If you’ve ever made a recommendation to your manager only to be told “That’s great, but we’re going a different route” you may wonder why you wasted time working on the analysis in the first place. I had that scenario play out many times as a young professional and could only appreciate later in my career that my boss had good reasons to rebuff my work.
Analysis vs. Intuition
I discovered the importance of intuition in the workplace during the summer before my second year in business school. Working in the Jello Pudding division of General Foods, my manager asked me to analyze figures for chocolate pudding sales in the Midwest vs. the Southeast. Fresh out of statistics class, I applied some fancy analytical methods and determined that we should increase marketing efforts in the Midwest and cut back ad dollars in the Southeast. My boss looked impressed with the regression analysis but immediately told me he will maintain the marketing plan as it is. He had successfully managed the brand for years and had a “feeling” the current plan was appropriate. Subsequent sales figures showed he was right. So why did he have me analyze the numbers? His theory was that analysis is always important to review, but it shouldn’t be the only factor in making business decisions.
Analysis vs. Client Relationship
While I was an Associate at Merrill Lynch, my manager asked me to analyze whether we should undertake a certain transaction. The transaction was small and, because of the resources it would require, would break even at best and possibly lose money for Merrill. So I suggested we pass. Once again my recommendation was nixed. My manager told me that we were trying to develop this particular client because future business would be much more significant. Ok, I get it. But why didn’t my boss tell me about the hidden agenda in the first place? I was new to the group and I suppose he was trying to vet my judgment and analytical abilities. He also may have used the information to see just how unprofitable the transaction would be.
Analysis vs. Office Politics
Your manager can also reject your recommendation due to office politics, and she may not give a good reason for turning you down. She may feel that your group will benefit from what looks like an ill-advised decision because it will gain favorable attention from senior managers, regardless of the outcome.
As my career evolved I began to understand, and even make, some of these types of decisions that relied more on knowledge than analysis. Overall, experience trumps pure analysis in the business world. That’s sometimes hard for professionals in the beginning of their careers to understand.