Because the Boss Said So

Imagine you're in a meeting with a colleague.  That colleague, we'll call her Linda, is asking the analytics team to create a report, which is no small task.  The analytics team asks for the purpose, the true business need, of the report.  Linda does not know, so she quickly emails her manager.  She, shortly thereafter, received this message:

Our VP needs it.

It is very possible the VP has a true and valid reason behind needing this report.  But no one knows why nor did they have the confidence to question why the report was necessary.  As a result, the analytics team has to develop a report, which will take about a week’s worth of effort, and deliver it to the VP, all the while not knowing what the true necessity was for the report.  It is the blind leading the blind.

What learnings can be taken away from this situation?

  1. Always ask “why?”  Why do we need this?  Why does it need to be done by this time?
  2. Don’t be afraid to push back to better understand an ask
  3. Don’t accept the first thing that is told to you, especially if you don’t agree with it

Why is the "because the boss said so" mindset a problem?  Outside of it being a challenge for the analytics team to create something when they don’t know how it is going to be used, it is not a valid reason to go about creating a report or project.  A report or project ought to be created because there is a true business need, such as to to drive strategy or build a business case to improve the customer experience.  The rationale "because I said so" should only be used for five year olds.  Yet, somehow it is working in Corporate America.

That mindset also says a lot about company culture.  If the company is accepting of the "because the boss said so" excuse for doing a project, it shows the company is not willing to put forth the effort to truly do what is in the best interest of their end users.  It shows that whatever the leaders say, goes.  And it means the people at lower levels don't have the ability to raise concerns or have them heard.

As a young employee, you have the power to think critically about what is going on.  Use your perspective and confidence to speak up when you want to better understand why something is being done.