seven habits of highly effective business analyst

Seven Habits of Highly Effective “BA” People

by Yaaqub Mohamed a.k.a Yamo21

When I was 17, I stumbled upon the fascinating world of audiobooks. The first audiobook that I ever heard was the life changing “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People“, read by the author himself. The riveting real-life examples, practical advice, and the passion in delivery made this book have a huge impact in my life.

Early this week, when I learnt that Dr. Covey passed away, it gave me a sinking feeling and I felt extremely sad. 

As a tribute to him, I would like to summarize the seven habits, and provide a parallel of how business analysts can adapt them to be more effective with 3 key BA lessons per habit. These habits have a universal appeal, and could be observed as a common theme with highly effective people.

Let us see what BA lessons we can derive out of them.

(See at the bottom of this post on how to get a free copy of this audiobook from audible)

1) Be Proactive

In Summary: I still remember the depth of meaning in this simple statement that I felt when Dr. Covey explained what it means to be proactive as human beings. Owning up the responsibility for our own lives and the actions we take is the essence of this habit. When you dissect the word “responsibility” it splits to mean “the ability” to choose a “response”.  Being proactive means that you exercise this ability consciously without being reactive to changing stimuli and situations.

3 BA Lessons: 

  • be proactive with your career – decide where you want to go this year, and for the next few years in terms of career growth. Make growth happen, don’t expect it to happen on its own.
  • be proactive with your work – for any business analysis work, planning and monitoring are key aspects; and often ignored. There should be a definite meaning in the BABOK having the “Business Analysis Planning and Monitoring” as the the biggest knowledge area. Explore this area, learn more and implement it in your work.
  • be proactive with everyday planning – approach your work proactively by keeping a daily to-do list. Review it first thing in the morning and last thing in the day, and proactively plan for the next day’s events.

The Flip Side:  If you are not proactive, you will be reactive. A victim of the forces and circumstances surrounding you. Decide to act, and not be acted upon.

2) Begin With The End In Mind

In Summary: Mental visualization is extremely important. Covey says that all things are created twice: first, the mental conceptualization and visualization and a second physical, actual creation. Becoming your own creator means to plan and visualize what you’re going to do and what you’re setting out to accomplish and then go out and creating it. As a part of this habit, Covey adds: “The personal mission statement gives us a changeless core from which we can deal with external change.

3 BA Lessons: 

  • set professional goals and milestones – if you are planning on a CBAP certification or completion of a course, set them as goals. Track your progress by marking milestones on a calendar.
  • visualize success in your current project – conceive and believe that you will make your current project or endeavor successful. Visualize it.
  • create a personal mission statement – consisting of values and principles that you will use as a source of energy and inspiration for your day-to-day work.

The Flip Side:  Lack of goals and milestones causes lesser focus and can lead to doing less than ordinary work.

3) Put First Things First

In Summary: With your power of independent will, you can create the ending you want to have. Part of that comes with effective time management, starting with matters of importance. Then tasks should be completed based on urgency after you deal with all the important matters. If you deal with crises, pressing problems and deadline-driven projects first, your life will be a lot easier. The essence of time management is to organize and execute around priorities.

3 BA Lessons: 

  • resolve to have a personal management system – start thinking on the lines of having a process and system of how you will get things done at work. How will you track and complete your daily tasks.
  • read and apply “getting things done” – I would highly recommend you read “getting things done” by David Allen to start understanding the core principles of productivity.
  • prioritize the order of deliverables and the sequence of a deliverable  – your work as a BA is most of the times is based on deliverables. Create a list and prioritize them. For a given deliverable prioritize the sequence of completion too.

The Flip Side:  Not having priority causes you to do easy things first and may jeopardize the time that you would have available for more important things.

4) Think Win/Win

In Summary: If you believe in a better way to accomplish goals that’s mutually beneficial to all sides, that’s a win/win situation. “All parties feel good about the decision and feel committed to the action plan,” Covey wrote. “One person’s success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of the success of others.” If you have integrity and maturity, there’s no reason win/win situations can’t happen all the time.

3 BA Lessons: 

  • always think of win/win for the business and the IT – ask yourself, how can you make a given situation a win/win for your team and the business? Even if doing a small thing can change the way business or your team feels about a decision or an outcome, you have achieved win/win.
  • build effective relationships with your stakeholders – to understand win/win properly it is imperative that you know the real expectations and attitudes of various stakeholders.
  • be a wall of support – by being a good listener and developing a relationship of trust with your team and the business.

The Flip Side:  You will fall into a win/lose, lose/win, or a lose/lose situation which is not the best outcome.

5) Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood

In Summary: If you’re a good listener and you take the time to understand a concept, it will help you convey your opinions, plans and goals to others. It starts with communication and strong listening skills, followed by diagnosing the situation and then communicating your solution to others.

3 BA Lessons: 

  • practice listening skills – leave some silence when needed. Listen with an intent to paraphrase, act like a news reporter where every detail from the person you are listening to, matter.
  • park your ego – try and keep your personal opinion and biases aside when you are listening.
  • diagnose before your prescribe – do the ground work for any situation that you encounter. Explore the various facets of a fact or truth and then arrive at a conclusion.

The Flip Side:  Missing out on the true intentions and ideas from others (by not giving them a chance to be understood first), can cause apprehension within the team.

6) Synergize

In Summary: Synergistic communication, according to Covey, is “opening your mind and heart to new possibilities, new alternatives, new options.” This applies to the classroom, the business world and wherever you could apply openness and communication. It’s all about building cooperation and trust.

3 BA Lessons: 

  • focus on building strong relationships with your team and stakeholders
  • buy lunch or coffee for a team member or a key stakeholder – if you haven’t done that yet; do it.
  • build trust, deliver what you promise – build cycles of promising and delivering to your promise.

The Flip Side:  You cannot succeed as a business analyst without adequate cooperation and trust.

7) Sharpen The Saw

In Summary: Sometimes you’re working so hard on the other six habits that you forget about re-energizing and renewing yourself to sharpen yourself for the tasks in front of you. Some sharpening techniques include exercise and nutrition, reading, planning and writing, service and empathy and commitment, study and meditation.

3 BA Lessons: 

  • focus on YOU – remember Mens sana in corpore sano (a sound mind in a healthy body) is important to help you realize the essence of the other six habits.
  • sharpen your hard skills –  learn more about a technique that you already know by applying it to a different fictional scenario or problem.
  • sharpen your soft skills – join a toastmasters club, read books and attend workshops that will help you become a better writer, speaker and listener. Listen to TheBACoach Podcasts to learn real tips on how to improve your hard and soft skills.

The Flip Side: If you don’t sharpen your skills and keep yourself rejuvenated you won’t be an optimal state of performance.

Get a Free Copy

You can get one FREE audiobook when you sign-up for a trial audible account. Please click the image below (affiliate link) to get your FREE copy of the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”:

















Have you read “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People?” Which is you favorite habit? Do you have any additional BA lessons to add? 

Please use the comment space below to add your comments and thoughts.


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Article by

Yaaqub Mohamed (Yamo), is the founder of The BA Coach community and host for the #1 ranked business analysis podcast in iTunes. He believes in adding relentless value to the BA community and advancing the practice.  He host this blog, and podcast to help business analysts throughout the world, do analysis better, by providing educational, relevant, and inspiring content. He's the author of 'The Five Pillars of a Great Business Analyst', best selling 'The Ultimate CBAP-CCBA Study Guide' and the creator of the revolutionary 'Ultimate BABOK Kit'. 

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21 Responses to “Seven Habits of Highly Effective “BA” People”

  1. Hi Yamo,

    Yes, I too learned so much from Dr. Covey, and when I heard he had died earlier this week I too was sad. I was sad that the world had lost a great human being, and then I reflected on how much I professionally and personally owe to Stephen Covey and his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. When I heard that he died in a bicycle accident, doing something that helped him stay fit and in shape and most likely truly enjoyed doing, it made me recall the 7 Habits myself.

    In fact, I have followed Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits for the past 20 years, and in that time I have found my career blossom and grow in ways that I could not have imagined. My favorite of all the habits is “Sharpen the Saw”. Without taking care of my own needs I am not the best I can be professionally or personally. Especially important for those who take care of others (as in having a family with small children), it is vital to “Sharpen the Saw” on a daily basis.

    Meditation, exercise/sports, eating nutritiously, keeping my intellect engaged as in learning new skills and engaging in new opportunities, and keeping ourselves focused on the present tense of life are what I do to keep myself happy and healthy.

    Thanks for posting this tribute to Dr. Stephen Covey Yamo!

    • Yaaqub Mohamed a.k.a Yamo says:

      I couldn’t agree more on the taking care of others aspect from “sharpening the saw” habit. It is extremely important to sharpen oneself professionally, spiritually and physically.

      Dr Covey loss is indeed a great one for the humanity. He has contributed a lot of other positive things to the world besides his books.

      Thanks for the comment and sharing insights on your favorite habit!

  2. Chaminda says:

    Another excellent article. Loved it so much I read few time already. 7th habit seems to my favorite one too. As rule of thumb, I spend 1% of my total income to sharpen the saw. Now I have good collection of BA reference books and try to attend at least one workshop/conference either professional or personal development per year.

    • Yaaqub Mohamed a.k.a Yamo says:

      Thanks a bunch, Chaminda. I am glad you found the article useful. That is a good rule of thumb for sure. As long as you do it deliberately it can make a big difference to your career and your personal life.

  3. David Morris says:

    An excellent summation of the 7 habits, and how they apply to business analysis practitioners; thanks.

  4. Gwen Thomas says:

    Excellent reminder to all – applies to BAs and many others who work to build bridges between siloed groups.

  5. Lubna Saeed says:

    Hi Yamo,
    I like this article, I haven’t yet read “Seven habit of highly effective people”; but have heard a lot about it and somehow never got time to read it in full. Thanks for summarizing it.
    I liked the 6th and 7th habits.
    1) Synergise – Buy a coffee/lunch for stakeholder? I hesitate doing that but now I will try it out.
    2) Sharpen the saw – Will try to attend some workshops/conferences for professional development.

    • Yaaqub Mohamed a.k.a Yamo says:

      Thanks for the comment, Lubna. I like 6 and 7 too; 7 is really important to advance ones career.

  6. Ravi P says:

    Hi Yamo –

    Thanks for taking time out. It was such a nice reminder to these 7 habits that are connected back to our BA practice and self development. I don’t think we can choose one of the habits and say – that’s really important. I believe all of them are equally important, require parallel attention, and should be considered simultaneously. Although, many may choose to implement one at a time until it becomes a habit. I read somewhere that if you repeat an action for 21 days at a particular routine/ time, it will convert into a habit.

    It is really sad that Stephen Covey is no more with us. May his soul Rest In Peace.

    Hope to connect soon.
    – Ravi

    • Yaaqub Mohamed a.k.a Yamo says:

      Thanks for the additional thoughts, Ravi. We would have to breakdown these habits into smaller actions that would be repeatable and help us to achieve the essence of each habit. :)

      It was indeed sad that Dr. Covey is no longer with us. I wanted to interview him later this year. :( In any case he definitely made a good contribution to humanity.

      Talk soon!

  7. Sudhi says:

    Hello Yamo,

    A very nice way to link Steven Covey’s principles to Business Analysis. I would say that as a BA if each and every Business Analyst imbibes these 7 points then he/she shall surely stand out in the crowd among BA’s. Also I would like to make a small point, to sharpen his/her saw, they have to surely network with the fellow BAs and exchange the best practices.

    • Yaaqub Mohamed a.k.a Yamo says:

      Hi Sudhi, thanks for the comment and additional insights. I agree with networking part completely. It is so important to network with other BAs and learn from them. All the IIBA chapters and BA meetup groups definitely facilitate that, and I hope the trend grows upwards.

  8. Rachit Gandhi says:

    Dear Yamo,

    This is very interesting and absolutely correct. The 7 Habits are useful to be applied in our routines for being effective in our profile.

    Although it depends upon various situations, enterprise architecture, culture, etc. but ideally, the notes are to be followed and adopted for becoming a great BA.

    Thanks for this post and I am sure it would definitely help to all the other growing and well established Business Analysts.

  9. Katie Metcalfe says:

    Another great article Yamo. I really like how you bring the 7 Habits principles to the BA role.

    I read the book many years ago, but admit I had forgotten some the content. After Stephen Covey passed, I bought the audio book and have been listening to it in the evenings at home. I’ve re-discovered the habits and have a better understanding of how they all work together.

    Stephen has made such a great contribution in his life with just this book! We should all be so fortunate as to provide so much for so many in our lives.

    Thanks again.


    • Yaaqub Mohamed a.k.a Yamo says:

      That is great Katie! This was the first audiobook I listened to, and I have been addicted ever since (there are some good addictions out there). Isn’t is awesome to understand how all the seven habits work together? I think Mr Covey put a lot of thought and research to come up with the model that ties it all together. I am particularly a big fan of the four quadrants! :)

      Enjoy listening to the rest of the book, it is a different book each time you listen to it; especially when you mix in your real world experience.

      Thanks for the comment!

  10. […] habits and how this relates to your practice as a business analyst, please read my blog post ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective BA People” This was the first audiobook I listened to, and that’s how I started my audiobooks […]

  11. […] on The BA Coach site  Yaaqub Mohamed (A.K.A YAMO) wrote a great article where he put the seven habits (from Stephen Covey’s “The 7 habits of highly Effective […]

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