Date: 16 Feb 2021

A decade ago, Emma challenged delegates at the IIBA UK conference with the idea that business analysts might equally be referred to as business synthesists… since we not only examine ‘the parts’ but help our organisations to understand the ‘whole’. In this seminar we will explore these ideas together through the metaphors of Planes, Trains & Animals.

Analysis and Synthesis

Neither skill is more or less important, but it is notable that only one appears in the title of our profession.  Synthesis can be particularly tricky because it involves emergent properties…which can seem unpredictable; almost magical.

For example, if we looked at all the components of an aeroplane on the ground, no one person can fully understand how these together make it fly. However, a group of people who fully understand each part and how they fit together, could rebuild the plane. Flight is an emergent property, but one which can be predicted and deliberately created by assembling the necessary components correctly.

By contrast to the plane, if we were to dissect an animal to study its parts, we might learn about its parts…. but we wouldn’t be able to put it together again. At least, not alive! Life is an emergent property which we cannot fully understand or create by assembling components of livings things.

Organisations are somewhere between the mechanistic ‘analysable’ world of trains and planes, and the natural and emergent world of nature. We can certainly explore different organisational structures, cultures and norms to create models which allow us to predict – and improve – the way that an organisation functions. But we can’t be entirely sure how it will react in a particular environment – nor how that environment will change over time. All we can do is learn and adapt if we want our organisations to ‘live’.

Implication for Business Analysts

So, what does this all mean for the Business Analyst? It means that we will never know, nor could we ever know, all that there is to know; but we can prioritise learning about what we think might be most useful to our organisation between now – and some future state. And, if we are to help our organisations to survive – and avoid emergencies – we must understand emergence. Which means being as comfortable with synthesis as we are with analysis.

Analysing and synthesising, thinking and feeling, idealising and realising… ours is a constant journey and never-ending dance of discovery.

Emma Langman facilitates a workshop


Dr Emma Langman is a long-standing ally of IIBA UK – a keynote speaker at our London conference (2011) and at local chapter events since. She describes herself as a “recovering Civil Engineer” – although nobody knows how many steps are on that programme as nobody has ever truly become fully free of its appeal. She has worked in multiple industries in the UK and Middle East and her career path is crazy paving.

Emma is also a mental health advocate, proud GSD owner, and mother of two wonderful and exasperating teenage sons and a daughter who makes her giggle with joy daily.

Attendees of this event will receive a discount code to join the Greenleaf Centre for Servant Leadership UK annual conference online/in person this May.


Delegates will receive the following:

  • Deeper understanding of the importance of synthesis AND analysis
  • Some simple yet challenging thoughts about systems, models etc
  • A range of anecdotes from 20 years of doing interesting ‘stuff’
  • Increased confidence in their role and capabilities at work
  • A large shot of positivity and a soupcon of inspiration
  • A discount code for this year’s UK Servant Leadership conference




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