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Treasure_ChestHello all – BobtheBA here and when we last left off we were exploring how innovation can be key to turning requirements trash into stakeholder treasure. The scenario we were exploring was a difficult stakeholder that was not forthcoming with their requirements. Your job (should you choose to accept it) was to improve your 1:1 interview process through innovation by looking at it through different eyes like those of a hostage negotiator. It may yield a different result or help you to be more prepared than what you thought possible.

In any interview process, the key to being successful is to be prepared. However, we often get caught up with the one thousand and one things we have going on and we do not prepare as well as we should or (cringe!) we even wing it. Besides preparing a list of questions, one of the things that I do when I go into an interview is to have my checklist that helps drive my process. I used to struggle with being prepared until I related my experience with that of the hostage negotiator. Guess what? They have to be very prepared and they have a checklist too. Let’s see what their checklist looks like and then translate into BA speak to see if we can be more successful!

The hostage negotiator arrives on the scene and goes through their checklist (Credit to “” and “Ed Grabianowski” for the hostage negotiation checklist steps):

All questions “Q” are from the Hostage Negotiator. All answers “A” are from the Business Analyst and how you might respond.

Q What has occurred?
A As a BA you need to know all about what has occurred and what has not. Make sure you dive deep and understand the reasons for the project, the issue and/or the reason for why you are interviewing. There is a reason that your interviewee is holding requirements hostage and being difficult. Get a good layout of the situation so that you can approach it from a stable point of view. A perceived unbalanced approach could enflame the situation more. You must understand the context of the problem you are trying to solve.

Q Who initiated the call?
A Stakeholder analysis – it is NOT just for PMs! Determine who is driving the project you are on and why. The sponsor is your friend and should be your biggest supporter. Know what they want and why. Do they have a relationship with your difficult stakeholder? They might be able to help.

Q Time of occurrence?
A Does time really matter? Absolutely. Why was this project pursued at this time? What are the impacts of doing this project now vs. later? When does it really need to be completed? How does the timeframe impact your difficult stakeholder? It will certainly impact the questions you might ask during your interview.

Q What is the nature of the surrounding scene?
A Do you understand the political landscape of your environment and how it impacts the project you are working on? What about how it impacts your difficult stakeholder?

Q Police injuries? Suspect injuries? Hostage injuries? Other injuries?
A What relationships have been damaged in this “hostage” crisis? Have people, processes, data or systems been impacted, cutoff or disallowed as a result of this requirements hostage crisis? Will there be future injuries?

Q What kind of contact has been made with the suspect? When?
A What contact have you made with your interviewee? Did you just email them and set up a meeting? How well do you know this person? Did you reach out to them as soon as you knew they were involved? After the kickoff? Not at all yet? How you answer this question may give you insight as to why they are being difficult.

Q Is the situation locked in?
A Rarely have I come across a situation that is truly locked in. You may feel that it is locked in but as you explore what it means to be a good Business Negotiator (or Hostage Analyst) you will find that you can affect the outcome in a positive fashion. Remember, your difficult stakeholder wants something and there is always hope of influencing them.

Q Where are the suspects located?
A Know the dynamics of team and business. Geographically dispersed? Teleconferences not working? You may need to travel to more effectively to deal with the situation.

Q Where are the hostages located?
A More than likely the requirements being held hostage are locked up in the stakeholder’s mind and are not documented anywhere. However, do not assume that this is totally true as you may have access to materials that you assumed did not exist. Ask – you just never know. Maybe they are being difficult because they expect you to do all the work of pouring through volume after volume of mind numbing facts.

Q Where are the non-hostages?
A What is the state of other requirements elicitation and documentation? Is there a bigger problem here or is it just the one person? Make sure you know what you have and what you do not. Maybe there is another crisis just around the corner.

Q Where are the suspect’s observation points?
A What powerbase does your stakeholder have? Will they only operate from their home-base (their cube/office, their floor, favorite conference room, working from home)? What are they doing when no one is talking to them? Do they only have rules for you?

Q What firearms, explosives, and chemicals could be used/located on the site?
A What could your stakeholder do to sabotage your efforts if their needs are not met? What tactics will they employ? Do they have access and power to do so?

Q What is the description/profile of the hostage taker?
A Key stakeholder analysis. Do you truly understand your stakeholder? WIIFM – what’s in it for me? Do you know what’s in it for them? Is their effort to hold these requirements hostage unintentional or a directed effort to prevent things from moving forward? Are they in favor (accepting) of what you are doing?

Q What is the offender affiliation/public support like?
A Do you know who they influence and who influences them? Do they have support or are they left on their own? If a decision is not made in their favor will it affect you?

Goodness, there is a lot to think about in interviewing difficult stakeholders and this was all from the eyes of a hostage negotiator! And this was just the prep piece – there is also the techniques of the hostage negotiator and more that we can be inspired by and innovate. I realized early on that preparing was difficult and it took a lot of work. I also learned that when I looked at things a little differently I could introduce something new into my process which is an act of innovation. The result? My innovation = better preparedness = more “hostages” (requirements) released = requirements trash turned into stakeholder treasure!

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