#234: Establishing Expectations for Analysts

It would be a fool’s errand to try to list out every expectation for an analyst’s role, but where should you draw the line? How specific do you need to be? And how can you document the unspoken expectations without stepping into micromanagement? Tim, Moe, and Julie took a run at hashing these questions out in our most recent episode so you don’t have to rely solely on that generic role expectations grid you got from HR. Even though this topic is about setting expectations for other analysts, the conversation took quite a few introspective turns about how your internal standards are calibrated and what experiences along the way shaped them. As usual, you can expect some great stories about expectation setting gone wrong and what happens when you make Tim have a conversation about feelings, you miss one of Moe’s deadlines, or use the wrong font in one of Julie’s deliverables!

Links to Items Mentioned in the Show

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Episode Transcript

[music]

0:00:05.8 Announcer: Welcome to the Analytics Power Hour. Analytics topics covered conversationally and sometimes with explicit language.

0:00:14.3 Tim Wilson: Hi everyone, and welcome. This is episode number 234. That’s two, three, four. Isn’t that symmetrical? No, it’s not. Most of the time, Michael Helbling is the first voice you hear in one of our episodes, which means you have an expectation to hear an intro that is smooth, witty, and maybe even coherent. I’m here to tell you to lower your expectations for this one, because I’m Tim Wilson, and very much not Michael, and it’s just not realistic to hold me to that same standard. Expectations are a tricky topic, but it’s the topic we’re tackling today with my co-host, Moe Kiss, marketing data lead at Canva. Do you have high expectations for this show?

0:00:56.7 Moe Kiss: I actually really do. I’m pretty pumped.

0:01:00.2 TW: Uh-oh, well, ease back there sister. Let’s go easy on it, slower those down. Well, it’s great to have you, and we’ve also got Julie Hoyer, you’re an analytics manager at Further, who has been thrown deeply into setting expectations for analysts in a number of different situations, but also you can now reflect on your expectations for what parenthood would be like when you actually compare it to reality, that is my clunky kind of non-Michael way of congratulating you on air on the healthy arrival of your daughter a few months ago, so welcome back to the microphone.

0:01:36.8 Julie Hoyer: Thanks. Yeah, excited to be back. Yeah, expectations of parenthood may need to be a whole other episode because I got lots to talk about on that topic now.

[chuckle]

0:01:46.8 TW: Despite all the people who gave you advice? It’s amazing.

0:01:51.3 JH: Yeah, all of that prep information. And then, like you said, you hit reality and it really hits hard.

[chuckle]

0:01:57.9 TW: Well, we’re glad to have you back, and if there’s a screaming kid in the background, then so be it. Those are more fun than barking dogs. Alright, so I’ll take Chilulla barking in the background any day. Okay, so what we’re gonna dive into on this episode is the challenge of setting clear and useful expectations for analysts. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, the expectation of any analyst should really just be do your fucking job, but that’s simplistic and admittedly somewhat profane decree, isn’t very useful if it’s not clear to the analyst what the job actually is. So we’ve hit on various aspects of this in past episodes, but we decided to address it head-on in this one and see where that takes us. So with that, Moe, maybe you can kick us off here. When you have a new analyst joining your team, how do you actually go about making it clear to them what your expectations are of them in the role when they roll on? Do you sit down and have a formal discussion with them?

0:03:09.8 MK: I guess the thing is that there are a couple different ways you can think about this about making clear what your expectations are because in my head, they are like the company expectations of what that role is, and I’m really lucky that we have really wrote a really robust framework that helps me and all of the coaches at Canva with that in terms of the different levels of craft and communication and leadership skills we expect to see from analysts at different levels, but then you also have your personal expectations and I’m working out over time that I definitely do have, I guess, personal expectations that aren’t, I guess, articulated in our HR stuff, but I guess we would all probably agree are things that you would expect to see in analysts.

0:04:04.1 TW: This is like how Moe likes her coffee, when she wants her coffee, how many sugars in the coffee. No?

0:04:10.8 MK: No, I’m thinking more like… So two very clear examples for me are communication skills and curiosity. Those are two areas that I would expect to see a person always evolving and trying to improve, and that doesn’t mean that I have a standard of everyone needs to do it this way or whatever, but it’s more like that they’re striving to improve those areas over time.

0:04:36.6 TW: So let me ask on that, ’cause I’m gonna call it the classic HR grid where you’ve got rows or skills grouped together and you’ve got columns that are different levels, but I was curious when you said, oh, the personal expectations for communication, are there not corporate expectations for communication? To me, those grids…

0:05:02.8 MK: Yes.

0:05:03.6 TW: Sound good, like they’re so… But then they actually… They’re like, maybe you’re saying they’re useful jumping off point, but they’re just gonna have certain cells in that grid that actually kind of…

[vocalization]

0:05:15.1 TW: Or like… I don’t know.

0:05:18.4 MK: Yeah, look, I do think that generally speaking, I know in my case, as was written specifically for data scientist, and my poor old manager wrote it at all, and he did a phenomenal job, and just to give you one example is like, ask thoughtful questions to seek other’s perspectives and tests own assumptions or adjust communication content and style to meet the needs of diverse stakeholders, those totally marry up with my own expectations too. I’m just calling out that there are like the HR expectations and then there are our own, I guess, personal expectations as well, and that sometimes those are a Venn diagram that heavily overlap and sometimes less so.

0:05:58.9 JH: It’s hard too, because I just have this feeling that there’s no way you can ever list all your expectations, and so I get stuck in that like, oh, do I really have to list them all out? But then to be fair, you’re coming in like I should, to your point, Moe, verbalize my expectations of you, but then you start doing that exercise like the grid, and you just so quickly realize like, how am I ever going to actually list every single expectation or some kind of obvious, like a good communicator. You’re working in a team. I expect you to be a good communicator. Do I have to list every facet of that? I don’t know, it feels like such a big gray slippery slope sometimes.

0:06:39.2 MK: And it does also depend so much on level, like it was really interesting, ’cause we have four different strict pillars, I guess, of skills, and then there’s essentially those four fit into 12, and we are going through some very senior promotion applications, and someone had written a really detailed example about communication and someone can gave the feedback of like, I’m sorry, but if you are this level, I expect you to be a good communicator. This should not be the net change that gets you to the next level, because this should be the foundation, you’re already a senior team member, you’re going for a very senior role, like if you are not a good communicator, we have a much bigger problem. And I was like, yeah, actually, that’s fair. It’s a fair feedback.

0:07:25.7 JH: Well, that’s like at every level, you probably list good communicator, you’re a lower level, it’s like within 48 hours you have to respond, but at the highest level, within six hours, obviously, that’s not real, but…

[laughter]

0:07:39.5 JH: How would you even list that at different levels, to your point, Moe. It’s like we would just… That’s kind of a given.

0:07:46.0 TW: But it seems like effective communication skills is in every job description, but Moe, you called out the… You wanna see forward progress, so there’s a little bit of something about communication or maybe even curiosity. Well, I’ll know it when I see it, and I want you to care about it. I want you to recognize that communication is important, which means I want you to be conscious that it met… There’s a whole set of… There is the tactical, you have to spell-check your written communication and you have to not have typos in your presentation, that does feel like way, way down in the weeds. If somebody’s not doing that, you can pull them in and say, dude, there will be half the people in the room cannot look past that typo. You have got to figure out a way. This is the fourth time there’s been a typo, I guess… Yeah, I don’t know.

0:08:39.5 MK: I see, but that’s the thing, is you and I… To me, that’s less important, and I’m not saying that I’d be totally cool if someone regularly had typos, and it’s obviously we’re not client-facing, which is a very big difference as well, because sometimes we’re working super fast, I’m like, oh, someone has a typo, not ideal, but generally, it goes through a few sets of eyes and I would just expect someone along the way to pick it up, I wouldn’t necessarily be like, that’s a core thing that I expect, but I’m trying to think of something that really would… It can be the same way that that typo probably would bug you. I’m trying to think of an example that would rile me up right now.

0:09:21.0 TW: Well, if a typo made it all the way through to something and I pointed it out and somebody was like, eh, I mean, it would actually be the response to the typo, ’cause I’ll make the case that if there’s a typo in it, then you’re potentially… Well, who’s to say there wasn’t a typo in MySQL. Who’s to say that I didn’t overlook. There is a communication, but that’s again, back to the more junior is probably going through more reviews, it’s unlikely to get out there and then our company culture, I don’t know, we could… This actually brings me a little bit to the expectations you hold yourself to, because having not directly worked with you Moe, except in the podcast, I’ve seen a lot and worked with Julie there…

0:10:05.5 MK: And I feel like he never wants to work with me ever.

[laughter]

0:10:11.6 TW: Well, but if you hold yourself to, you have your own expectations that you hold yourself to, and do you run into a challenge where you say, well, I hold myself to this expectation, and it’s pretty easy to get into the mode of saying, this is the expectation, I hold myself to and is it fair to hold others to that who says that that’s a reasonable expectation.

0:10:34.5 Michael Helbling: All right, it’s time to step away from the show for a quick word about Piwik Pro. Tim, tell us about it.

0:10:42.4 TW: Well, Piwik Pro is easy to implement, easy to use, and reminiscent of Google’s universal analytics in a lot of ways.

0:10:47.2 MH: I love that it’s got basic data views for less technical users, but it keeps advanced features like segmentation, custom reporting and calculated metrics for power users.

0:10:56.8 TW: We’re running Piwik Pro’s free plan on the podcast website, but they also have a paid plan that adds scale and some additional features.

0:11:02.6 MH: That’s right. So head over to piwik.pro to check them out for yourself. Get started with their free plan. That’s piwik.pro. Alright, let’s get back to the show.

0:11:13.8 MK: Okay, I figured it out. I figured out the thing I think that really riles me up, but to your point, Tim, I’m not sure I hold well, no, okay, maybe I do hold the same expectation on myself. The thing that really bugs me is speed of delivery, so we work in a really fast-paced company, and I don’t handle it particularly well when I make it clear something does have a very specific deadline or timeframe, and then crickets. I really don’t handle that well because normally I’ve communicated to other people what the timeline is, or I know what the deadline is or whatever, and so I do find I’m pretty good with setting those expectations, the only thing I would say is it’s pretty hard in a company that moves that fast because then you have a tendency to be like, well, everything’s urgent and it isn’t, but… Yeah, that is an expectation that I would say is pretty firm and don’t respond well to when it’s not met.

0:12:24.3 TW: But that’s it, you’re saying that… Is that kind of at a task level? That if you set an expect… If you are clear that there is a hard deadline on this and that gets ignored, there may be other tasks where hopefully, you’re not falling into the trap of everything has it, so that is like the uber expectation that if we have a hard deadline for something, then we need to treat it really seriously and we need to communicate early and often if that deadline is in jeopardy, we can’t wait until the deadline hits and then say, oopsie, is that…

0:12:58.5 MK: Oh, Timmo, you’ve just done my job for me because now I love how you’ve taken a task-level thing, and then like here’s how we elevate it to an expectation we set as a team. Ooh. I’m into this.

0:13:12.4 TW: So dear listener, I just want you to know that we have cut the first time that Moe referred to me as Timmo. We’re gonna leave this one in. So…

0:13:21.4 MK: I’ve said it again.

0:13:21.6 TW: We’ll see how many times… Yeah. Yeah.

0:13:25.6 MK: Did I say it again?

0:13:25.7 TW: So Josh already has enough of an editing nightmare. Anyone who is listening saying what… So for everyone who is on Moe’s team who listens to this, yes, she has had that brain fart a couple of times, which is making this very entertaining.

[laughter]

0:13:40.7 TW: But we’re gonna keep going.

0:13:45.2 MK: I have no memory of saying that.

0:13:46.6 TW: We’re good. So Julie, do you have some expectations that you… ‘Cause I think this is kind of an interesting way to explore it is even trying to figure out, oh, here’s an expectation I have. Moe will recover at some point. This is fantastic.

0:14:06.1 MK: Real tears.

0:14:07.0 TW: Real tears.

[laughter]

0:14:10.9 TW: Do you have expectations that are kinda like that, that this is like, this is something that really matters and maybe it doesn’t fit in the corporate grid or maybe it does.

0:14:25.4 JH: Yeah, so I really have been struggling with this lately because I kind of mentioned at the beginning, it’s like, what is too robust here, you can’t list everything, and that kind of comes from the place of now being the junior analyst or the newer analyst that has been at the company longer, right now I’m seeing the newer analyst and I’m the one ramping them up and working with them, I have started to realize there are some unspoken things that I just may be held myself to, like my expectations for myself. And then I realized they’ve never been verbalized, and so then I go through the internal struggle of is it fair to hold somebody else to that expectation because it wasn’t verbalized, but I held myself to that kind of level of expectations, so that’s been tricky.

0:15:14.9 TW: Got an example?

0:15:16.7 JH: So part of it… I kind of like the differentiation you just made Tim between a task and the expectations around the task, so to me, if I have been given a due date of a task that I am owning, then my expectation of myself and what I would expect of others that have taken responsibility of the task is to give me updates and communications along the way that you’re gonna meet your deadline. You are handling and managing everything to meet the deadline you’ve been given, but what I’ve actually run into is sometimes that doesn’t happen, other people don’t necessarily have that set expectation for themselves innately.

0:15:53.0 MK: Sorry, of meeting? Of meeting the deadline?

0:15:57.1 JH: Yeah.

0:15:58.2 MK: Or of the updates to the deadline?

0:16:00.0 JH: Updates to the deadline. It will be crickets. To me, I would never do that if I’m working on a team, I guess I just was maybe over-communicative about it, so I did realize I had to be very specific and say, I expect a cadence of communication and as soon as you know, you’re not gonna hit something let me know, or if a question is asked of you in Slack, the expectation is within the day, you would at least give an update, even if no updates, the update, it would be verbalized, so those are some small ones.

0:16:28.6 TW: That actually triggers another one, I think of their times and this… Having had the benefit of having worked with you, Julie, not as your manager, but in the same organization, there’s a point where sometimes it is easy to realize there’s an expectation, it’s a lot easier to point to someone else, it can still be delicate, but saying, when Julie we were working on this thing and Julie hit a snag and didn’t expect it and it was going south, but she was giving regular updates and can we talk about how that worked really well, and then for the team. It’s a lot easier than saying, well, if it was me, I would have given really good updates, it’s a lot harder to say, this is how I respond, behave like me, it’s a lot easier to point to someone else and say, oh, that may not be an explicitly articulated expectation, but maybe it should be, and by the way, that person has it innately, and can we point to that and say, that’s sort of the bar of work we have without needing to have it fully documented.

0:17:39.5 MK: It depends.

0:17:40.0 TW: It depends…

0:17:42.4 MK: It depends though, because I think that works as part of a team, but if you’re leading the team that’s different, ’cause I wouldn’t say, for example… Say to someone, oh, hey, this is how Julie did it. This should be the bar. I would be like, hey, this is how you did it, or this is how it could be improved, or this is my expectation, and I would expect updates, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I personally wouldn’t talk about another team member’s behavior and I guess be like, that’s what we wanna emulate. Yeah, and that’s personally just me because I try and avoid making comparisons, I would definitely shout out, hey, Julie, did an awesome job at such and such, but I wouldn’t use it as a like, I don’t know, but that… I don’t know…

0:18:29.0 TW: But maybe that’s a technique for actually setting kind of implicitly, that’s a piece of it, ’cause isn’t part of how we try to articulate expectations is look at things that are working and trying to isolate like that, that seems not good and that seems good, but I think you’re right. You run the risk of being like, well, now everybody hates Julie ’cause she gets… Now, Julie raised the damn bar for everyone, she’s working too hard, the union shop is gonna come over and be easy there, cut it out.

0:19:00.5 MK: I think my thing with expectations is just like… And I’m learning this the further I get into my career, is just being fairly direct and documenting them, that is something that I’m pretty, I use the word ruthless, but that’s probably not the right word because it is generally quite thought out and hopefully empathetic, but I am very direct in like, here’s what I expect, I expect to see X, Y, and Z on these dates, or at these milestones, is there anything you think that would prevent you from getting there, is there any help you need? That sort of stuff. Because I just find if you don’t articulate them directly then, I don’t know, I just find you set yourself up for failure, more importantly, you set the other person up for failure, ’cause I don’t know what the bar is.

0:19:45.9 TW: So now we have this in the pre-show chatter a little bit, ’cause we’re saying expec, that to me feels like task expectations as opposed to role expectations like being right and is that… And I think that’s probably a fair thing. If I’m handing a task to one person or working with them, I know them, I may figure out what their blind spots are, I can probably come up with a subset of a… Remember whether it’s spell check your work or please give me updates. I gotta be really explicit of what I expect, if you do the superset of that for the whole team, all of a sudden you have this huge master document, nobody can kind of perceive it, so I feel like we’re hitting on it.

0:20:32.3 MK: I do both.

0:20:34.0 TW: Okay.

0:20:35.5 MK: I would do both. I think there is task expectations, and then there’s role expectations. I think the unfortunate thing, and I’ve actually been thinking a lot about this lately, because it is a conversation I’ve been having, particularly with some of my leads, is like, often we only have those role expectation conversations when things aren’t going well, as in like, hey, we need to have a chat, we need to talk about your role and here are my expectations of how you’re performing at this role, yada, yada, yada, and we actually should be having those conversations regularly even if people are doing well. And that’s a practice that I’m trying to get myself in the habit of, of let’s recap every six months when we’re doing your growth chat, let’s revisit what the expectations are that we have for your role and what that looks like.

0:21:20.2 TW: But presumably the more it’s been voiced and repeated in one-on-one or small group settings, the whole group kinda collectively knows that, and that takes a little bit of a burden off the leader to be calling it out because the group has kind of culturally absorbed the expectations.

0:21:42.4 MK: Do you think you can have high performance without setting clear expectations or do you think they go hand-in-hand?

0:21:49.7 TW: I think if their innate internal expectations happen to align very well with the role, I think they can individually perform quite well.

0:22:05.2 JH: I would agree. And I was even wondering, to what you were just saying Tim like, when expectations have been set so clearly for a large group, and then it becomes the norm, and it doesn’t have to be talked about repetitively because it’s like a known thing, it’s the standard people are performing to it, and you bring one new person in and you maybe iterate the expectations once because they’re documented, no matter how big the document is or small, whatever, but then they’re functioning within that. It’s almost like a part of the normal culture, the way people function, and then I almost wonder on the other side, are expectations more crucial to reiterate and talk about constantly if you have more disparate group of people or a lot of new people at once and it’s like you haven’t set kind of that normal bar yet.

0:22:52.2 TW: So Julie, have you ever had a case where you had to articulate for a large group or a small group of people rolling on to an entirely new account where there were… Well, in a consulting or agency scenario, the client has also learned they have their expectations and hopefully the delivery team, although I would think this happens internally as well, like if you’ve got an analyst supporting group X and that analyst leaves and somebody else rolls in, group X, their expectation is they’re getting a replacement, so how do you do that when you’re like, I can’t drastically change the expectations or have somebody kind of wing it.

0:23:38.3 JH: Yeah, everything I said and everything you’re asking kinda came from a place of personal experience, because what’s interesting is when I started, I really do feel like I came in… The company was smaller. I was working with a lot of the same people across different client projects, and so it was kind of like, this was the normal way everybody functioned. They were a little more like homogenous in their approach and expectations seemed kinda like natural and clear, and I picked up on them because I was kinda just being brought up as an analyst in these scenarios and everybody else was already meeting those. They had that bar set, that normal, so it didn’t have to be as articulated.

0:24:19.3 JH: Specifically, on one of our large clients, we had all kinda come up as this group, a very consistent group of figuring out what the client needed, the best processes, the way we needed to function to meet the client expectations and make it be successful, and it’s like we had that running and it was going. Now, both on the client project, and I’ve even seen it in the company, it gets very different when you start to get a lot of new team members in quickly, because instead of like we were saying, one person coming into the norm and picking it up, you now have multiple people that were doing things differently and have their own experiences, which is great, and it starts to muddy the waters, and that’s where I’ve hit the point where it’s like, oh, we’ve never actually verbalized this, this is how it was functioning and working. I guess I have all of these expectations in my head, but we’ve never verbalized them as a group for these new people, and that’s why now we’re kind of hitting these roadblocks or these points of like, oh, why did something fall through the cracks that we expected not to it’s because we never set the expectations. So definitely, I’ve had to go through some of those growing pains and exercises where you actually sit back and list them.

0:25:20.6 MK: Is it? I’ve got to ask though, is it because you didn’t set the expectations or is it because I’m just… This is me being curious, or is it to do with the people not being the right fit for the team or not in the right role, was it actually the expect… I feel like I would do the same thing and be like, well, what could I have done to make this not to slip through the cracks. And this is one clear thing, but I guess I’m just trying to get to like, is it always a bad expectations or is it sometimes not right person, not right role or right person, not right team?

0:25:52.9 JH: I think the setting expectation exercise where you list it out, that’s like the pivotal point where you’re gonna find out. You’re gonna find out that either you can manage the situation and find success and that person just needed the guidance and you guys just needed that communication and clarity to get on the same page, or you’re gonna set it and they’re still not gonna meet it, and then I feel like you’re gonna know, Okay, it just wasn’t the right fit. That’s fine. Now we know now we can change it up. What’s better for the person? What’s better for the team? But I will say the one slippery slope that I found too was like, I don’t wanna set so many expectations.

0:26:31.2 JH: Because to your point, Moe, my first thing is gonna be, what did I do wrong? What can I do better to fix the situation? Let’s list the expectations, but at what point is listing the expectations over and over again, or for every situation, every new thing that comes up, at what point are you mentally managing their entire job and they’re just saying, I just have to meet the letter of the law, that’s written in black and white, the bare minimum, and I’m successful. And if it’s not there, then I wasn’t expected to do it, and you’re kind of like, oh, that’s just so draining.

0:27:00.9 TW: Yeah, and you’re also, in some ways that can kind of blow back on you ’cause now you set the expectation. There’s kind of a meta piece here, you’re now studying the expectation that your role is to explicitly and in minutia, give them the expectation. I guess even going back to your example, if you get the person who you’re like, well, I know for them to be successful when I give them a task, I have to be super clear about the deadlines, I have to be clear when I expect them to communicate with me, I have to be clear that they need to double check their queries with two people, and now their expectation is that when you give them a task…

0:27:39.1 MK: You’re gonna project manage them.

0:27:42.2 TW: That’s what’s expected. You’re gonna do all that, and then you’re in this kind of a death spiral, when you try to sit them down and say, I don’t know that you’re a good fit for the job. You totally dropped the ball on that one. They’re like, yeah, but you didn’t give me…

0:27:55.8 JH: You didn’t tell me.

0:27:58.1 MK: And the funny thing is that one of my other expectations, particularly of senior staff is autonomy, is the ability to operate and own your work, mostly end-to-end, I would expect that most senior staff can do 95% of their job on their own, and that there are other portions either they’re gonna benefit from looping someone else in or whatever, but they can manage their own work, and what we’re talking about is there’s a fine line between setting expectations and starting to almost manage someone’s work for them, which is a really slippery slope.

0:28:32.3 TW: But it’s also the progression, like you need to do that with the… You expect a limited autonomy at one level.

0:28:38.6 MK: Yes, yes.

0:28:40.0 TW: But there’s part of me there too, where you hope that that is an innate characteristic that they’re striving to get more autonomy by showing good judgment, by not needing as much guidance or coming to you and you say, hey, I’m gonna have you work on this task and they’ll say, okay, so my plan is to give you updates every three days, tat is a way, you’d want somebody to bristle at being micromanaged and then to solve it. That’s like one way out of the cycle.

0:29:17.8 MK: But you know what’s so funny is like I’m not a person that’s super great at formalized updates. I would say pretty good at quick sinks of like, hey, this is where this is at, but I’m not good at like, I don’t know, I’m gonna update you every three days in this ticket and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I tend to rebel against too much structure. Tim is probably gonna smirk because that’s… Yeah. Definitely my ways working.

0:29:49.6 TW: That’s actually a good… But that’s a good point. You want the time, if you’re having to tell them I need it adapted every three days, then that’s… Unless you are a manager who says, I wanna sit down on Fridays and go through whatever the lists are, but for some reason, but no, that tends to generate kind of messy returns, that’s a good call out.

0:30:11.8 JH: So would we… This is just making me think, ’cause I’m always trying to figure out at what level or what type of expectations are good to set to not get down the slippery slope of minutia management, so would we say… Would you guys think if the expectation was a little more broad, because you say, for example, I expect you to have good judgment about the quality of your work, something like that. And then it’s almost like then my expectation of you is to actually give me the action plan of how you best work to meet that broader expectation, so for you that’s, Oh, I’m going to tell you every three days, I’m gonna put on my calendar, I’m gonna send you an update where it’s at, like would you put that on the onus of that, how are you going to meet this expectation on the individual and you set a broader expectation, does that get us closer to a happy medium?

0:31:02.3 TW: I think the challenge is if they’re missing an expectation that’s broad like that and HR comes in, you gotta do a Performance Improvement Plan, and then your expectation is to show good judgment and what’s their plan to show good judgment.

0:31:18.1 JH: But you could have examples where they didn’t probably pretty easily.

0:31:23.2 MK: Okay, so wait, let’s try a little bit more of an easy to measure, easier to measure example. I’m gonna pluck some random numbers out of the air, so please don’t me, but going back to my whole point about autonomous, operating autonomously, if we kind of said like, okay, a senior analyst is going to do 95% of their tasks autonomously. That’s the expectation we set. A mid analyst is gonna do 75% of their tasks autonomously and a junior analyst, I don’t know, 60% of their tasks, and then we go, okay, so that’s our expectation that we’ve said, and so then it then gets to like, okay, well, what if you can’t do it autonomously. Well, you basically will work through the problem for a few hours and if you get stuck, then you ask for help, and as I’m saying this, I’m like, this could be task specific, but it could actually also be role-specific of like, these are the behaviors that we wanna say across the team of like, I’m going to work on this problem for a few hours, if I get stuck, I will then document I have tried this, I have tried that. I have tried that, I’m still stuck. Can someone please help? Do you see what I mean? I feel like that’s easier to measure then sound judgment.

0:32:38.2 TW: I liked where it was heading, but then I’m like, how do you measure autonomy? How do you say 60%?

0:32:43.9 MK: Well, you should be able to go through their tickets and be like, did they do this on their own, or did they need help?

0:32:48.7 TW: Oh, 60% of the tasks they should be able to do without additional direction, not the scope of the… Yeah, I think that’s… I even think without measuring, and if you say generally, our hope, my expectation is that 60% of the tasks, if you’re kind of managing it through a ticketing system, you won’t really need anything, that doesn’t mean you should try to do stuff that you are not comfortable with because…

0:33:18.3 MK: Totally.

0:33:18.9 TW: Say that you’re only 30%, that may mean that we are assigning you too much and we need to figure out what the blocker is.

0:33:26.2 MK: Yes, yes.

0:33:27.7 TW: Because it’s like we want you to try to be autonomous. The expectation is that you’re moving towards full 90% autonomy, and if whatever is blocking that, we kind of have an expectation that you help figure out what that is. You’re like, I never can remember. I can’t do an un-nest to save my life in SQL. And a third of my tasks have that, and I always have to ask someone. Okay, or I work with the stakeholder and they never tell me what they mean by revenue or something.

0:34:04.5 JH: But I guess… I think that example is much easier, I guess what I was trying to verbalize, which I didn’t do a very good job of, was the fact that the expectation being set, Moe, your example of the autonomy, I still think it’s the onus on the person to kind of decide how do I reach that expectation? I think we get down the slippery slope if, Moe, you’re then having to say, And to reach 60% autonomous, every time after you work on something for five hours, you have to reach out to two other peers and every time you finish this, you have to… You know what I’m saying? Then you get into, I feel like the micro-management side of setting expectations, so your example is much better, but that’s what I was trying to say is like where do you do the fine line of like, this is how I verbalize an expectation, and my gosh, this has met them Tim. My expectation is that you set the action plan to meet it.

0:34:55.1 MK: Okay, one thing that I really struggle with is like growth and development plans. So the reason I bring this up is because at almost every company I’ve ever worked, the expectation is very clearly set that it is employee-driven, not manager-driven, and that people will do something about it, as in you will prepare some stuff and go to your manager and be like, I would like to talk about my growth and development, I have some thoughts. That almost never happens. The expectation is almost always that the manager does all of the like planning and work and sets up a time, and I wonder why that is, because I feel like every company, and maybe, I mean I’ve not worked at that many companies, but is that something you… So what do you do then when there is a clear expectation set, but it’s not actually the practice of everyone?

0:36:00.7 TW: I’ve had those discussions with some… I think the hesitancy is that it’s actually taking that ownership on is kind of scary, there is… And I think there are a lot of people who were kind of… And some of it may be broken educational systems of if you’ve been moving through life where somebody says, do X, Y, and Z. I had an analyst years ago that we had these circular discussions and I inherited her from three consecutive managers who all were like she’s terrible, but they all were so non-confrontational that they weren’t ever addressing that with her, so they never had a conversation about these are our expectations, and then she rolled to me and my manager who was phenomenal, was like, just so you know, like I don’t wanna poison the well, but she’s gonna be a challenge, and her expectation of me was that I deal with it. Now, that was interesting having that discussion through trying to build some trust and rapport, but saying, okay, I’m gonna give you a challenge to say, what is it you want to do? And then we can figure out what the expectations are, this was kind of, I guess, more of kind of a management growth, ’cause hers was totally like give me the check list of what I need to do to get a promotion to the next level, and those are one of the reasons I fled from management was like, oh my God, I don’t even know how to respond when…

0:37:46.2 MK: That makes me cringe.

0:37:47.9 TW: And so that’s kind of my reaction. I’m like, unless you know what you… Unless you know what you really want to do and you really like and things that you recognize, I don’t know, there’s a discussion, but when that gets thrown on to the manager, it’s like, well, that’s not reasonable, and that’s where ‘Now Discover Your Strengths’ would talk about, that is why the people who are not innately motivated and trying to figure out what the expectations are and working towards them will suck down the time of managers so heavily. I don’t know, it’s not a good answer, but…

0:38:32.9 MK: It was a good example. I’m just not following the relevance, like in terms of like…

[laughter]

0:38:42.9 JH: You didn’t meet your expectations Tim.

0:38:44.0 MK: I’m extra spicy today, like let’s be real. Like you saying that the expectations were put on you to handle it.

0:38:55.3 TW: No, well, the expectation on me was like you’re gonna have to work with her, but then coming from her, she was like, tell me very, very prescriptively. Similar to what Julie was saying earlier, basically it was, give me the very specific, and then once you get to a very specific checklist, well, then the stuff that’s being done is pretty small, right? This was not… My expectation is that you show good judgment, my expectation is that I’ll still want Julie…

0:39:25.3 MK: But this is where stuff starts to get fluffy right? Because like for me, if someone’s like, oh, I wanna be promoted, like one of my unspoken expectations would be like, guess what, you just pick up shit and you run with it, like you swim outside of your lane, sometimes you pick up stuff to solve a problem for the team that is not directly your responsibility, because that’s what part of being a lead in the team is. And I would probably never articulate that to someone, but I would definitely notice and see that and call it out if I did see it.

0:39:57.8 TW: There’s a lot of when it comes skill assessments with an annual or semi-annual review where it’s like, okay, for this thing does not meet expectations, meets expectations, exceed expectations. The logic is that, well, if you wanna move up, you need to be exceeding expectations because in general, exceeding expectations for autonomy is meeting expectations for the next level, and it’s totally fair to say you have to be demonstrating some level of work at that higher level in order to move up to it, to exceed expectations, you may need to try to push yourself, so yeah. I don’t know…

0:40:38.0 JH: I think why that one so hard is the idea of you can lead a horse to water type thing. I do think once you have to verbalize it, and then if they don’t do anything about it, unfortunately, that is kind of on them for the growth development part, and if they are waiting for their manager to bring it to them, I don’t think it’s on the manager to go and do it for them. I think then they kinda naturally are the people that don’t move up.

0:41:06.1 MK: So I’ve had someone who I know is gonna listen to this show, be like, I haven’t had a growth plan, and I was like, cool. So this time, I have a template and I’ve sent it to every single person that reports to me, and I’m like, here is a template, I would like you to fill it out by the time we meet next week, it just has to be a draft, but I would like you to fill it out and then we can… Can you put an hour in my diary for us to discuss your growth plan, and if you don’t like this format, you can use any other format you like, I don’t mind, but like here you go, here’s a template, you set up the time because I’m like… I don’t know, I’ll report back, but if that’s the…

0:41:42.8 TW: So anyone on Moe’s team, if you could get into Slack and tell everybody that they need to go to Moe and say, I can’t believe you were talking about me, whether they listen to this show or not, that would be awesome.

0:41:55.3 MK: But yeah, that’s what I’m trying this time to try and get that balance right of the manager doing the work versus the person taking some initiative, because I do expect initiative, especially when it comes to growth plans, I don’t expect my coach to write mine for me, I feel like I have to do all the soul searching and thinking about where I wanna go and what I wanna do, but if there are tools or tips or techniques that they can give me to help do that, then that’s great.

0:42:23.3 JH: Right. I think it’s a nice way to meet them halfway, so I’m excited to hear how it goes. You’ll have to let us know.

[chuckle]

0:42:29.2 TW: We’ll do a redux episode. So I’m gonna shift and do… We’re kind of starting to get a little low on time, so I’m gonna do something ’cause I happen to know, and this is like totally cheating inside, Julie had a pretty fantastic partial list of some expectations she has, and Moe has kind of lobbed a few out, so I’m not gonna put Moe on the spot, except I’m pretty sure she’s gonna respond and it’s gonna spawn some other thoughts, but Julie, when it comes to some of those squishier, maybe they’re not in the HR grid or they’re not the corporate, but the ones you hit on a few of them, we talked a lot about kind of managing your timeline, actively updating the team, but what are some of the others kind of hot button ones where you’re like this… ‘Cause I read some of those and I was like, holy crap, that would be a great thing to tell an analyst on day one and then remind them of every three months.

0:43:28.3 JH: This is my bare it all, no filter, straight shooting list. Okay.

0:43:34.3 TW: We’re an explicit podcast.

0:43:36.0 JH: Maybe not necessarily.

0:43:37.7 TW: Yeah, and one more requirement, you need to drop a profanity in every one of the… If you could just put a goddamnit at the end of every one.

0:43:45.9 JH: I’ll do my best, at least drop one in there for one of them. Alright, let’s see. My big one is, don’t pretend you don’t know things, it doesn’t matter if you’re on a client call or internal team, like if you don’t know something, it’s okay to say you don’t know and just own how are you gonna figure it out. Go ask for help. Go look it up. Maybe it’s something you can Google, that’s fine, but just don’t hide that you don’t know it, I hate that. And I think it’s really damaging for both parties. Another one is, if you are going off and doing a task, you better be able to explain and tell me why you’re doing it that way. I don’t want you to come back and be like, Well, I clicked some buttons and I found some numbers, like why? Why the hell did you do it that way? You should be able to verbalize that. You had some thought process behind it.

0:44:32.2 MK: Sorry, sorry. Just to be clear…

0:44:33.4 TW: Oh yeah, I knew it, I knew it, I knew it.

0:44:36.8 MK: It’s totally fine for them to verbalize it, are there ever situations where you expect them to document it?

0:44:43.5 JH: That was my next one. Really document your word. Moe, you’re so good. We’re on the same wavelength. Yeah, because exactly that, one, you’re probably gonna do something similar, so make it easy on yourself the next time, but also just like there’s gonna be someone else coming into your shoes or you have to train or you have to pass this along, or you go on a maternity leave, right? Document what you did and why you did it. ‘Cause nobody wants to re-work stuff. That’s just annoying. One of my big ones, triple check yourself, I shouldn’t tell you to triple check your work. As an analyst, it should hurt your soul if your number is wrong and you should do everything in your power to make sure before you show it to someone that it was right, that just blows my mind when people are like, here was my first try and you’re like, well, did you think about it this way, and it’s just completely wrong.

0:45:27.3 TW: Did you triangulate? Come at it from another direction? Sanity check it?

0:45:30.4 JH: Yeah, yeah, just give it a second, like should it be in the thousands or does it make sense that it really should be in the millions, gut checks even. Oh, and my last one, my big one, don’t fucking make me check your fonts, your margins, your spellings, or your colors in a final deck.

0:45:45.4 MK: That’s sort of fair.

0:45:47.0 JH: I hate that. I hate that. I’ll do it once. I will do it once and not say anything, but if it happens over and over again, that starts to really get me.

0:45:58.8 MK: See, I find I do a lot of that last run through the deck myself, but it’s because I had very specific ideas in my head of what I want and often… But I will coach someone through the first few decks and be like, this is what I expect to see, and then I only should have to expect to do a couple of tweaks here and there. One that I have that is completely unwritten, when I see people in my team not do it, I like because I harp on about it so fucking much, it’s in like everything is about using insights headings or like the McKinsey title. If it’s on slides, if it’s in a write-up, I don’t care what format you’re communicating, if it’s in Slack, you should have bolded your key points, and I also feel the same way about a TLDR at the start of stuff, and that is definitely for me something that I expect to say in almost everything, because when I open a graph and it’s got a month on month revenue in a presentation, I lose my shit. I’m just like, why is this here?

0:47:11.2 TW: Well, and that’s like the opportunity is like, if somebody says, well, I don’t know, I’m like, well, then it’s not ready.

0:47:18.5 MK: It shouldn’t be there.

0:47:20.7 TW: That’s the one where you’re like… I have this expectation ’cause you’re also… Because you’re not done if you haven’t figured out, and it may be that it’s kinda weak sauce, you may have something you’re like, this is kind of the strongest thing I can say, but it is what they ask for, but that’s part of that slowing down and taking a breath. I feel like that’s this other expectation, the tension between… Moe, we started off with you talking about fast-paced, hard deadlines, gotta deliver, but then you’ve got to counter that with, it’s easy to get sucked into the world of, well, do I need to deliver something of value, that’s high quality, that I have faith in, or do I need to hit the deadline? And there is a tension there, but you better not be hitting a deadline with unhelpful garbage.

0:48:07.4 MK: Yeah, it’s funny ’cause actually, Julie, as much as I feel like we’re aligned when we talk, when I look at your list, I wouldn’t have put most of those things on my list.

[laughter]

0:48:18.5 JH: Really?

0:48:18.9 MK: I feel like mine are squishier.

0:48:22.6 JH: Oh interesting.

0:48:22.7 MK: Yours are quite like, I would say, analyst-y, whereas mine are a lot more about the stakeholder and the output of the work, whereas yours maybe more about the analyst workflow. So one of the things that I feel like I’m always talking about is like… And again, where I’m inside a company, I’m not consulting, but it’s like the fact that we’re on the same team, I think sometimes there’s a perception when you are working in a data team in a company that it’s you against the product team or the marketing team or whatever, and it’s like, no, we’re actually on the same team as them. And our goal is to help them make better decisions. So what are the ways of working that will help us get there, and I do find that the us versus them mentality doesn’t float very well with me, so setting that expectation of we’re in this together.

0:49:15.2 TW: And this is sometimes where the company’s behavior versus a personal… Even in a consulting role, I’m like, this is easy and obvious, nobody wants you to fail as a consultant, and you really, at the end of the day, you want the client to be successful. So if you recognize, which goes I think even to Julie… I think a lot of stuff on Julie’s list, don’t pretend you know things that you don’t know, like nobody benefits. We’re on the same team, if you don’t understand, they’re gonna want you to understand, if it’s something you need to understand about the business or something to understand elsewhere. So I think that we’re on the same team, like, what are we trying to do? We’re trying to drive a positive result, and let’s check the ego or the hiding, or the pointing fingers at the door.

0:50:02.3 MK: And maybe I’ll just share one last one that wasn’t on Julie’s list is, I do expect people to keep asking questions or ask for more information if something is not clear. Nothing bugs me more than when someone’s given a task and they go off and start it and then I’m like, why are you doing this, or what’s the outcome? And they’re like, well, I don’t know, this is all I got. And I’m like, then you didn’t have a long enough conversation, you need to keep going back and asking why until you understand why you’re doing what you’re doing in the context that you need to be able to do that task well.

0:50:37.6 JH: Absolutely.

0:50:38.3 TW: I love it. Alright, well, we could go on quite a while on this, that was a fun list, so hopefully…

0:50:48.2 JH: I dropped one expletive.

0:50:51.2 TW: Expletive?

0:50:52.2 JH: Expletive.

0:50:55.2 TW: There you go. But we do need to move to a wrap, and before we wrap, we always go around the horn and kinda get something, a last call, if you will, for everyone to share something that they thought was interesting, funny, useful, note worthy. So I am gonna flip my virtual coin and start with Moe. Do you have a last call?

0:51:15.6 MK: Look, everyone knows that all I do is rate HBR. So I’m gonna stop apologizing for it, but this one was really perfect because it was an article talking about how you build a culture of curiosity, and there are like four key behaviors for that. And funnily enough, Julie, the first one is saying, I don’t know when you’re not sure of the answer. The second, this is actually one that I do, which I love because it’s really good at getting introverts to talk, is you just say, can you tell me more about X? So let’s say they explain a concept, and often I do it when I don’t wanna admit I don’t know or I’m not confident saying I don’t know, I’ll just be like, oh, can you tell me more about that project? As a way of just getting them to keep talking, saying to people that I understand that you’re more than your job, so like acknowledging that there’s life outside of just the work.

0:52:09.1 TW: What? Get out of here.

0:52:09.4 MK: And who else has something to share? Which again, I think is a really nice thing when you’re in a group with lots of introverts who sometimes need an open door to walk through to share. Yeah, I actually, I don’t know, I really liked it.

0:52:34.5 TW: Nice. My daughter liked to pull that if we were like jogging together, she was like, and who has anything to share with the group, and it was just the two of us, would always crack me up.

[laughter]

0:52:46.9 TW: Which was usually her dribble on with some stupid nonsense so that I’m not thinking about running. What about you Julie?

0:52:54.0 MK: That’s clever.

0:52:56.1 TW: What’s your last call?

0:52:58.2 JH: My last call is actually an app that I’ve been using since I had my daughter, because when you have newborns, they want you to track everything, and then I’m a data person, I just couldn’t stop myself, so I just kept going. It’s called Huckleberry. It’s actually really helpful, both me and my husband can be logged into it, we can start the sleep timer, stop it, I’m like, when the heck did she last eat? I can’t remember. The days blend together. I can look back at the app, so super helpful just in general. But also on the other side, I love the data. And one small anecdote I will share is because I’m a data person, I was holding on so much to like, I want this data set, I don’t know why, it’d be fun to do something later.

0:53:38.6 MK: You know my sister did.

0:53:40.8 JH: Oh my gosh, I need to know. Now, I need to know all the details.

0:53:43.6 MK: She analyzed hers. Yeah, she did a whole bunch of analysis.

0:53:49.6 JH: See, that’s amazing, but for my own sanity, I had to let go of tracking the diapers a couple of weeks ago, and I will say I feel much freer as a mom.

0:53:57.5 MK: Let go of the diapers, just your sleep and milk.

0:54:00.0 TW: Let go of the diapers, but not after you’ve talked the sides in and made it into a little ball. Don’t let go of the diaper itself too soon.

0:54:05.7 MK: The diapers are too much, too much.

0:54:08.4 JH: Yeah, yeah, so I feel much freer just doing eating and sleeping. It’s been great. I’m excited. Hopefully, I’ll do something with the data set at one point, maybe hit a valve for her, ’cause I’m pretty sure she did that too, and we’ll get a bunch of moms data sets.

0:54:22.5 MK: Oh wow. You were all such nerds. My husband won’t even use it. It’s really fricking annoying.

0:54:28.5 JH: I do have to ask my husband all the time, so did you start that?

0:54:31.3 MK: Did you log in?

0:54:31.5 JH: He’s like, oh I forgot. I’m like…

0:54:33.3 TW: According to this…

0:54:34.8 MK: I feel the same. I feel the same.

0:54:37.1 TW: I might have to report to CPS according to the data, you have not logged…

0:54:46.3 MK: Jesus Christ.

0:54:46.4 TW: I did, by the way, took my, I took my swarm check-ins this year, and I’ve had all sorts of fun with the visualizing of my travel, so that was a simple self-quantification, but…

0:54:57.7 MK: I think if I visualized my baby sleep, I would probably cry.

0:55:03.8 JH: Yeah, maybe wait on that one.

0:55:05.7 MK: Yeah.

0:55:05.8 JH: It’s like too close to home still.

0:55:05.9 MK: And what about you, Tim?

0:55:06.8 TW: So mine is kind of an oldie, but a goodie that I finally got around to, which is Annie Duke’s first book ‘Thinking in Bets,’ which I’ve followed her for years, have listened to her stuff, read her stuff, knew the basic premise of the book ‘Thinking in Bets,’ but one of the trips I was taking, I actually had the physical copy and there is so much gold in that book when it comes to recognizing skill versus luck, but to me, understanding how human cognition works, and to me, it applies very much to analytics and setting your expectations and recognizing that a bad outcome doesn’t mean that it was a bad decision. I kinda want every business partner that I work with to read it and then just naturally, she says uncertainty a lot. It’s ‘Thinking in Bets,’ she’s like, the gambling is uncertain, but life is uncertain, so actually… Yeah, so it was just a… I was kind of highlighting in the book saying God, there are so many things that are smart examples that are kind of obvious in hindsight, but they’re also obvious how much we get tripped up in life, so that was her first book, it’s not her latest book, but I thought it was really useful and enjoyable.

0:56:28.2 TW: So with that, I have to do a Michael Helbling like smooth, the wrap-up, but I also get to insert the expectations I have for him that he always ignores, which is to remind people that if you want a sticker for the podcast, you can go to bitly/aph-stickers, and you can request free stickers. Our fulfillment house will get them right over to you within two to three weeks, and we haven’t asked in a while, but we’d love to get a review if you enjoy the show and you listen on an app or somewhere, or even if you don’t, but you can go to the Apple Podcast store and leave a review. We do kind of enjoy seeing those and everybody on podcast says that those help other people find the show, but no one’s ever produced evidence that that’s actually the case, so just do it for our egos to destroy them or to boost them up either way. No show would be complete without thanking our stalwart, see if I used that word correctly, producer, Josh Crowhurst, who, just know that Josh is earning every cent that he does not get paid on this episode, he’s gonna have some fun splicing things together, so sometimes they’re smooth, sometimes the internet is not cooperating and just know that if this sounded like a smooth episode, that was Josh working his magic.

0:57:54.6 MK: That’s right Timmo.

[laughter]

0:57:58.7 TW: So we always love to hear from listeners, so you can find any of us or us as a group on LinkedIn, on the rapidly torching itself bird, social media app or on the Measure Slack. We’re easy to find. We love to hear from people, we have gotten show suggestions, we have made connections. And we always love to hear from everyone. So with that, for myself, for Julie Hoyer, for Moe Kiss, it’s important to inspect what your own expectations are, but what we expect is that you always keep analyzing.

0:58:38.9 Announcer: Thanks for listening. Let’s keep the conversation going with your comments, suggestions, and questions on Twitter at @analyticshour, on the web at analyticshour.io, our LinkedIn group and the Measure chat Slack group. Music for the podcast by Josh Crowhurst.

0:58:55.7 Charles Barkley: So smart guys want to fit in, so they made up a term called analytics. Analytics don’t work.

0:59:03.8 Kamala Harris: I love Venn diagrams. It’s just something about those three circles and the analysis about where there is the intersection, right?

0:59:11.2 TW: So Val was losing her voice the last time we talked and right now between in the last 24 hours, I’m starting to get a little croaky, but maybe that would just be my Michael Helbling sexy radio voice.

0:59:32.9 MK: Oh I was just thinking…

0:59:33.9 JH: How dare you got us recording for that.

0:59:36.1 TW: Yeah. Crap man, when you lose the power…

[music]

0:59:46.8 TW: Oh shit yeah, how did that… Oh let’s speak at the mic. Yeah, my headphones were jacked up again, so that one I turned it off, yeah, you wanna stop and Moe…

0:59:54.3 JH: Okay, so no one say anything funny.

0:59:55.7 MK: Trying to hold it. Okay, I figured out my one that bugs me that I have expectations on, it really riles me up. And what’s really interesting to Moe… Oh my god. Oh my god. I’ve lost the fucking plot. I just called you Timmo.

[laughter]
[music]

1:00:26.4 TW: I’ll take it. I’ve been called worse.

[laughter]

1:00:32.2 TW: Rock flag, and there’s no, O in my name.

2 Responses

  1. Rachel Armstrong says:

    Hi all,

    I love your podcast and listen often!

    When Julie mentioned that she wants to do something fun with her newborn data that she’s collecting, it reminded me of my co-worker on the analytics team at Recurve who, with his wife, tracked both their daughters’ first-year milk and sleep and then made a beautiful chart of each as art to hang on their wall.

    Each horizontal line of data is a day of the first year, and each line turns blue for sleep, orange for feedings, and white for all else. So you get these beautiful thin lines that transition from darker blue for longer periods of sleep to white and then to short lengths of orange and then light blue bits for naps.

    The whole visual starts off alternating frantically between blue, orange, and white in the baby’s early days and then becomes more consistent lower down in the chart, as the baby grows and develops (hopefully) a routine.

    A possibility for how to use the data!

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