Whether Forecasts (Issue 1127)

In which we are reminded that inaccurate or late-changing sales forecasts can create expensive consequences.

We were, all of us, in a fluffle last Monday afternoon. The national and Boston-area weather forecasters were predicting a major snowstorm. For Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I live, they predicted 5 inches to 8 inches of heavy, wet snow driven by 40 mph winds. To the south and east of us, more snow and higher winds.

Meteorologists began their snow emergency incantations on Sunday night and continued through the day on Monday. As I was winding up my work for the day, late afternoon Monday, the city of Boston sent out snow emergency messages and closed the Boston Public Schools for Tuesday. Cambridge sent out a similar message and closed the Cambridge schools.

During the evening, meteorologists at 6 PM, 7 PM, 8 PM, 10 PM, and 11 PM repeated their snow emergency warnings. Meeting cancellation and school closure announcements multiplied in the information band at the bottom of the TV screen.

Seeing the school closures, parents of school-aged children scrambled to find unplanned childcare coverage or change their schedules to be home with their children during the storm on Tuesday. The Cambridge public works department deployed salt trucks to treat roads and sidewalks preemptively. Snowplow drivers were called off their routine duties to prepare their trucks.

I rose at 5:15 am on Tuesday, anticipating I would have snow-moving work to do. I flipped on the outside lights. Nothing, not even a raindrop… and by 9:00 AM, it became clear that the storm had veered sharply to the east sooner than expected and that Boston and Cambridge would get no snow…NOTHING… while communities to the south and east of us would get the predicted wet, heavy snow.

While it’s good THEY were prepared, we reeled from the atmospheric head fake, wasting colossal quantities of personal and municipal time, productivity, and money.

Yup, yup, sometimes, for reasons beyond our control, “reality” and “forecasts” don’t match. [Reality is where you go for ice cream, by the way.]  Good to keep in mind that, when others make decisions based on our forecasts, it’s good to get them right.

Nick Miller is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. He assists banks and credit unions to generate more and more profitable relationships, faster, with business clients, their owners, and their employees through better sales strategies and execution. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.

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