Sunday, January 23, 2005

A Foregone Conclusion

So I've been absent from SS Haggis (and most of life, quite frankly) for the past 2 weeks due to work responsibilities. During these two weeks I have learned a valuable lesson about people in power: They only hear what they want to hear. And they use their power to make people "hear" what they are hearing, even when it is flawed.

A client of mine. Very well-known person in the industry. Very smart in many ways. Sold a subcontract to an organization wherein more was promised than could be delivered. Conclusions leaning in a certain direction were promised before there was any evidence to support those conclusions. As the consultant, I was given the task of writing a report and presentation supporting those "conclusions."

You can already tell how things went, can't you? Total f'in misery, my friends. I felt like I was in a non-funny version of the Who's On First shtick:

Client: "We need numbers in here proving that X = Y."
Me: "I have not been able to find those numbers."
Client: "Well, can't you google them?
Me: "Let me reword that. The numbers don't exist."
Client: "Of course they exist! Just google them! Did you try site A, B, C, D and E?"
Me: "Yes. I'm sorry to say that I can't find any stats to back up that assertion. In fact, the stats and our in-person interviews with the stakeholders actually point in the opposite direction, unfortunately."
Client: "What?! What have you been doing for 3 weeks? Are you even working on this at all diligently? The numbers are out there. Go find them. I thought you knew what you were doing!"
Me: "I'll take another look, but I have to warn you that it's not promising. There is no evidence to support that conclusion. Could we modify the conclusion somewhat?"
Client: "You obviously don't know what you are talking about. There is no way to modify it. It is what it is and I'm paying you to find the numbers."

Okay. Now repeat that exchange EVERY SINGLE FREAKIN' DAY for the past two weeks until 4pm on Friday when she stormed up to my desk and said, "I just got your latest draft of this presentation. It's clear that I'm just going to have to do this MYSELF. Grrr!"

To which I replied, "Okay!"

I think she was expecting me, like her other little lackeys, to say "oh my goodness, how have I upset you? What can I do in a codependent way to re-establish your authority over me as an underling? I am wrong and you are right and I am not worthy of breathing the air you have burped."

What are the odds I'm gonna say that, dear friends? Yeah. Slim to none. So I handed her all the paperwork, emailed her the presentation so far, and told her to call me if she needed a hand over the weekend. Oh--did I mention we are presenting these "conclusions" to the organization on Monday? Yeah. That would be in 27 hours. She is still cranking out the "conclusions" and I am watching the Patriots game.

Don't get me wrong. I've been working with her over the weekend, tracking down stats, putting graphs and charts together in support of her erroneous conclusions. But the way I see it, there is no point in embarrassing ourselves in a meeting with a client. There is nothing I can say now or in the future to get her to see reason...or basic business ethics (see post from a couple of days ago!). All I can do at this point, from a professional standpoint, is make sure HER fingerprints are all over this document rather than mine, go to the presentation and smile pretty, and then get the F out of Dodge as soon as I finalize my other client work.

I am stunned at how people make it to the top by basically forcing others to support their erroneous conclusions. Where are all the people who refuse to be mouthpieces for incompetence? Maybe we're all unemployed, writing blogs, while watching football...?


Anonymous said...

You are a brilliant writer,with a tremendous sense of humour.As a Ladsy of Scottish descent I would have you remember something my father,a citizen of Manchester England taught me:Fish and chips are good, tea and milk even better but be leary always of the Manchester Guardian- thier politics are so left as to be dangerous. A Rabbinic admirer- MILLERRAV@AOL.COM

E said...

Tea with milk!!'re bringing back some good memories. Back when tea didn't taste like either dishwater or some kind of fruity soap.

Tetley and Milk. HOT. With perhaps a biccie (cookie) or two to dunk in the tea. I think it just tastes better in Britain because they have better tea to begin with and major lime deposits in the water. There's something in the water.

Thanks for the lovely post!! :)