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How to Progress from Analyst to Manager

Progressing from Analyst to ManagerThe critical difference between an analyst and a successful project manager is the ability to think around the client requirements to get to the core of what the client needs. This often means being resourceful in thinking around the obstacles and presenting clients with solutions not problems. Making the transition between being an analyst and a skilled consultant in the way work is approached can lead to getting the promotion to manager.

Don't Simply Take Orders

The manager tells you what to do; you follow the specifications as given. Many analysts blindly follow orders given to them and complete nothing more in a job than what the manager has assigned them to complete.

There is nothing wrong in following orders, but if you want to make the progression to manager more is needed than simply following orders. For example, a skilled consultant will think laterally about what the objective of his work is and consider additional routes to solve the problem. If he faces an obstacle in his work - before presenting this obstacle to his manager - he will consider through possible solutions to the problem and present these also to his manager. In other words to become a manager you have to start thinking like a manager.

In addition, successful project managers will be probing of their client's requirements. Understanding that clients often don't fully articulate their requirements a skilled consultant will know how to ask the right questions, interpret responses, expand client perspectives of problems, manage expectations, anticipate future needs, and stay in close contact with clients.

Challenge Your Assumptions

A pitfall for analysts is to make assumptions without challenging them. Every assumption should be checked.  Skilled consultants are able to question both their own and their clients' assumptions.  In order to avoid false assumptions, skilled consultants ask the following questions:

  • Identify and list the key assumptions to the analysis / work undertaken
  • Do these make assumptions make sense?  How can I triangulate and substantiate these further?  
  • Where are the weakest links? And how sensitive are the outputs to these assumptions?
  • What are the likely ways my seniors would challenge this work?

By considering assumptions, miscommunications and mistakes are often avoided.  Consider creating an assumption-checking process on both your own part and your clients'. There are two steps:

1.    Brainstorm factors pertinent to the project's success. Keep this session to no more than 20 minutes.

2.    Identify any assumptions you and your client are making about each item on the list.  This way, you can identify any false assumptions - before work starts.

Develop a Positive Attitude

Research shows that a positive, energetic person is more likely to be promoted quicker and paid more. The principle behind this is simple: in a stressful working environment, people prefer working with cheerful and positive individuals. 

The litmus test of a positive attitude is how well an individual performs under stress. It is easy to be positive when things are going well, but it is when you face pressures and obstacles that you demostrate your true attitude. A positive attitude looks to be constructive to every situation and circumstance, not distructive. 

Central to developing a positive attitude is learning the skill to 'let go' of past stresses, criticisms, dissapointments etc that hold us back in performing at our best NOW. Many individuals find breathing and meditation processes useful in being able to do so.

Find a Good Mentor

A mentor is someone you can discusses with openly and confidentially work related issues. A mentor should be more experienced than you (perhaps at manager or senior manager level), and good mentors can point out your areas of weaknesses, make suggestions for improvements, congratulate your successes, and essentially steer your career path. It is important your mentor is not your boss, ideally in your organisation.  A mentor can also function as a champion to your successes and a cheerleader to promote your visibility throughout the organisation. 

Be on The Radar

It is important to 'be on the radar' of senior management.  This can involve volunteering for team-wide projects, running training / knowledge sharing workshops, being proactive in sharing insights, or even simply attending work-related social events. The key thing is to gain recogniton so that you stand out from your peers. It's worth noting that a senior managers are always "talent spotting" and hence you you never know who is watching you!


Present yourself professionally 

It's suprising how many analysts fall down on this simple point. The key message here is to dress for the position you want, not the position you currently have!  Communication, whether written or verbal, shoudl be professional, clear and succinct. 


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