Are you bold enough to go beyond accepted norms?

Yesterday morning I was walking to my office building. It was just like any other day. Bleary eyed and oblivious to my surroundings I moved through a near empty mall. It was too early for opening hour.

A man popped in to my vision just ahead of me. We were bound for a head-on collision. So I veered to my left, but he moved to his right. Noting that we were still heading for impact, I inched even further to the left. At this point I’m very close to a shop window, but I was mildly determined to stay on my course.

I had some underlying assumptions.

Firstly, in Australia we drive on the left hand side of the road, and we give way to cars on the right. So generally speaking, people walk to the left when passing, and give way to others coming from the right.

Further, men generally give first preference to women in doorways and passages. Even when I don’t want or need to go first, I’m almost always politely urged to step through. Not always, but mostly, and that’s fine with me.

So I was sticking to my guns.

And the man heading my way was finally forced to move left and around. He abruptly stopped, stomped his foot and glared straight at me.

Oh dear. It was way too early to really make sense of the situation.

Though based on my beliefs, I clearly had right of way! I responded with a somewhat bemused expression and moved on.

I thought about it afterwards.

I thought generally about how certain assumptions, beliefs, and norms may no longer serve us, or may never have served us at all.

As a business analyst you are often faced with conventions, procedures and practices that may no longer, or never did, benefit the organisation. Quite often the people in the business are not even aware that they are following outmoded norms. They are so busy doing the work, and when asked why, they respond with:

That’s the way we’ve always done it

We have to do it that way because it’s policy

I never really thought about it

It’s crucial not to be critical at this point.

As Neale Donald Walsch says, “No one does anything inappropriate, given their model of the world.”

It’s important that you determine whether those outdated practices need to be challenged. Are they worth challenging? Does it depend on the outcomes you are trying to achieve for the organisation? Maybe you could plant the seeds now, and wait for a better time.

Like difficult teenagers, pick your battles.

And when you do, you must facilitate the conversation, not dominate it. Ask your stakeholders questions that help them arrive at their own realisations about the possibility of change.

After all, they know their business better than you. Don’t they?

Don’t arrive at the meeting with exciting news of how you’ve identified the problem and know how to fix it. Even if you do know, give your stakeholders the stage to direct control over the decisions being made.

In doing this, you will earn greater stakeholder buy-in and the results are more closely aligned with the organisation’s needs. Also, the changes have a much higher chance of success.

This is the premise in which I approach my business process workshops and any other setting where change requires discussion.

Like organisations that must challenge outdated practices due to changing economic demands, it’s time that I rethink my own assumptions about people passing on the left and giving way to those on the right.

The city I grew up in is now a place of ever increasing cultural diversity. There are more and more people from different countries, cultures and backgrounds. And not everybody knows about my pass-on-the-left rule!

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