If it were not so professionally embarrassing, it might be a bit funny. This past weekend I was working on finalizing spending estimates for the June 30th end of the fiscal year. My government legal department budget is about six million dollars, so there are a some small details that are easily overlooked. I certainly don’t have time or energy to count paper clips and post-it-notes! But, some things are important.
This morning, I submitted a report to my boss based on my review of eleven and a half months worth of expenditures, and my estimates for final year-end numbers. There was just one small problem.
When I filtered the financial data from our system on the weekend before analyzing it, I missed one small detail. I had mined the financial data from our system, but I missed something really important when I set the data filter. My boss knew immediately there was something wrong when he reviewed my conclusions. You can imagine my chagrin after receiving a cryptic reply email from the managing lawyer, “This does not make sense. See me.”
He was gone in a meeting when I arrived, so I went to my office to double-check my work.
Confused, I went back to my data see what could be wrong or if perhaps I had misinterpreted something, and then the “tiny” problem jumped right off the page at me! The dates in the data reports I had reviewed had dates from July 2010 through June 2011, on all 160 pages of expenditures. The problem was right there in front of me all the time I had reviewed the 160 pages of data, over 10 or more times on every page of the report. I had over 1,600 chances looking at the dates and expenditures to notice my mistake. The proverbial forest and tree scenario. I had reviewed and analyzed 6 million dollars worth of entries for the wrong year!
My results of all that work were totally meaningless.
I sent off an email quickly to my boss, “I am so embarrassed and know why you were confused, my filter was for last year’s numbers instead of this years. I will correct my error and rework your reports shortly.” He was gracious when he poked his head in my office door as I poured over the (correct) numbers reworking my year-end conclusions. It took me all day to produce meaningful results, and we were soon able to make the right management decisions and were ready for our discussions with the finance department yesterday. Whew!
I won’t soon forget this obvious lesson: starting with the right information is always a good idea!
When cognitive function is challenged or impaired, getting confused about the date is one of the first signs of trouble, but this time I think I was just too distracted to notice an important detail. Because of flared CNS lupus, I have been confused before by what day, week and even what month it was.
I have never been off by a whole year before! While I am not sure I can really blame this mistake all on CNS involvement of my lupus, it probably was not a good idea to mix configuring my data filters and number crunching with Saturday morning brain fog.
Timing is everything, and I missed it on all counts this time.
So, here I sit telling you about this misstep as I ponder the time wasted and spent re-doing my budget analysis.
Finally, I got the dates right!.