Business Analysis: Lessons from Fables

In another article, I talked a little bit about my career path leading to the role of “missionary”. One of my more recent categories of professional work has been in project management and business analysis. An aspect of both of these roles is to produce something that is new or unique within a certain time frame. Key to doing this well is to know what “customer” wants. So a very important first step in creating something new is to figure that out.

Gathering and documenting requirements is a crucial aspect of any project. Unfortunately, in business analysis and project management, we can fall victim to the trap of assumptions. This is not only for someone lacking experience. Even the most seasoned of professionals can fall prey to this error in omission and can be one of the weakest links in developing a project.

The difficulty can be attributed to a number of reasons. It is an aspect of planning. The time that it takes to effectively gather requirements can feel like unproductive time. Business analysts are not alway trained in art and science of requirements.

But I must say that the blame does not solely rest on the business analyst. Frequently it is the customer who has a challenging time articulating precisely and clearly what their needs are.

And finally, there seems to be a persistent problem with users and business analysts jumping to a solution rather than keenly describing and analyzing what the needs are. It is our human nature to want to jump right to the solution. This may lead to something that I call “Ready, Fire, Aim”. Understanding the problem to its fullest extent reveals a greater part of the ultimate solution.

By skipping this part of the problem solving, our solutions are not what typically solves to root cause of our problems. The graphic below is a classic representation of what a poor description, or (and more frequently) poor understanding of that the requirements are. 

Source: ProjectCartoon.com

On a trip home from the emergency room in another city where one of our granddaughters was having undigested coins removed, there was a bright, full moon off to our left. Thinking of our princess and seeing the bright orb in the sky, I was reminded of a story that my second grade teacher read to the class one day. It terms that even a child can understand, the story reflects the additional costs, features and compounded problems that we add to our ‘solution’ when we fail to find out what the end user truly wants. The following is a paraphrased version of the classic tale by James Thurber called ManyMoons.

The king called for the Lord High Chamberlain, the Royal Wizard, and the Royal Mathematician who all quickly came into the throneroom. The king explained the dilemma, then asked, “Tell me about the moon and how can we get it for Princess Lenore.”
 
“The moon, sire,” replied the Lord High Chamberlain, “is three miles above the earth, is as large as the princess’s room, and made of green cheese.”
 
Unhappy with the reply, the king turned to the Royal Wizard for counsel. “My daughter wants the moon. Please get it down for her.” This proved to be more disheartening since by the wizard’s estimation the moon was 25,000 miles above the earth, was as large as the entire castle, and made of purest silver.
 
Finally, the king turned to the Royal Mathematician to hopefully get a more realistic description and more promising results. “Sire,”said the Royal Mathematician, “the moon is 50,000 miles above the earth, is as large as the entire kingdom, and is painted to the sky.
 
The King, exasperated, sent the three on their way and called for the court jester. He asked the jester to play a dirge on his lute since he was so terribly sad that he could not get the moon for his daughter and she was, therefore, seemingly incurable. The court jester begged, “Let me talk with her, Sire.”

He told the Princess her bedtime story and looking out of the window together he asked, “Tell me about the moon?” The princess explained that the moon was about the size of her thumb nail since she could hold out her thumb and just cover the whole moon with her thumbnail. It wasn’t any higher than the tree outside her window since it often got caught there just before she fell asleep. And then she further explained that the beauty of the moon was because it was made from pure gold.

The jester went to the court jeweler and asked him to fashion a piece of gold into an orb, slightly smaller than Princess Lenore’s thumb nail and to fasten it to a golden chain. The next morning when the princess awoke,her father, the king, presented her with the pendant. Lenore’s heart leapt for joy. By the time she finished her breakfast, she wanted to get dressed and play outside. She was once again well.

James Thurber Many Moons

Commissioning

On Sunday, January 27, 2019, Shalom Christian Reformed Church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota commissioned us for our ministry in God’s Kingdom. 

Wycliffe and Resonate Global Mission both see it vital that missionaries be commissioned by their home church. This action clearly says that the missionaries are not on their own — they are called by God and sent as agents of the Church. Missionaries are an extension of the congregation’s ministry (Acts 13:3).

By commissioning, inspiration is provided for how God is working in the church and in the world: young adults who are wondering if this is also their calling, older folks who may not feel the call to go but can send and engage in ministry right where they are, and pastors who remember their own ordinations through this ceremony and are inspired again toward the work of ministry. This connects the work of God in the congregation to God’s calling in our hearts and God’s work in the world.

It was so incredibly humbling to have friends, family and the Shalom congregation there to support and send us into our ministry. Their personal affirmation was a blessing and for which we are so grateful.

As a part of the process, we were asked a series of questions. Those questions as well as our answers are listed below.

How have you experienced His call into missions?

  • We have felt God’s calling for some time and Shalom has played a significant part of that call. Through a blending of His Word and the Holy Spirit we have heard His call. Through prayer we have been strengthened. We have been encouraged from family and friends with deeply rooted faith. Through a sermon right here, we heard strong affirmation of our call. And finally, through the overwhelming conviction from the Holy Spirit to be obedient to the call.

What is the task you are being called to?

  • We will be working for Wycliffe Bible Translators and in partnership with Resonate Global Mission. Our functions will be in Strategic Workforce Planning, project management and donor relations.

Where will you be serving?

  • Primarily out of our home office in Woodbury, with several international and domestic trips each year to establish and maintain relationships with partner organizations. Most international travel will be to various parts of the African continent.

How will our partnership give glory to God and extend His Kingdom?

  • Glory goes to God when we are obedient to the Great Commission. Some he calls to go. Some he calls to send. With our focus on the continent of Africa where there are 706 languages waiting for Bible translation, your partnership will help deliver Bibles to them and lives will be transformed.

Back From Africa!

From November 4 to 19, I had the privilege of being called to Africa to help out with conferences for women in Tanzania and Zambia with Lydia Circle Ministries.  The conferences were to train women in spiritual discipleship and evangelism. The experience was one that I will never forget.

The first conference was in Tabora, Tanzania. Several women were patiently waiting for our arrival which was delayed by a few days while we waited for connecting flights. When we finally got to our destination, we were greeted with shouts of joy, singing, dancing and many hugs. A wrap was affectionately put on my head and we were presented with flowers as a welcome gift.

The women were all hungry for the training in Spiritual Discipleship and Evangelism that we were there to provide as part of the Lydia Circle Ministries. The praise and worship were genuine, real. Despite their lack of material things, they were grateful for their salvation and their relationship with their redeemer.

Even though I was a stranger, they took me in. Despite having little in terms of material things, they showered me in love. When they presented us with jars of honey, tears streaked my face as I thought about the value to them.

I loved to see how the women both in Tanzania and Zambia worshipped. Weather in joyful singing and dance or on all fours weeping and crying out to the Lord, they were real and sincere.

Teaching Me a Lesson in “Liturgical Dance” 

They loved taking pictures together, holding their babies and teaching me how to dance. They loved saying hallelujah, amen! They loved reading the Bible. I realized because of Christ their hearts were full of love despite the poverty and their living conditions. It has been a privilege to go to Africa. I was truly blessed.

Singing a Praise Song During Worship

Ellie Goes to Africa!

by Ellie Sikma

Sometimes God seems to have a sense of humor. When I would go on walks with my friend in Sioux Falls, we would often talk about how we wanted God to use us. We wanted so very much to serve the Lord. But there was one thing that we figured we did NOT want to do. That was going to Africa in order to serve him.

So as we fast forward a number of years, we see yet another significant revelation of God’s plan for my life. This one came by way of a friend of mine, Melinda Dykstra, who is the founder of Lydia Circle Ministries. She asked me to accompany her to Tanzania and Zambia for a conference from November 4 to 19 to train women in spiritual discipleship and evangelism.

LydiaCircle02

While we were members of the same church many years ago, we have had very little contact over the years. So it was quite a surprise to hear from her now after all of these years. In my mind, my first response was “NOOOO!”. But when I found out that it was in her prayers that my name came to her, I knew that it was something that I needed to do.

LydiaCircle01

So as part of my preparation for our mission to Tanzania and Zambia, I put a portion of Ephesians 3 into a prayer. Please pray this prayer with me while I prepare and while we are gone.

Dear Lord. As I prepare for this mission trip, I pray that you empower me with your wisdom, love, and grace. Use my hands and feet to touch the hearts and lives of women in Zambia and Tanzania in such a way that they may experience your presence. May they hear you whisper their name, calling them to repentance. And may they grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that they may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. In our Savior’s precious name. Amen

Thanksgiving

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might.

(Ephesians 1:15-19 ESV)

The Song

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, [10] and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10 ESV)

I love music. As long as I can recall, music has moved me. A song of a soloist passionately singing their heart out in praise of the Lord can move me to sing along. Hearing a praise team with harmonizing parts, just adds a beautiful dimension to the lyrics of adoration.

And then there are choirs. The voices of men and women vocalizing the different parts is another form of song that moves me. The hymns that we sing in church are another way that four parts of music can be brought together to reflect a deeper, richer aspect of a song. 

Of course, one of my favorite pieces for choirs is Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. Just to listen, or to participate, and even, on a few occasions, to direct a choir singing this arrangement can move me to tears.

But when I try to wrap my head around the thought of all of the redeemed, from all of the ages, from every tribe and language and people and nation, encircling the throne of God and singing praise and adoration to our Heavenly Father, it runs shivers up and down my spine. To borrow the words of Mercy Me, I can only imagine. 

I’ll close with a portion of a song with a beautiful message. 

He Reigns
It’s the song of the redeemed
Rising from the African plain
It’s the song of the forgiven
Drowning out the Amazon rain

The song of Asian believers
Filled with God’s holy fire
It’s every tribe, every tongue, every nation
A love song born of a grateful choir

It’s all God’s children singing
Glory, glory, hallelujah
He reigns, He reigns

Songwriters: Peter Furler / Steve Taylor
He Reigns lyrics © BMG Rights Management,
Capitol Christian Music Group