I consider the big picture and seek to understand the interrelated elements of the organization to achieve business objectives and assess the impact on all stakeholders.
|Values||I am responsible for doing things right.||I am responsible for driving the organization to do the right things.|
|My success depends solely on achieving my department/function goals.||The overall success of the organization is what matters, so I consider the impact of decisions and actions on all stakeholders.|
|Attitudes||I do what I’m asked without minding the consequences and see later how it turned out.||I valid hypotheses based on data and facts before taking a riskier course of action.|
|I try to maintain the status quo. I resist change and avoid new ideas.||I always challenge the status quo. I embrace change as an opportunity for continuous improvement. I am always open to hearing new ideas.|
|I judge and act based on my own perception and ignore other points of view.||I understand that different perceptions and views of reality can affect judgment, so I take responsibility for shared understanding.|
|Emotional Tendencies||I have no patience to deal with dissent. I prefer a quick order from a higher authority to end discussions.||I try to be sensitive to human psychology and act with diplomacy, sense of humor, and patience to deal effectively with different personalities and their unique needs and dynamic mindsets.|
|I hate change. I prefer stability and predictability. I am cautious, conservative, and risk-averse. I feel uncomfortable when there is ambiguity or uncertainty.||I love to learn new things. Challenges motivate me. I am optimistic, confident, and adaptable. I deal well with the ambiguity and uncertainty that are part of my day-to-day life.|
|Behaviors||I sweep problems under the rug.||I seek to discover “gaps” because they are opportunities for improvement.|
|I follow explicit instructions without questioning them.||I try to figure out the right things that need to be done in a dynamic context to continually achieve the best business outcomes.|
|I am dedicated to local efficiency and operational excellence.||I develop strategic thinking, cross-functional collaboration, and continuous improvement.|
The BA Mindset – Illustrated Version
Download a PDF presentation with each of these components illustrated by Fabrício Laguna.
A collective mindset is how a group of people perceive and react to the world around them.
The definition of a mindset can be carried out by decomposing its 6 fundamental components (beliefs, mental models, values, attitudes, emotional tendencies, and behaviors) and becomes easier to understand if presented in opposition to its contrary. This intersection of opposing mindsets with the 6 components structures a framework for presenting a mindset.
The business analysis mindset is developed in an individual through constant and repetitive use of business analysis concepts and practices regardless of their job title or role. It is not restricted to business analysis professionals.
The presentation of the business analysis mindset using the framework presented here makes its understanding easier for professionals from other areas.
I’ve populated every cell of this framework based on my judgment, experience, and research in the professional business analysis literature. Eventually, other authors may disagree with me at some point or prefer to describe some of these components more precisely following the same methodology proposed here. I leave the door open for suggestions and additions. I fully understand that those who share the business analysis mindset are always looking for ways to improve things.
Other sources about the business analysis mindset
- Business Analyst, a profession and a mindset (book from Yulia Kosarenko)
- BA is a Mindset (Article)
- BA is a Mindset (the article in an illustrated video)
- A mindset without skills is just frustrating (Article)
- Compounding the BA mindset (Article)
- The Brazilian BA into the multiverse (video)
- Mindset Mottos (Article)
- BA Brew Episode 28: The BA Mindset (podcast with Debra Paul and Christina Lovelock)
- Should Business Analysis be promoted as a Mindset? (podcast with Delvin Fletcher)
- BAs to watch with Stefan Bossuwé (video from IIBA)
References about other mindsets
- Positive Mindset vs. Negative – Seligman, M.E.P. (2002). Positive psychology, positive prevention, and positive therapy.
- Fixed mindset vs. Growth – Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success.
- Abundance vs Scarcity Mentality – Covey, S. R. (1989). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.
- Agile v Traditional Mindset – Blog Agile Business – https://www.agilebusiness.org/resource/blog-agile-v-traditional-mindset.html
- Individual vs collective mindset – Cameron, K. S., & Quinn, R. E. (2011). Diagnosing and changing organizational culture: based on the competing value structure.