No, not the cool stuff you get at beer festivals or vendor conferences. Rather, the “Scientific Wild A** Guesses” we all make sometimes in order to provide a somewhat-reasonable estimate when asked a seemingly difficult question about something’s progress, cost, or effort.
I am not fearful to admit: I’m a big proponent of SWAG (see my post on BS). Not because I think it’s usually highly accurate within a great percentage of confidence, but because it starts to draw a line in the sand. It gives a baseline to work from. It gets everyone talking in similar terms.
I fear that far too often, everyone is afraid to quantize things in a manner that allows for healthy conversation. People’s reluctance to SWAG (believe me, in the professional services industry, it’s practically a four-letter word… wait… bad #UnintendedPun?) leaves us talking in generalities, with no real sight on the prize or the end goal. As long as you set the expectation that what you are providing is only an educated guess at best, clients and colleagues will (for the most part) be receptive of your guess. Because, guess what? You’ve been there before. You know it. They know it. That’s all they are after: your professional opinion based upon year(s) of experience dealing with similar situations at similar clients in similar organizational circumstances. The elephant in the room should be revealed – we all know there will be roadblocks. We know there are setbacks. It’s on us all collectively to manage through those and figure out ways to mitigate risks and work through issues. That’s what we are all paid for.
So – next time someone asks you something that may be difficult to forecast – please don’t give them a traditional “Well, uh, you see, uh, it depends on a lot of things” (my least favorite consulting jargon ever). It doesn’t help anyone. You are losing credibility with your boss/coworker/whomever, and you aren’t helping set expectations and drive forward progress. Just do it (apologies to Nike?). Take a SWAG.
Til Next Time,