Talk With Sensitivity

Demonstrations of definitive thinking can enrage me when it comes to presenting figures.

My recent work helping to craft business plans reminds me that the kinds of projected costs and revenues they deduce ought not be presented as absolutes. This also holds true for their sibling data, any sales proposal’s savings and returns.

I was reminded of my other pet hate in this regard by a quote from a journalist interviewing one of the few people to predict our global financial meltdown, Dr Doom:

“Like many economists, Roubini does not talk in absolute predictions. It is all about what could happen in worse case scenarios.”

I’ve blogged before about experienced people (usually bean counters) no longer really believing a business case – despite claiming to unlock an incredible upsides or minimise an horrific downside – typically because the outcome is framed so dramatically as to render it unrealistic in the eyes of a hardened executive.

I’ve seen many such a proposal that I knew could have benefited from showing a range of around their purported extreme as opposed a definitive ‘we will make/save you X million’.

In both aforementioned scenarios, the tactic of sensitivity analysis requires deployment. Propose your figures within a range and despite any instincts you may have that they’ll come across as perhaps a touch woolly, they are more likely to gain general acceptance.

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