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Don't Explain Too Much Expand / Collapse
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Posted Thursday, November 29, 2012 8:20 AM
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"don't explain too much" is an excellent bit of advice for any technical discussion.

Of course it goes without saying that you don't misrepresent the situation, talk down or over simplify, but excess explanation so often moves the discussion away from the critical point at hand. If your listener wants more info, by all means provide it freely, but don't unnecessarily muddy the water.

Part of the job of a skilled tech person is to strip away (through intelligent analysis) all the complex detail and reduce a messy problem to its critical aspects. It's the inept technician who can't reduce the problem to core principles.


...

-- FORTRAN manual for Xerox Computers --
Post #1390596
Posted Thursday, November 29, 2012 8:35 AM


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Krowley, i actually did for awhile. i worked at the Cape on the Shuttle program back in the early 90's.

"Technology is a weird thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ..."
Post #1390612
Posted Thursday, November 29, 2012 8:41 AM


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jay-h (11/29/2012)
"don't explain too much" is an excellent bit of advice for any technical discussion.

Of course it goes without saying that you don't misrepresent the situation, talk down or over simplify, but excess explanation so often moves the discussion away from the critical point at hand. If your listener wants more info, by all means provide it freely, but don't unnecessarily muddy the water.

Part of the job of a skilled tech person is to strip away (through intelligent analysis) all the complex detail and reduce a messy problem to its critical aspects. It's the inept technician who can't reduce the problem to core principles.



I agree Jay, you should not explain too much. Get your point across and end it there. If they need more then give it as needed. That said, you should also not just assume your manager is technically ignorant either. Many of them came through the ranks and know very well what you are talking about. Don't just assume because they are a manager that they only understand widgets and bean counts. Like I said before, it pays to know your audience.


"Technology is a weird thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ..."
Post #1390616
Posted Thursday, November 29, 2012 8:47 AM
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Haha, as much as I'd wish I could explain less at my current employer, it's usually not possible to do so . The main database system here used to be Access, before I migrated the system to SQL Server at their request. It was commonplace for the users to write their own Access queries for various tasks, some of which needed a lot of cleaning up and remodeling to avoid issues (unrestricted UPDATEs, ack!). As a result, management believes that they're just as much into the technical field as I am, which is... Mildly untrue at times, to put it one way.

I remember when I had to program in a means of calculating whether packages would fit into shipping boxes, to replace an old system for doing the same thing that was inaccurate and sometimes unable to properly match items to boxes. Thanks to some awesome help from these forums, I got a routine procedure established that would accurately take our products and match them to boxes, as long as it was supplied with updated information whenever we got new boxes.

Management inquired about how the procedure worked, and I just explained, "It'll look at the information on all the boxes we have, make comparisons with our products, find the best fit, and store the fit in a table for review as needed." Management wanted a better explanation, and I told them that calculatiions are made with the product data in the database. They wanted to know where the calculations were; naturally, the calculations were in a query in the procedure. They looked horrified. The boss proclaimed that I'd created a coding monster, and this would lead to nothing but trouble. I was puzzled.

Apparently, they felt that the calculation formulas themselves should be stored somewhere in the database, too, so they could check the formulas in case they ever needed to know why something went in a certain box. If they didn't know the query formula, how could they ever know it was right? Besides trying to put the item in the box, anyhow?

Ironically, the old method of doing this was essentially the exact same procedure, except it didn't do a data-based rotation of the items to see if they'd fit another way, and it had to be run by hand. Seemingly, that procedure was never examined by management, and they never had complaints about it until it started causing problems with us paying too much shipping. Either way, at least things are functioning far better now, even if I'm slightly worried about having to explain my coding when it's mostly unnecessary again


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Post #1390621
Posted Thursday, November 29, 2012 8:52 AM


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cfradenburg (11/29/2012)
Based on my experience I'm not sure that I agree with the, "managers shouldn't know," part of this. I fully agree that they shouldn't be the decision makers on topics like this but if they want assurances and details as to what's being done I don't think that's a bad thing. ...


There's a difference between explaining technically and details. That you run a backup every ten minutes, and you can recover to that level of granularity is a nice explanation. A look at the the nuance of log records, and tail log backups being available and the options available for the BACKUP LOG command, with scripting to move the file off the machine is a bit much.








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Post #1390624
Posted Thursday, November 29, 2012 8:53 AM


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brian.francis (11/29/2012)
I agree that the managers don't need the technical details, but a discussion of what options are available and what is most appropriate for the situation is critical. Too often I see IT folks just assume the implementation they did for project X applies for project Y and the business has no idea how their system was implemented. If you don't explain the options with the costs and benefits then they tend not to realize they're even making a choice. Usually when I see people talking very technical, it's because they don't really understand what they're doing so they try to intimidate others so they stop asking questions. This leads to poor communication and a general mess.


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Post #1390625
Posted Thursday, November 29, 2012 8:56 AM


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Hiza,
Just remember to not let these kinds of things get you upset. Managment many times asks dumb questions. It does not mean they are dumb. Just misinformed. There's no such thing as a stupid question, but many times they're the easiest to answer. It's all how you approach it


"Technology is a weird thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ..."
Post #1390629
Posted Thursday, November 29, 2012 8:59 AM
Right there with Babe

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Good admonition, Steve. I'm one who tends to give too much detail to managers. I do this for a variety of reasons, like thinking that I've got to prove to my management that what I do is complicated. And sometimes that results in situations like you've described where management is now micro-managing based upon what they think they understand of the problem. I have to work to not giving too much detail.

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Post #1390636
Posted Thursday, November 29, 2012 9:00 AM
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Oh, certainly. Work does frustrate me on occasion, but usually it takes something orders of magnitude greater than that to bug me . I was just weirded out by the situation... In my mind, if we could create a procedure that works, verify that it works, and record its results for error-checking should problems develop. that was a solid defense against trouble. The idea that it could be faulty just because the formulae weren't visible threw me for a loop!

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Post #1390637
Posted Thursday, November 29, 2012 9:12 AM
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Too much detail dilutes management effectiveness.

If you are a detail person and a manager then it is too easy to get sucked into detailed technical debates rather than stepping back and letting people get on with it.

If a non-technical manager gets highly technical information then they just switch off and miss the key point that you wanted them to understand. If they have a low understanding of the technical world they can get panicked by info that DBAs and other techies regard as business as usual.

Alternatively you find them strangely unavailable whenever you need to speak to them.

Let them ask for more detail if they require it but find a way of asking why without sounding defensive and patronising. "If you could let me know what your end goal is then this would help me to find the salient facts".


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