March 26, 2021

The subpersonalities an analyst needs, part 3: delivering

By Paul Laughlin

Part 3 of a series exploring the subpersonalities that analysts need to bring to their work, this time focusing on the delivering phase. Which attitudes, mindset or persona help an analst succesfully deliver work that drives change? Which subpersonality, that you exhibit in other areas of your life, can serve you here?

We’ve already considered 6 personifications of such mindsets. In part 1 we reflected on how the personas we called a Detective, Architect & Seller can help an analyst contract for the work that is really needed. In part 2, we explored how the personas of a Curator, Scientist & Psychologist can serve an analyst during technical work.

Now our attention turns to the final phase of the Laughlin Consultancy Softer Skills model. This phase is called Delivering and includes the final 3 Softer Skills analysts should develop for effective delivery. Those steps are skills in achieving Sign-Off from stakeholders, Visual Storytelling & influencing to implement a Solution. Now, beyond the rational skills development, let’s consider the mindsets or subpersonalities that help in this phase.

Subpersonality 7: The Politician

For all the abuse heaped on politicians, a skilled politician is expert at influencing their constituencies & navigating a complex web of competing interests. For that reason, the persona I recommend that analysts consider manifesting at this stage is that of a Politician. It helps with step 7, acheving sign-off from stakeholders for your recommendations.

All too often inexperienced analysts can be naive about the need to engage with organisational politics. They can hold to the theory that if they just present strong enough evidence a rational ‘data-driven‘ case will persuade senior leaders. This fails to recognise the reality that all leaders are needing to consider multiple constituencies when deciding what to support. They may agree with your strategic analysis rationally, but also need to remember the impact on their department (or other internal tribe) & their ability to sell changes to them.

Through embracing the subpersonality of a politician, analysts can pause after their technical work & give time to sell the key insights. Using an awareness of the networks of loyalties. Differentially communicating findings so they are relevant & persuasive to different factions, they can succeed. Helping to achieve more collaboration by being willing to be political for the greater good.

Subpersonality 8: The Craftsperson

The next step in our Softer Skills model is that of Visual Storytelling. Analysts need to leverage the power of both storytelling skills to structure a compelling message & data visualisation to communicate it. Beyond those skills, the mindset or persona adopted by analysts for such work also matters.

Some organisations have adopted the job title of Data Artists but I feel the persona of an artist is too self indulgent for what is needed at this stage. Rather, as well as creative thinking & graphical skills, an obsession with function or utility is critical. What is the key message? What do viewers of your data visualisation need to understand as a result of looking? What should they be motivated to do as a result of that recognition?

Given such a balance of utility as well as creativity, I feel the subpersonalitity needed at this stage is that of a Master Craftsperson. Combining the attitude of commitment to honing the craft of visually communicating data with a focus on purpose & usage. An analyst should be more motivated by their stakeholders grasping the key message & being persuaded than with appearing clever or winning data art prizes. With the persona of a craftsperson there can be a lifetime of fulfilment that comes from mastering this media.

Subpersonality 9: Team Athletes

Moving on to the final step of this 9 step model, I advise imagining the world of team sports. Whatever your favourite team sport, from football to hockey or athletics to synchronised swimming, there is a common ethos. Successful team players are motivated not just by their own contribution but by the success of the team.

As analysts move into the final Softer Skills model step (Solution) there is also a need to lift their heads and remember the bigger picture. As well as the softer skills that I train for this step, the mindset that analysts adopt can make a world of difference. Just as the skills needed focus on an effective feedback loop & reconnecting with the original business need, analysts need to reconnect with the purpose of this work.

So, I recommend a subpersonality that helps analysts at this stage is one of Team Athletes. This involves the lifting of their head to see the current organisational context & reconnect with the real business need exposed in step 1. The mindset of the team athlete then focusses on achieving a team win. What does the organisation need now? Who might need your help in order to implement the model or recommended decision? What has been learned that needs to be shared with the rest of your analytics team?

Who else are you when you succeed at delivering?

I hope this three-part series has been helpful for you. Perhaps it has prompted you to reflect on who you are when you are at your most effective. If you were to name that persona, or multiple personas at different stages, who would you identify?

When training analysts in Softer Skills I also identify a tenth step that is embedded in all the pervious nine. That is Commercial Awareness and I have written previously about the critical need for analysts to develop those skills. If I was to personify the mindset needed when applying those skills, it would be a shrewd Investor.

But enough from me on this topic for now. I am interested to hear your thoughts. Please use the comments boxes below to share what has resonated with you or anything you disagree with. I look forward to learning from your experience & subpersonalities as we all keep working on improving how we are delivering.