Not too long ago, it was a Thursday I think, TV weather people started sounding the alarm . . . snow, freezing rain, wind, ice. You know the drill.
Schedules started going in the toilet. Schools, businesses, churches, everyone started canceling. Milk and bread disappeared from the grocery store shelves faster than a brownie on my kitchen counter . . . you know the drill.
Of course, you also know the rest of the story. We indeed got some of it, but nothing like the dire forecast.
Why do the TV weather folks do that? I have no earthly idea. You would have to ask them. They all too often start ringing the warning bells and are all too often off the mark.
I suppose a theory might be that they have to cover their tails, so to speak, just in case the worst does happen. But when they are wrong, an argument could be made that they have become the “boy who cried wolf.” The danger of that then would be that we’ll quit paying attention and will be ill-prepared for the inevitable storm that does deliver the real thing.
There’s a parallel in management.
Underpromise. Overdeliver.
This isn’t to say that you should “sandbag,” or always paint a picture deliberately worse than it really is. If you have facts, be honest. But if you are “forecasting,” it is almost always far better to leave a little wiggle room for those unforeseen things that can – and indeed do – stray from the plan.
It’s truly a fine line and it’s tough to walk sometimes. You don’t want to turn into a weather forecaster and continually pile up wrong forecasts. Being wrong, whether you were too cautious or too aggressive, still ends up being wrong.
However, you have one advantage that the talking head in the TV doesn’t have. Most of the “variables” they have to deal with are “facts” for you. For example, which way a cloud is going to blow can change because Mother Nature decided to zig instead of zag. You, on the other hand, are dealing with inventory, employees, prices . . . things that you know intimately well. Sure, a surprise or two will make things more interesting, but really smart managers anticipate those surprises and have backup plans.
At the end of the day, you are indeed being paid to do some forecasting. You have the knowledge. You have the tools. Just be sure to do a bit better than our TV counterparts.

Next week: A little humor

Business Playbook is written by Tim Timmons. Timmons’ book, Coaching Success: Creating Champions for the Business World is available at www.tim-timmons.com.