Data Minefields. Feeling inadequte, forever.

We watch the “budget battles” play out.  In my state, the governor is “defunding the legislature” by line item veto.  He says it’s tit for tat, the legislature having slipped an unfair funding block of its own into one of the obscure budget bills.  At the national level, is the CBO genius or idiot?  Depends.  What number will become uninsured? In what year?

Edward Friedman, defining characteristics of gridlock, offers “Data Minefields” as one. A chapter in “A Failure of Nerve” is titled, “Data Junkyards and Data Junkies: The Fallacy of Expertise”. I been through my share of annual business budgeting.  The aggregate level of anxiety during those times is always elevated.  Exhaustive circular (treadmill!) processes consumes precious other business building and management time. And makes many kind of crazy. The coolest young manager I ever worked with – while a young manager myself – was a Chief Engineer at a television station.  He could keep things going better than anyone else, fixing stuff, managing a union shop, planning capitol improvements and playing successfully on the second level management team.  I never saw him rattled or angry. One budget year we were feeling the heat from above, looking for cuts, doing more with less, never pleasing the bean counters.  In exasperation, I privately shared my frustrations with the CE.  “They’re going to fire us if we don’t deliver the numbers expected”.  He smiled wryly and said, “Relax, they’re only numbers in a budget.  It’s mostly ultimately meaningless”.  Many things are more important.  Let’s stay calm. Friedman wrote: As long as leaders— parents, healers, managers— base their confidence on how much data they have acquired, they are doomed to feeling inadequate, forever…leaders will constantly be caught in a wearying bind wherein the quick-fix orientation of a chronically anxious society spawns unlimited quantities of data and technique, while leaders, in their effort to “stay on top of things,” will continually be made more anxious by their efforts to keep up, if not feeling more guilty over the fact that they are not all current.” (A Failure of Nerve)

Peace and Courage,


1 thought on “Data Minefields. Feeling inadequte, forever.”

  1. Jules Goddard of the London Business School calls the budgeting process “corporate rain dancing.” If you get the steps right, the money will fall from on high.

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