Raw technical data won't speak for itself
In the first part of this series on senior management communication for those more comfortable with grep-ing an exception log or tracing through lines of code to find that elusive bug the conclusion was:
No matter how technically proficient you are in your respective discipline, not investing in effective communication skills will limit your over-all effectiveness in your organization.
Thus, if you were following the argument to support this claim, you appreciate the notion that, ultimately, there are diminishing returns to exclusively honing your technical skills to perfection without making investments in your executive communication skills. Your frustration level will continue to rise as you see decision after decision being made against your common technical sense.
You need to assist senior management with data to aid in shifting decision making to include your technical vision.
In being pragmatic, this “shifting” is more analogous to turning the Titanic than a row boat. No fancy PowerPoint deck with brilliant technical strategy in-line with corporate objectives backed by irrefutable financials will guarantee decisions in your favor. There is an element of decision making that involves emotion that just can’t be trumped by reason 100% of the time [evidence].
As an example, a certain executive may favor one vendor over another. No matter how many Forrester Wave or Gartner Magic Quadrants you quote touting a vendor’s industry recognized superior product, a weaker product from a different vendor can get selected.
I am not saying to give up on collecting data to support your recommendation. But knowing non-logical factors influence decision making, you can appease your engineering brain to some degree, when rejected, with the notion that you exhausted your resources and produced a compelling business case that stands on its own. Plus, you never know if the next re-org will change the senior management decision ownership. You may very well get a chance to make your pitch again with a new audience that might just have a different emotional dynamic that is more in your favor. And since re-orgs occur more frequently the large the organization, you might not have to wait very long. I’ve written about corporate IT leadership change prior.
So, back to the topic of communication and the first fallacy of executive presentations for the technically proficient:
Raw technical data will speak for itself
Fallacy: If you just put your accumulated knowledge down on paper (or PowerPoint) in a logical, fact based sequence, the recommendation will just speak for itself.
Rarely, if ever, have I observed a senior manager approve a decision based on the spewing of sequential technical facts without any questioning.
Bob: “We need to upgrade to RHEL 6 because it more efficiently uses multiple core processors reducing overall OS resource consumption by 10% freeing those resources up for applications to uses. Fact, fact, fact, fact … thus give me two people and $200k to start the upgrade process.”
Those maybe compelling, industry proven, lab test supported facts that indicate some new technical something is vastly superior to what you currently have and the company will benefit greatly, maybe even eliminate some current outstanding problems, reduce costs, and cure cancer … but what problem do they solve or opportunity do they create for the senior manager?
Quickly clarification, “what problem do they solve or opportunity do they create for the senior manager” is not be taken as you need to pander to the whims of the senior manager. This statement should be interpreted as: How do all these facts and figures relate to the senior manager’s goals and vision?
Relate the facts and figures to senior management’s goals/vision
One of the best ways I’ve learned to do this is to structure a presentation into a story following this sequence:
- Describe the Current State including gaps/challenges/issues/problems
- Describe the Future State
- Describe the Roadmap to get from Current to Future State
- Outline the immediate next steps to get started on the Roadmap
- Throw any ancillary or supporting data for the above 4 steps in Appendices
In the case of Bob’s desire to convince senior management to invest in an operating system upgrade, consider “telling the story” of ultimately what aligns to senior management’s goals/vision in this example context: computing capability at reduced cost.
Keeping with this logical theme of presenting a story aligning your recommendation to senior management’s goals/vision, the next article in this series will built upon this theme.