Business Analysts are storytelling machines! Storytelling is actually built into the BA skillset, whether it is User Stories, Personas, or Requirements. But it can be easy to think that the more data we gather, and the more words we compile in order to showcase the full picture of the business solution we are proposing, the better. But that is not the case!
Why? Because processing and retaining more information is not how our brains work. Our brains are wired to simplify. And what’s even more important is that our brains are trained to seek out those who help us simplify information. We can’t resist those people who help us take daunting information and synthesize it into a few short words that make it all click. But most important, lead you to the right next action.
Why is that? It’s because our brains crave micro-stories. What is a Micro-story, from Bill Schley’s The Micro-Script Rules:
Micro-Scripts are what people love to remember and repeat, word-for-word, to persuade others, share an idea, know what to do in an emergency, or teach lessons of life.
What micro-scripts help us do is to point us at the heart of a matter…the center of a problem, the center of an opportunity, the center of an issue, or reality itself. It’s the one thing that’s most important in any problem or situation you’ll ever be in. By learning how to shrink complex ideas down to micro-scripts, we’re learning to find the center and stay there. And that’s really important because your ability to make things simple will give you a huge advantage no matter what you want to do in life.
- There’s only one center
- It is always simple, or it’s not the center
- The center aligns everything that comes after it
- It is energizing and exciting for anyone who finds it
- Revealing it to others is the key to all leadership
- You must be able to say it in a few short words
- You find it by repeatedly asking the simplest of questions, again and again
- No new technology or device changes these rules
Have you ever had to move Salesforce users out of a state of crisis over having to switch from Classic to Lightning, or convince a Sales Rep to enter their data into a record page as opposed to a spreadsheet outside the system? These types of situations reveal just how challenging behavioral change can be. But micro-stories help us create behavioral shifts by giving our minds a new story that shifts intuitive actions from old behaviors to new ones. This is done by heuristics or Rules of Thumb. The rules of thumb are
“Simple mental instructions to take preset actions for the best-chance outcome. They tell us how to make snap judgments on inconclusive data, without analyzing a whole set of facts. Built-in rules of thumb direct us to a smaller set of more vital data at the heart of the matter.”
Here are some real-world microstories I have used in my experience:
- After implementing a Salesforce Classic to Lightning Experience project, end users blamed every validation error or missed process on the new Lightning UI. My micro-story to them was: “It’s just a layout change.” This allowed them to release their frustration, while I helped them retrace their steps so we could correctly identify what went wrong.
- When in the business process analysis phase of a project, convincing business stakeholders or team leads to slow down and detail their process can be a hard sell. It’s not easy being in a discovery with a distracted user, or someone who doesn’t understand why you are asking so many questions about something they do every day. I offer them this micro-story: “No detail is too obvious.” This gives them permission to go into the details of their work that could have a significant impact on the final build of the intended solution.
- It can be fun working with business users who have some knowledge of Salesforce capabilities, but every once in a while the enthusiasm can lead them to over-solutioning. I was once presented with a requested change that would have to involve custom code in order to work as the business user intended. I used the micro-story: “Salesforce has Let’s keep the solution simple so that you can actually live with it.”
As BAs, We have to learn to speak in Brain-Speak, and that’s what the micro-story will allow us to do.
So, the next step in the process is creating a rule of thumb for the users that will get them to act on our recommended new behaviors. These are the guidelines for an effective rule of thumb. It must be:
- High yield – they set off a string of correct actions with one decision (we know that we can automate a lot of this using Salesforce Flow or other tools)
- Few in number
- Triggered with the least amount of information
- Say-able in words that are very repeatable
You know you have nailed this when you are in UAT, and before the user falls into old habits, or skips a step in your newly defined process, you hear them repeat a new rule of thumb you have crafted for them.
But how do we know that what we recommend will penetrate the minds of end users, upper management, and technical teams alike? We use effective micro-stories.
Here are the rules for creating a great micro-story
- It’s not what people hear, it’s what they repeat
- “They won’t say anything because you tell them to. They say it only if they want to say it, like saying it, or they gain something from saying it. And for that, they have to understand it, believe it, remember it, and think it fits with the story that’s already running in their heads.”
- Every screen is a word-of-mouth machine
- When you as a BA show heart, it goes a long way to build trust. Trust in your ability to listen and synthesize what stakeholders are communicating to you is just as important as your knowledge of Salesforce and the solutions that it offers.
- Story isn’t everything, it’s the only thing
- “You can spend two hours telling a man every marvelous fact, feature, and a statement about your product- and he’ll forget 99% of it in the next 10 minutes. But just tell him a story…and twenty years later, he’ll come back and repeat it to you, word for word.”
- Everything from your Solution Requirements Document to your graphs and business process map needs a story.
- Offer a micro-script
- A short phrase – almost always a rule of thumb or key idea – that people like to repeat word-for-word to inform, persuade, or remind themselves and others. It uses vivid, descriptive metaphors and rhyme or rhythmic language to trigger a story in the mind.
- People in the business have to be able to say back to you what you have offered to them, otherwise, your story is not compelling enough to make the change you are recommending.
- Tell your story in 10 words or less!
Recommendations for crafting your story
- Frame the category
- You have interviewed groups and understood the problem. Isn’t it true that sometimes the problem that has been framed by the business is not the actual challenge or roadblock they believe it to be? Your BA activities must lead the business to understand the actual problem that needs to be addressed. It’s all in the framing.
- Story: Salesforce is not broken. It’s just a layout change.
- Set the binary frame
- Show the facts of the difference
- Put your users in the center of the story so they feel the Before and After states
- Simplify throughout the documentation process
- Confirm with your users
- Total consistent alignment – Are we all in?
“Leaders must articulate to motivate. And that means speaking plainly and colorfully with stories and micro-scripts.
Business micro-story tips:
- It’s ok to use a cliche
- “Better safe than sorry”
- Salesforce is a cliche in itself. This product is for salespeople!
- The A/B Equation
- Problem A has Solution B
- If A then B
- A vs B
- A prevents B
- A is B
- Stark Reminder
- Record pages are better than spreadsheets
- Unique Wordplay
“Micro-script thinking has had a profound influence on everything we do. It has made our processes faster and more direct as we’ve come up with new Rules of Thumb that get us to the core of problems and articulate solutions faster than ever”
You may learn or have already figured out, eliciting and writing requirements is a skill that can be learned with relative ease. It’s asking the basic and fundamental questions,
But the BA who is able to take this feedback, relevant organizational data, and knowledge of the Salesforce platform and capabilities and craft irresistible micro-stories is a huge value to the industry.
Here are 3 takeaways to keep in mind:
- Business analysts should focus on creating micro-stories, which are simple, repeatable phrases that encapsulate complex ideas and can facilitate behavioral change.
- Micro-stories should be short, high-yield, few in number, and easily triggered with minimal information.
- Effective micro-stories are memorable and repeatable and should be tested to ensure that they are effective in communicating the intended message.
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