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anyone have bosses that just won't accept data they're shown?

GQgeek

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A senior manager at my company came in to my office yesterday asking for answers of why we are sucking so hard. This kind of thing is outside of my normal IT job description, but he recognizes that i've got the most analytical brain in the company and the best math skills, and am probably most suited to it. Plus, I will be objective and not cherry pick data, since I am not one of the managers that's ultimately responsible for sales. He comes to me knowing, in his mind, that reason A is the problem that's affecting sales. He very much wants that to be the case because it's the easiest problem to fix (kinda). I said I would take a look at it.

So i spent last night compiling YTD data. In the back of my mind I was thinking that he had an emotional attachment to selecting reason A, but I wasn't expecting to confirm his belief, as I thought Reason B or C was more likely. Anyway, I compiled all the data, did some XY scatter diagrams with trendlines comparing different variables, as well as some moving averages on linear plots. The picture is very clear to me that there has been a general decline since May. Regression analysis shows pretty clear relationship between two variables in particular.

He came in to my office this morning and asked whether I had anything for him. I showed him what I had come up with. The data is very easy interpret. It's not the least bit ambiguous. He got pissed at me and refused to accept it. I walked him through the analysis I performed and he just won't accept it, even though he can't point out any errors. Now he's gone off to find errors in the raw data.

Anyway, I just find this whole thing amusing. The irony is that he's actually a pretty smart guy and is relatively good with numbers, but he's got emotional blinders on.
 

gnatty8

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You may need a new job.

There are some very good books out there dealing with the problem of communicating results of analytics and using analytics as a competitive advantage. The best is Competing on Analytics. However, the guy sounds like he's convinced he has all the answers, and is not keeping his mind open to alternatives. Luckily, I report directly to a CFO who brought me to my current job (worked with them when they were a SVP and when the left to take the CFO job, they hired me about 4 months later) strictly because they trust me implicitly. Trust and confidence is not easily won, but if your boss does not even give you a chance to earn it, t-r-o-u-b-l-e.
 

JoelF

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Depending on the situation, it can also be a question of how you present something like that. Big difference between "Joe I looked at it from that perspective and it's wrong" and "Joe I thought your analysis was exactly on point but I think we should consider this too . . . " And then you keep telling him how right he was while you tell him why he was totally wrong.


Also as an aside it looks like you have a pretty high opinion of your abilities relative to other people at this company. Not a good message to convey until you are on really solid ground and "arrogant asshole, but very smart" becomes part of your accepted persona in the organization.
 

forsbergacct2000

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Maybe he just needs a bit of time to get used to the idea. I would not overreact to anything yet.
 

Tarmac

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In general, upper management always thinks they are right. They think they got that far because the "always make the right hunch" about something which is inherently unknowable.

Just give that douche some time to digest the data.
 

GQgeek

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Originally Posted by gnatty8
You may need a new job.

There are some very good books out there dealing with the problem of communicating results of analytics and using analytics as a competitive advantage. The best is Competing on Analytics. However, the guy sounds like he's convinced he has all the answers, and is not keeping his mind open to alternatives. Luckily, I report directly to a CFO who brought me to my current job (worked with them when they were a SVP and when the left to take the CFO job, they hired me about 4 months later) strictly because they trust me implicitly. Trust and confidence is not easily won, but if your boss does not even give you a chance to earn it, t-r-o-u-b-l-e.


I'm quitting to take a loooooooooong vacation (4-8 months) next year and I won't be returning. If he doesn't factor in my interpretations of the data and adjust, and they continue to tank, I won't lose any sleep over it. ^_^

Originally Posted by JoelF
Depending on the situation, it can also be a question of how you present something like that. Big difference between "Joe I looked at it from that perspective and it's wrong" and "Joe I thought your analysis was exactly on point but I think we should consider this too . . . " And then you keep telling him how right he was while you tell him why he was totally wrong.


Also as an aside it looks like you have a pretty high opinion of your abilities relative to other people at this company. Not a good message to convey until you are on really solid ground and "arrogant asshole, but very smart" becomes part of your accepted persona in the organization.


This is true, but if I don't have that trust after everything i've produced for them in terms of real results, I'll never have it. My arrogance really only surfaces when I encounter extreme stupidity, and/or an unwillingness to recognize the obvious. What I found comical about the whole situation is that his very coming to me was, in effect, an indication of trust. After I finished crunching the numbers last night, I said to a co-worker that he wouldn't believe them because they run counter to his view, and he's always got to be right.

There's definitely a lesson for me to take away from this for my next job though. I probably didn't present it in a way that made it easy for him to accept. And I didn't have any time to think about how I would present it to him either. I started out basically as you said, by saying that the interpretation he had presented to me was wrong. His "interpretation" wasn't based on any data except his memory of the past. He was already emotional about it, and he kinda snapped on me when I said he was wrong. I definitely should have backed in to it from a different angle. Towards the end of the day I asked him what the point of my running stats was if he wasn't going to believe any numbers I showed him.

This is all par for the course where I work. I had an argument with a different manager today about the same stats. The data I compiled was imperfect. He was trying to tell me why the calculations were invalid, but he couldn't give me any mathematical explanation. They "just weren't right." I explained that even knowing what he had told me, it would just cause a vertical shift in the graph and not a change in the shape of it, and he couldn't understand. He couldn't even understand the basic concept of a best fit line, at which point i basically just walked away because it was a pointless conversation. These are all people with a sales background and they have no capacity for analytical thought or data analysis. I'm pretty sure not one of them has ever even taken stats 101. The CFO came in on my side but they won't listen to him either. At the end of the day after hours of arguing about this stuff, we both just shook our heads in awe. The CFO doesn't care either cause he's retiring next year. He's just counting days like I am.


The politics/psychology is really mind-boggling though. This guys has finally realized how fucked up things really are, and that there has to be a reason for it, but it seems like he would rather see the company fail than accept that maybe decisions initiated by him and his sales managers led them to this point.

Anyway, thanks for the comments, guys. I definitely learned something from this experience and that's all that really matters to me. There's definitely a learning curve to presenting information people don't want to hear.
 

gnatty8

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Originally Posted by GQgeek
There's definitely a lesson for me to take away from this for my next job though. I probably didn't present it in a way that made it easy for him to accept. And I didn't have any time to think about how I would present it to him either. I started out basically as you said, by saying that the interpretation he had presented to me was wrong. His "interpretation" wasn't based on any data except his memory of the past. He was already emotional about it, and he kinda snapped on me when I said he was wrong. I definitely should have backed in to it from a different angle. Towards the end of the day I asked him what the point of my running stats was if he wasn't going to believe any numbers I showed him.

Particularly if he is much older than you. Baby boomers can be very sensitive to "kids" showing them up, so you've got to approach them carefully.
 

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