May 16, 2014

Forecasting the Weather in the Business World

Some of us were talking the other day about the occasional glaring inaccuracy of weather reports, and the lack of consequences resulting from them.  I think what prompted us was the ad for one of our local television stations that they are 'the most accurate' in our market, and we all chuckled at that.  

First, let me say this:  there are lots of meteorologists and weather readers that are good and who forecast accurately, and who do a good job making us smarter and set reasonable weather expectations and meet them most of the time.  

With weather front and center on the local and national news -- we now hear about how many millions of people are 'in the path of' some weather event or other on a fairly regular basis on at least one nightly news broadcasts - there's an awful lot of opportunity for these folks to put themselves out there with a forecast, and for that forecast to miss the mark. And when it happens, those of us who work in different professions, where our name and face and 'work product' aren't front and center for all to see, well, I admit we can be a little brutal to those who are out there front and center.  

My favorite part about the forecasts are the models - as in, one model shows this is going to happen, and another model shows something else is going to happen.  I thought it would be fun to apply that to my position and to anticipate my boss's reaction if I tried that at work. Here's a possible scenario of me forecasting my ability to get work done:
Hi -- got a sec? The auditors have asked us to provide ten years worth of records related to the Doomaflatchey case, and they've given us five business days to provide the information.  I've reviewed the most reliable model on this and my forecast is that we don't have a snowball's chance in hell of producing the information in that time frame.  
I get a strange look from my boss, but boldly continue with my forecast:
I did review a different model, and there may be some good news: it appears that we won't be in hell this week, it's going to be colder than normal for the next few days, and so we might actually be able to provide the information they need, but not within the time frame they've specified...
She sort of presses herself into the back of her chair, hands beginning to form a death grip on the arms.
...because I'm forecasting difficulty in gathering the information based on the patterns of the past several days. The models show we may have maxed out our ability to produce anything else this week, unless we work into the overnight when the models predict it'll be quiet. The drawback is we'll be working at reduced capacity due to the overcast sleepiness that will occur.  It's all right here in the hour by hour forecast, see? I'm going to stick with my original prediction that we won't make the deadline.
Now beginning to rise up out of the chair, my boss clearly has a cloudy outlook on my forecast, and comes back with her own:
Well, I've been reviewing the data myself, and I'm predicting a significant change in the atmospheric pressure in this office. I do believe there's a storm brewing and you'll be smack dab in the middle of it according to the models I've seen. I've also reviewed historical data and I believe that if you work at your record high pace for this week, you should have no problem gathering the data, getting it into the cumulus format, and turning it over on time.  Your weekend will be a washout of course, but I see brighter days ahead.
Unless, of course, my forecast is wrong.
Hmm. How about that? Seems a cold, rainy weekend is just what I'll need to get the work done on the Doomaflatchey case. I sure hope the models are right.