Wednesday, May 9, 2012

With all due're dumber than me.

Here is my plea to all administrators.  I am speaking to those within the academy specifically but this message also extends to those who work in real jobs in industry and commerce.

In short, trust your people and their expertise.  Don't let your default setting be dismissive or condescending.  In thought industries like higher education, you hire folks for not only their ability to process and render data, but also to interpret it, look at it in new ways, operationalize it, and distill it down in easily digestible chunks (usually called high points or executive summaries).  When you ask someone with expertise in an area to run reports and give you a recommendation based on the confluence of the data and their expertise, don't let your first response be, "....ummmmm...naaa.  I don't think so."

If you don't trust someone's expertise in the area they were hired for, do the right thing by both them and the institution and move them somewhere where they will be more effective.  But don't be dismissive.  Or even more importantly, if you have an answer to a question that you want found, point your team in that direction as their task.  Make the answer you want achieved the goal of the exercise and not the mystery.

I'm a qualitative researcher by trade so I tend to have a significant bias...but often, the story is in the details.  When the details are pressed and filtered and regressed down until they are flat (that was my biased "gotcha" toward some types of quantitive analysis), there is often no longer a story to be told.

And I'll take a narrative over a number any day.

Be respectful and remember that trust works both ways.