You meet a client to discuss a problem. You present the facts and suggest solutions. They refuse to acknowledge your ideas. Worse still, they even refuse to accept the facts or shift their perspective.
What can a Business Analyst do in such circumstances?
Here are five ways to minimize confrontation, manage denial and find ways forward on business projects.
1. Establish a relationship. Focus more on the client themselves as a person, and less on the details. Establish ground rules (or ‘bottom lines’) early on, for what the client expects from the process. Give them time to talk through the issues as they see them, acknowledging their feelings and getting a sense of their perspective.
2. Focus on solutions, not problems. Establish early on what the client has tried to do to rectify their problem. When presenting your ideas, don’t get caught up in the issues of why the problem occurred. Instead, keep looking forward and focus on solving the problem.
3. Keep the emotion minimal. Sometimes defiance is a sign of anxiety. Perhaps the client is much more worried about issues than they have let on. Use empathy; finding a way to understand and share the feelings of the client. A straightforward, calm and empathetic approach will yield better results, and minimize conflict.
4. Focus on what’s ahead. Redefine the problem, in terms of what the client is worried will happen in the future if nothing changes. With clarity over future risks, it is much easier to define possible solutions. It also provides the opportunity to put proposals in their language.
5. Take time out. Sometimes a meeting reaches a point where everything seems to be going in circles. Suggest a break or even a further meeting. Getting some space can clear the air for all sides, and maybe give the clarity for finding new ways forward.
Emotions and miscommunication are as much potential barriers as practical issues. As a Business Analyst, entering a relationship with emotional awareness and a solution-focused approach can help minimize conflict, even with the most challenging of clients.