How to Break Bad News When No-One is Listening

Owner, Digital Nation
Sep. 22, 2014

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How to Break Bad News When No-One is Listening

  1. Breaking The Bad News….When People Don’t Want to Listen Charles Meaden
  2. 30 Seconds About Me…  Founded Digital Nation 17 years ago  Analysing websites for 19 years  5th time at Measurecamp, 5th talk  We do a lot of troubleshooting
  3. Can You See What The Problem Is?
  4. “Not Convinced That We Have A Problem”  Our data and analysis clearly indicated a problem  We presented our finding  But no action was taken
  5. What Do I Mean By Bad News?  Any analysis or reporting that shows a decline in performance compared to a baseline or a running average  What effect will this bad news have?  Official definition  results in a cognitive, behavioral, or emotional deficit in the person receiving the news that persists for some time after the news is received  My definition  That the person isn’t going to be a ‘happy bunny’ and really isn’t going to like you for a while
  6. We’re all rational  Surely educated, intelligent adults should be able to take bad news  Here’s a couple of reasons why…
  7. Fear  None of us like bad news  What’s the impact going to be on person receiving it  Personal reputation  Economic impact  What else is this going effect
  8. Distrust  “70 to 80% of all analytics setups I examine are seriously flawed” Craig Sullivan @optimiseordie  If previous setups have been flawed, why should they trust your data and analysis
  9. Ignorance and Confusion  Our ‘clients’ don’t understand what we are talking about  Analysts have a tendency to talk in our their language  Sometimes our clients don’t have the time to learn  Sometimes they don’t want to learn or can’t be bothered
  10. So What Can We Do  Here is a list of ways that we can get people to listen to us  Then it’s your turn
  11. Don’t Hide The Facts  Be brutally honest  If you try and hide the facts, someone else will find them
  12. Document Everything  Before presenting verbally, document the whole issue  It’ll help you present the case  It can be emailed around as soon as the news has been delivered
  13. Don’t Delay  Bad news gets worse the longer you leave it
  14. Justify Your Actions  Be prepared to stand up for yourself  Sometime things are outside of your control
  15. Spend Time Getting to Know The Client  Time spent getting to know what makes the client ‘tick’ will help you frame the way that bad news is delivered  Try and understand what fears the client has and what worries them the most
  16. Speak Their Language  Describe the problem in language that they understand  Use the metrics and KPI’s that they understand  The very first question we always ask new clients is  “What do you want to know about visitors to your site”
  17. Talk to Everyone Affected  If you’re delivering news to multiple teams (especially in the enterprise),  Try and take informal soundings from each team about the effects it will have  Find out what is the best way to present the news
  18. Back It Up With Data  Carefully explain using data the exact nature of the problem  Explain where the data was sourced from and it’s context  Keep your working in reserve
  19. Show Them The Money  If there is any economic impact, don’t try and hide this away  Make it as clear as possible the actual costs  Outline the costs if the situation is allowed to continue
  20. Be Positive – Provide Solutions and Actions  Look for a silver lining to soften the blow – are there any upsides to the issue or insights that can be gleaned  Deliver the bad news with a set of possible actions and scenarios to remedy the issue
  21. Take It On The Chin  If you or your team caused the problem, take the blame as soon as possible  Make sure you’re also part of the solution  Regain people’s trust
  22. Be Careful with the Blame Thrower  If a third party has caused the problem, name them  Be fair to them  Provide and document your reasons
  23. One Problem, Many Audiences  The news will leave the room  Depending on how bad it is, it will spread far and wide and possibly to the very top  When presenting the bad news, consider all the audiences
  24. Understand the Fear  Take the time to understand what is making them fearful  Sometimes the first reason they give you is actually hiding something else
  25. Educate Your Audience  What steps can you take to make your clients more knowledgeable?  Take their real world issues and show them how to resolve them  We use  Snag It for screenshots  Camtasia for screen movies  JoinMe for desktop sharing
  26. Follow Up and Follow Through  Once the bad news has been delivered  Get going on the recovery plan  Keep everyone in the loop as to what is happening
  27. Thank You  Follow me @charlesmeaden  Email:  Big hat tip to the following and many others from the talk from their thoughts and contributions  Yves-Marie Lemaître @yh1  Hugh Gage @hughgage  Craig Sullivan @optimiseordie  Elisabeth Rizzi @ElisabethRizzi  Penelope Bellegarde - @Penanalytics  James Wawne