Feeding frenzy

Context: over the last several months, two of my major projects at work have been building prototype applications that allows units within the company to maintain a database of ongoing research project portfolios. The database essentially contains metadata about projects, and in the two prototypes we have done, the response has been very positive within the operations offices of the units. I am now the technical lead on a company-wide project that will implement a similar, unified system for all units. We are in the early requirements phase of this project, which is likely a year in duration. However, I was asked to provide overview sessions to some researchers in the units that we have already deployed the prototype to. One of those training sessions is tomorrow. One was yesterday.

Feeding frenzy: I’ve given this presentation about 10 times by now; it was routine. But yesterday, when I gave it to the first group of researchers, it was derailed within the first minute. “Why do we care?” they asked. “How does this benefit them?” “Who will update the information?” In theory, some of the information would be updated by them, but they would have none of it. Mind you, they were not attacking me. In fact, several people went out of their way to say what a nice job I’d done on the system. But the questions they were asking were policy questions that I couldn’t answer because the answers had to come from their management–and their management was absent from the meetings.

So it was a feeding frenzy. I did my best to address their concerns and stay on course but it was one of the toughest presentations I’ve ever given (and by now I’ve probably done a hundred or more). Of course, afterward, we regrouped in order to see how we should approach this same presentation tomorrow. Still it was a humbling experience.

One of my coworkers was attending in Santa Monica because she will be leading the training sessions for the researchers administrative assistants in a few weeks, and she was observing me to see how I presented the information. After it was all over, I called her and said, “Don’t use that presentation as an example of how you should do it. I did a rotten job. Wipe it from your mind. I’ll try and do better on Thursday.”

Win some, lose some.