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.


Featured Product -> The Ultimate BABOK® Kit

Unprecedented CBAP-CCBA Study Guide, BABOK eMindmap, eTables, BOK Cartoons, Audio and Video. The Ultimate All-in-One Study Aid is here.

Go to top

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'. 

5 Pillars of a great BA

With this E-book, you will learn about the five pillars of being a great Business Analyst!. Sign-up below for our eNewsletter and receive your FREE copy once the book is launched! Sign up, or learn more!

Previous post:

Next post: