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Frustration with project - and lack of help
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# 1
ostrichnomore
Old 05-06-2012, 5:54 PM
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Default Frustration with project - and lack of help

Hi (regular posters AE here)

I've been working over the weekend on a project and I just want to cry over it.

It's something new I've been working on for a few months. Not really that hard, but important for the company and involving a LOT of money, but it's an area I haven't really been trained in. So I'm nervous. It's the financial side of it that I am getting really stressed over. I haven't been trained in doing budgets or anything and although I have done them before out of a combination of common sense and a 25 years ago maths olevel, I feel a bit out of my depth on this one due to the amounts involved. It includes transfers of money to another company based on figures I've worked out so if I get it wrong it would be a huge problem.

I can't really go into detail but although it all sounded simple enough in theory, there have been added complications popping up throughout that mean I have to keep revising what I've done.

I'm now in a bit of a state over it. I feel 99% ok that what I've done is right, but the more I look at it and try to check it the harder it gets and the more my brain freezes over.

I am a manager. I have been saying for months that I'm struggling with this and worried about it and just want some guidance/checking. So I asked another manager who is a superior to me and also a qualified accountant to go over it with me and check it for me.

He's done a couple of times - once a couple of months ago, and then again last week after I had to revise it all again and have been asked to give an overall summary to the higher beings. I just wanted to check it was ok.

He did but both times he's made me feel so small and stupid over what I've done that I'm really upset now. He keeps telling me I'm coming up with the right answers but the way I'm doing it is unneccessarily complex and not the right way. He wouldn't have done it like that, sort of comments. But when I ask him to show me some improvements or how he would have done it, he just laughs at me and won't help me.

He's also only done a very quick superficial review each time and I don't think he quite accepts the complexity of it. Or maybe he is right and it isn't complex, it is just the way I've done it. But I can't think of a better way myself. I'm not an accountant. I'm not trained for this. I think I've done well so far on my own weird way. But when I say 'please check this as it's all been getting a bit complicated' he smirks and says 'no it isn't.' I wish he'd either show me a better way to do it or shut up and stop criticising my own method. I don't doubt there are better official 'accountants' ways to do it, but I don't know those ways, do I.

So now I have to work with him on it again next week to finalise another aspect of it. It should be the final session. But I just don't want to do it at all now. I hate being made to feel stupid like this. I'm not stupid, it IS complex for someone who isn't an accountant or trained/experienced in this.

Vent over I guess. I want to say something to him at the start of the session to stop him making me feel so bad other wise I'm probably going to start crying. I had to go and have a sniffle in the loo last week after we finished. I know it sounds silly but it's the hurt and frustration of being criticised by someone who could help me but would rather just make me feel stupid. He's not even a nasty person, I think that as it's a one-off project he can't see the point in training me to do it properly as I'm managing to get there in the end in my own way. It's that damn smirk that gets me.

But also I have to deal with this in a professional not personal or emotional way. It's not an option to complain or go to the higher ups about it.

What should I say to him?
I am a long term poster using an alter ego for debts and anything where I might mention relationship problems or ex. I hope you understand
[CENTER]LBM 08/03/11. Debts Family member 1600, HMRC NI 324.AA 137.45. Halifax credit card (debt sold to Arrow Global)673.49Mystery CCJ 252 Santander overdraft 239 0 .
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# 2
ktothema
Old 05-06-2012, 6:12 PM
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I feel for you. Everyone has their thing. I'm good with numbers for instance, and find data and the like very simple. Others find that horrific to deal with. Conversely, the thought of anything sales related makes me cry, but there are others who find sales simple as.

Im guessing this manager doesn't have to help you but is. I think you need to ride it out with them and just try hard to ignore what they are saying (and doing). If you're getting it right, and can explain how you're getting thee, you're doing it fine. So what if you don't know his/her methods. Correct and complex is far better than simple and incorrect. I don't think this person is going to help you further than just making sure your figures are ok.
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# 3
jobbingmusician
Old 05-06-2012, 8:41 PM
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A few very basic questions.

Are you using Excel? Are you confident using Excel? - a course in this might help. You can work out all your figures in a spreadsheet, and EVERYTHING will change to reflect the change you make to one figure or line, if you have your formulae set up for this.

What is neater is that you can save your spreadsheet, then save the next version under another name. Take a couple of lines at the bottom of the ss to explain to yourself clearly the changes in this latest version and why you made them. If your brain works anything like mine, 90% of the stress of dealing with this is about not being confident in yourself, not being able to remember exactly why you put the numbers in that you have put in!

Secondly, do you know how your company allocate management costs? (Overheads and profit?) Someone might be able to give you a ballpark figure for these which you can just plug into a spreadsheet so that the bottom line changes as you tweak this figure.

OK, so the above is probably far too basic. Just a word of encouragement from another 'never been trained to do budgets and have to do far too many of them' sort of person
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# 4
Elvisia
Old 05-06-2012, 8:50 PM
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Unfortunately it sounds as though he's in the position of 'teacher' here, and many people aren't cut out for this as they totally don't get why someone doesn't understand how to do something, and they may be incapable of explaining to someone how something does work. It's actually surprisingly hard to teach someone something, it requires patience and an ability to learn how to adapt what you're teaching so the other person gets it, and doesn't end up with massively low self esteem. Some people are quick to either lose their temper or tut and make you feel bad. This is why I was awful at maths, I had teachers who told me I should be able to get it and I was stupid and lazy for not understanding. It wasn't until I taught myself that I realised I was being taught in the wrong way. Now when I teach I might give an example that sounds ridiculous but makes perfect sense to someone else, even if you're using an example involving buying handbags or some such thing. My advice would be to be upfront with him, tell him what isn't helpful, but then be very clear with him what does help you. You will have to guide him with his teaching skills. So saying "I don't understand this, can you explain it like that" will show him the direction he needs to go in. Don't apologise for being "stupid" or "slow", just say you want it explained in this way.

Is there anyone else there who can explain it to you in an alternative way? I had to do particularly hard calculations when I was imputing my grades for students and the maths prof tried to help me but he ended up getting himself in a mess with it, then I just did it visually using bits of paper and worked it out in five minutes!!

Otherwise I would leave the project for now as it's obviously making your brain melt, and when you get to work take him for a coffee, sit down and tell him exactly what you need. Work out in your head beforehand what you want to say if you feel a bit shy about facing up to him.
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# 5
Kynthia
Old 05-06-2012, 9:07 PM
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Just being devils advocate here, but is it possible the smirk is amusement at how you got the right answer as it's very different to the standard way and yet it's still right? You say that he's not a nasty person, he's helping you by looking over it, he's saying that your results are right so there's no need to show you how he would have done it, etc. So maybe you're being oversensitive and taking offensive where none is intended? Of course it might not be that at all and he's being cruel. However you don't really have anything that he's done to officially complain about to anyone at work.

Try not to be so stressed as you've had it looked over by an accountant twice and he says it's okay, and you've triple checked it. Can you get it checked over again by someone else as a final confirmation? Have you spoken to your line manager about your fears and feelings of being out of your depth? They obviously had confidence in you to give you this task so try to remember that.

If it's something your going to get more involved with could you take a course in finance for managers or AAT or something similar?
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# 6
Angelicdevil
Old 05-06-2012, 11:25 PM
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I feel for you! I had a boss who was just like this - I'd get the job done, well within timescales BUT I'd always get:

"Why'd you do it that way? I would have done it like blah"

For this person, it was a control thing and they didn't have a clue they were doing it and the effect it can actually have on your confidence.

My view is, as long as you get it done within the timescales and get it right, who cares how you got there?
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# 7
VfM4meplse
Old 05-06-2012, 11:30 PM
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My advice - you're the PM, not the technical manager, so delegate. Make the accountant accountable to you instead of stressing over something that you're not expert in. It's called "teamwork". Apologise for nothing, expect everything from everyone and always have someone else to blame...which is what management consultants do on a routine basis.

HTH.
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# 8
marybelle01
Old 06-06-2012, 7:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kynthia View Post
Just being devils advocate here, but is it possible the smirk is amusement at how you got the right answer as it's very different to the standard way and yet it's still right? You say that he's not a nasty person, he's helping you by looking over it, he's saying that your results are right so there's no need to show you how he would have done it, etc. So maybe you're being oversensitive and taking offensive where none is intended? Of course it might not be that at all and he's being cruel. However you don't really have anything that he's done to officially complain about to anyone at work.

Try not to be so stressed as you've had it looked over by an accountant twice and he says it's okay, and you've triple checked it. Can you get it checked over again by someone else as a final confirmation? Have you spoken to your line manager about your fears and feelings of being out of your depth? They obviously had confidence in you to give you this task so try to remember that.

If it's something your going to get more involved with could you take a course in finance for managers or AAT or something similar?
I agree. And bear in mind that, certainly in my experience, people who are good with figures or with computers are often not equally good at people skills. Perhaps he doesn't have time to explain how he would have arrived at the figures. What you interpret as a smirk because you feel out of your depth could in fact just be a smile. I have a really good friend who is a whizz with computers, and it's a good thing I know him so well because if I ask him to do something with my computer, he makes me feel about two inches tall and I feel an overwhelming desire to strangle him.

Perhaps you could take a step back and explain that you would really like to understand this aspect of the work better for future projects, and you understand that he must be very busy but you would really appreciate it if, at some point in time when he can spare you the time, he could explain how he would have approached this sort of thing. Make it clear you are asking him a favour and that it's at his covenience - don't expect it to be when he is checking over your current work, because he's already giving up his time to help you out, and he simply may not have time to do both.

But bear in mind that if you ask, then you might get it! Having tried that approach with my friend, I discovered that I really didn't want know! I have therefore found that putting him in a room with the computer and me being in another room while he "plays" is actually my best option.
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# 9
getmore4less
Old 06-06-2012, 8:00 AM
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I think you just find someone else to have a look over the numbers.

I like the idea above, get the senior managment to agree to make it smeone elses problem.

The key is does the model you are using work and will continue to work when things need changing.

What tools are you using to model the sinacial aspect of the project.

The reality is those above you responsible for the project should be checking things so get them to look over the model and results to see if it meets the objectives.
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# 10
Yorkie1
Old 06-06-2012, 9:45 AM
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Agree with all the others' comments.

Looking to the future, do you have regular appraisal / reviews with your own line manager? It's a 2-way process, not just for your manager to provide feedback to you. Can you formalise the areas in which you feel you are not confident (you've mentioned management skills as well as these numbers) and put together a formal development plan?
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# 11
paddyrg
Old 06-06-2012, 9:50 AM
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Deep breath and recognise you are doing well already!

Hardly anyone gets any training in 'doing budgets', including most accountants, and there are 20 ways to do most of them (eg working out day rates, or weekly rates with a daily rider, or salary divided by working days plus holidays times the days involved plus a fixed rate HR cost and variable benefits. All three would/should come up with comparable figures within a few quid. If the numbers feel right to you, and if it is easy for the other guy, why not ask him to run the same scenario with his simplified version, you can compare results. If they're similar, no worries, if wildly different one of you is wrong.

If we are talking big numbers, your boss should really review things too - go in and defer to their experience and expertise and as it will impact on them if it goes messy, you want them to have a chance to catch any glitches before it goes out. Tell him you want him to sign it off (ie to agree it and carry the can)

As for being made to feel small, if you felt in your depth, nothing the guy could say would do that, so it says more about how nervous you do feel. Sometimes numbers people like to be asked for help, appealing to their superior experience etc too. Bit of a game to play, very boring, but at least it is nearly over...and you can ask your boss for more training off the back of it!
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# 12
Sambucus Nigra
Old 06-06-2012, 11:29 AM
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I'm not actually sure what it is you are having the probs with - having been there myself, with a belligerent accountant to deal with as well - it made me sit down and go through each accounting line for a 2 year reforecasting on 8 projects that I had inherited - with a fine toothcomb.

I was also using Excel, and the main thing I would say is to make sure you have thought of and included everything that you know will happen - and plan for everything that you plan to happen...

Perhaps is you expand a little on the problem someone can give you a pointer as to what to expect/do/look for. In the absence of that, can you just ask this chap - go in with a blank sheet of paper - and note down what it is exactly he does [his workflow, he must have one] and just double check your work against that and against any other financials to see if yours are making sense.

The good thing with excel is that you can add up and do pivot tables that totalise things so that overall financials can be quickly added up and you can compare with other projects to see if you have missed or overestimated anything. It does take time though. Would it help to see one of his past calcs to see how he does it?

Accounting is is essence really simple.

What did you spend, when and what on.
Or
What are you planning to spend, when and what on.
If you haven't got it - please don't flaunt it. TIA.

Last edited by Sambucus Nigra; 06-06-2012 at 11:32 AM.
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# 13
ostrichnomore
Old 06-06-2012, 2:24 PM
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Hello.

Thank you all for your responses. I feel a lot better now I've read all these and I'm getting it back into perspective.

I think I was hurt and frustrated that I was being criticised for my methods but then not offered anything to help me improve my methods. But even though I may have been doing things in a long-winded way, I was getting the right results coming out at the end of it, and that is what matters. It is lack of confidence that is making me get him to check it before I go higher up to report on it and he doesn't have to help me at all. So I can put up with a slightly smug response.

It's mainly the amounts - I'm used to dealing with budgets for tens of thousands. Max. before was about 50k annually. This is over half a million and the responsibility has freaked me out, pure and simple.

It's not even exactly a budget, I can't really go into what it is.

Thanks again for the support and suggestions. I would like to learn more about this type of function as we all have our strengths and weaknesses, and this is where I have a gap. I did study excel but this was about 15 years ago and I don't have full knowledge of anything but the very basics. I do have reasonably good 'numeracy' awareness of how numbers work, which is how I cope with this type of work at the moment but also why I can end up doing things in a rather idiosyncratic way. I think I'll put in a request for some more advanced Excel training at my review.
I am a long term poster using an alter ego for debts and anything where I might mention relationship problems or ex. I hope you understand
[CENTER]LBM 08/03/11. Debts Family member 1600, HMRC NI 324.AA 137.45. Halifax credit card (debt sold to Arrow Global)673.49Mystery CCJ 252 Santander overdraft 239 0 .
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# 14
KiKi
Old 06-06-2012, 7:59 PM
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Hi OP

I would cover your back here. Once it's finalised, send a copy to your senior manager and the project sponsor (or whoever needs to see it), copied to the management accountant guy.

I would make VERY clear that these figures have been reached in conjunction with him, and that you have 'cleared' and 'agreed' these figures with him as part of the process. I would also reiterate that point by mentioning that you used his financial expertise to ensure these figures were correct.

You could also get yourself onto a finance for non-financial managers course (a good one) - it would certainly give you more confidence. It's one thing knowing a process that works; it's quite another when it involves real money that isn't yours!

KiKi
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# 15
colino
Old 06-06-2012, 8:05 PM
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Remember with all plans and budgets there is, or should be, indicative sensitivity analysis done too. That is, at its barest level, what would happen if say your costs (stock/labour or whatever) costs you 20% more than you planned and at the same time, your income is 20% reduced (spend/profit etc). You then do the reverse, i.e., what if your costs are 20% less and income 20% more.
By the way the percentages have to be linked to your own, realistic scenario and the higher/lower bits, only you will know what is appropriate to select to get a realistic feel on what will make a difference to your project.
Additionally, in the main accountants are historical creatures, they are great at doing the figures to record what happened after the event, but I have only very limited experience of a couple of them who were any use at all in doing a bluesky plan.
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