I've got a story for you; actually, more than one, but let's start with this one.

Many years ago I was on a consulting assignment that had been going really well. I was having a lot of fun and a lot of success; we were all getting things done in a miraculous and positive way. I couldn't imagine having a gig that not only was this much fun, but it paid astronomically well.

Math on the Wall

via Compfight

One day a new Senior CFO showed up and decided he wanted to change things up. He stated that before I could make any changes to anything, he needed to review everything first. Knowing how busy CFOs are, and questioning his knowledge about what I did internally, I worried that things were going to get backlogged and that it would destroy the continuity that had already been established before he got there.

So when the first critical item came up, I decided to follow the request and send it to him for his review. I also decided to give him all the information I thought he'd need so he could make an informed decision. By the time I was done, I'd attached 15 pages to the item and sent it to him in an interoffice envelope; this was before one could scan things and send them out as pdf's. They call this malicious compliance, but I knew it was only going to affect one person... and that person wasn't me.

Later in the day the project manager came to me. He said that the new CFO called him up and asked what all the information was. The PM told him I was just following his new directive for wanting to approve all changes. He said that was too much information and that what he really wanted to know was the financial category I was going to put things in, not what things were. Sure he did!

In the long run things did get bogged down because, as I expected, his time was pulled in other directions. In that regard I was totally correct. In the other... the question is should I have given him all that information when I knew it was going to confuse him?

First, let me state that not every situation ends up getting the same activity. I was trying to make a point when I did what I did, and though it was taken, the CFO wasn't the type who was going to change his overall direction; micro managers never do.

Second, I've always tended to believe that any time we underestimate the intelligence of someone else we're setting the clock in motion for something bad to come our way. It might not be catastrophic, but it will be irritating enough to cause things not to work all that well.

Here's the next story. I was consulting at another facility and was suddenly included in a rash of emails regarding some new procedures. It happened to be something I knew well, and as I looked at previous messages I realized someone was about to make a critical mistake.

I decided that since I'd been included in the discussion to say something, even if almost no one on the list knew who I was; as a matter of fact, that was almost my opening line word for word.

I mentioned the process, gave some history on how it all came to be nationally, told them why they couldn't proceed the way they wanted to, and added that, since I was incorporated as a business and was indirectly listed with the organization whose rules they were about to break, that if anything bad happened and the authorities came a-calling that I'd have to mention how I'd told them not to do it. I added that part because once I was in the discussion it would always be a possibility that they might try to say they were doing it on my recommendation. That wasn't happening; always protect your "six".

What happened next was somewhat surprising. The next email came from a project manager with a lot of juice in the organization. She thanked me for all the information I gave them, said they certainly weren't going to do it after I gave them the proper information, and thanked me for clarifying the whole issue. Suddenly I was the go-to guy, which I found interesting because before that it seemed like no one cared much that I was there, even though they were paying me. 🙂

The thing is, even if the information I gave them might have been over their head, they knew I understood the issue; in this case I wrote it so that the people who needed to understand it would do so. That's the thing about giving some people all the information they need; it does no good if they can't interpret it because you've used words or terms they don't know.

This takes us back to the original question: Will they understand? Maybe, maybe not. Will they care? Who knows. I always err on the side that says they will for both of those questions, and, for the most part, I try to help them in as easy a way as possible... even if they've gotten on my last nerve. 😀

You should too; just something to think about.