The wibbly wobbly truth

Who to believe?  Multiple points of information and disinformation in the public domain mean the only certainty is, whatever opinion is voiced, there will be a dissenting voice.

“Oh no there won’t” – See! Cased proven!

This is sadly reminiscent of business reporting.  Too often, individuals want to present the best possible case, or don’t even have enough facts to present a case at all.  Either way they probably shouldn’t describe the circumstances as complete without more details.  But, unfortunately they do.

This is misguided and, to the inexperienced or time constrained manager, it is misleading.  Far better to be open (AKA brutally honest) about shortcomings of the known situation.  Be honest about the details that are missing.

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Sales people, those eternal picture painters, could qualify for the prize of biggest culprits.  And, to be honest, if there’s a prize involved they’ll always be in the queue.  That’s why we love them like we do.

A sales manager who, some time ago, worked for me would boil this vagueness down for the simple minded.  Him or me I’m not sure. He’d use the same two numbers to describe every daily and weekly success.  They were (and I paraphrase for the faint hearted) “shitloads” and “sod all”.  Maybe fine for the direction of travel – are we there yet dad?  May be okay to gauge the sales zeitgeist or get the gist of the rainfall in Death Valley.  But not to run a business, or bet your life on.  The only positivity of an approach like this is that it is so broad-brush stroke it can’t possibly be wrong, and if it is wrong you can redecorate tomorrow.

Big up honesty!  Myself I have settled on the informed opinion that there is no such things as “The truth”.  For sure there are facts, but they get picked and chosen according to preference.  This, in turn, creates a montage of the story-teller’s own imagination.  It’s one designed to persuade based on their own starting point. Now this is fine if they’re totally aligned with what the business is trying to achieve.  Evidence that is self-serving, or from the sort of person that starts drinking at breakfast, probably needs to be watered down.

So, understanding why managers need information at all can help their team deliver the right sort of data.  Delivered in the right order, at the right intervals.  Inevitably it’s the manager’s duty to ensure facts and figures received are an actual help.  Tell the team quite specifically what you want to know, and crucially, what is a waste of everyone’s time (and goodwill).  Communicate why and show in simple terms the context of how this will be used in the next stage of the journey. This requires work.  And lo!  Others will see the data the same way you see it.  Could they even present it as information that will be useful?  You’d better believe it.

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