What's your Through-Line? by David Beckham

Over the last few weeks I have been finessing a lot of presentations; one for a team building session I hosted in London, another for the upcoming BCT Conference in March and various other sessions for internal training. During this process, I have also been reading the excellent book ‘TED Talks’ by Chris Anderson, the current head of the TED organisation. It’s a brilliant read for anybody with an interest in public speaking and has provided me with many insights and creative ideas for revising some of my slide decks and presentations. In terms of speaking and presenting, I believe you should never stop learning; in fact, I think that applies to life in general! One of the many interesting concepts Anderson discusses is the ‘through-line’, which he describes as the narrative and reason for your entire talk or as he puts it “The point of a talk is to say something meaningful”. It seems a very simple point but it’s surprising how many people forget it. It also strikes me as a concept that can be applied wider every day.

Your personal through-line
This links in with some of my recent posts about goals and my core belief that everyone needs to bring their core purpose into everything they do where possible. So, in the face of all distractions and when all is said and done, what’s your through-line? What is the one message you want to get across in your lifetime? It’s worth thinking about because it will inform of everything else that you do as a person or as a BA. For instance, if your through-line is “break down the detail” then you might find yourself becoming an expert in the field of data analytics, process decomposition or even strategic planning. If your through-line is something like “get the right outcome” then you might be a great facilitator or leader of teams etc. my personal through-line is “Make a difference” and it brings me great satisfaction to apply this to the art of developing and encouraging others; if I can help at least one person per day then that day has been a good one. “It is a good day to try” to paraphrase either Sitting Bull or Commander Worf…..

Your project through-line
A through-line does not have to be restricted to individuals, they can also be associated with projects or organisations. Perhaps it is a good idea the start of every project to identify exactly what the project through-line is. i.e. the purpose of the project or its ultimate objective. This way you will have something to refer back to as you define requirements and something that will refocus the team in times of uncertainty. Likewise, organisational culture may have a through-line that it can use in order to refocus its activities on a common goal. Once again, this is something a business analyst can use to their advantage when working in such organisations, so is well worth finding out exactly what these through-lines are.

Your professional through-line
As a Business Analyst, it is important to realise that your professional skills are consistent regardless of the problem, the corporate culture and the method you are working on. What I mean by this is that your key strength as a BA is your ability to think through a problem and ask the right questions about it! You don’t have to be an expert in waterfall or Agile; you just need to think, question and keep to the Middle Way (as I have previously posted on). You are a person, not a methodology manual………. Or to use another of my favourite analogies, the method is the car but you are the driver.

In conclusion, in my opinion, it is always good to have a powerful view of your through-line in many different perspectives, as it can provide a much-needed foundation when things are ambiguous.


David Beckham has spent his career working in Financial Services, initially at Norwich Union then subsequently with Aviva. He was a founder member of the Business Analysis Practice when it was formed within Aviva IT and has had two terms as the Practice Lead. He has worked on numerous large change programmes and has been heavily involved in building the capability of Business Analysis within the organisation over the last decade. He has presented at the European BA Conference on a regular basis and has had several articles published on Business Analysis topics. Despite being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2010 at the age of 43, David continues to relish his role as a Business Analyst and is a passionate advocate of the profession and the benefits it gives to organisations everywhere. Since his diagnosis, David has been developing a series of seminars focussing on his recent experiences and regularly speaks on the positive power of change, both on a professional and personal basis.