What can business analysts learn from Bear Grylls?

As a Business Analyst, or Project Manager, you often arrive on a new project and have no idea where to start. Things are a bit chaotic for a few weeks and then they gradually start to fall into place. You all figure out your roles, what needs to be done and the real work can begin.

This frustrates me, it’s wasted time, we should be able to start adding value straight away. I think… what would Bear Grylls do on his first day on this new project?

Dropped into the desert, or a high mountain peak, out in the wilderness. He has to get to civilisation and he has to survive using what he can carry and the environment around him. If he doesn’t figure this out quickly he’s got more to worry about than the failure of the project or the termination of his contract!

The first thing he has to do is assess the situation. This isn’t a random investigation but a structured approach that can be applied to a variety of environments so he can quickly start making important decisions.

He’ll look at the sky, where does the sun rise and set, roughly what time of day is it. He’ll look at the ground, are there signs of a water source, what way does the ground slope, are there visible peaks and so on.

Only then does he start to move toward his ultimate goal… civilisation.

A model for better business performance

Over the past few years I have been educated on, and adopted, an organizational performance model (OPM). This has really helped me make sense of a current situation and focus in on problem areas when I arrive on new projects.

This OPM is used by some of the world’s largest companies to understand business performance and improve results. The great thing about the model is its simplicity, but more importantly how it puts everything into context.

The Organization Performance Model (OPM)

When assessing an existing organization, or process, we look at the relationships between each of these areas. You can start anywhere in the model and move clockwise around it to make your assessment. Although I prefer to start at Business Results as these are the results you are most likely trying to influence. Moving back from here you can start to ask why do we see the results we see.

Once your assessment is complete you can begin the design phase, working anti-clockwise around the model.

Business results

The business results, as mentioned above, is about looking at what results you get today. It’s important to understand these so you can measure how they change as a result of the project.


This describes the values, beliefs and the actual work that people do in the organisation. It’s this that drives the business results. It’s the reality of what people do every day.

Design Elements

The design elements are the structures, such as described processes or org charts, that should influence the business results. Understanding the relationship between this and culture is essential in changing the results. A perfectly designed process is useless if no one follows it.


Design elements should be aligned with the strategy. This relationship is often broken as a result of a poorly defined ,or poorly understood, strategy.

Business Environment

The business environment includes factors often out of your control. It may include the market, the competition and the behaviours of consumers. Understanding the business environment is essential before defining an effective strategy.

A simple assessment of these five dimensions will help you focus on the key areas that need attention and the order in which you tackle them. Once you have the results of the assessment you can start working immediately.

If you would like to learn more about how we use the organization performance model (OPM) above please get in contact [email protected].

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