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My job requires equal parts analysis and data display on a map. On a project I send these maps out for review as many as several times a day and incorporate changes requested by the project manager and sometimes support staff. I'm looking for advice on how to handle a boss whose comments are (I feel) personal preference and extremely time-consuming.

At this point I may sound like someone who just can't take criticism. But there are a few issues here:

  1. He isn't the project manager (PM) for many of these projects.
  2. The comments are almost all preference based: "Make the title smaller. Make the blue a darker shade. Make the..." versus the PM's comments: "Make these colors more distinct."
  3. There are MANY of comments like this, introducing a blockage in my workflow and making it harder to complete other tasks.
  4. He has admitted on some projects that he doesn't think all of the changes are necessary, but he was asked to review it and feels compelled to add as many as possible.
  5. The analysis is never checked, just the visuals.
  6. Few, if any, of his proposed changes are open to discussion.

The obvious thing to do is to suck it up and incorporate his changes. But I feel that there might be a better way to handle this.

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    Who authorizes the changes proposed? Why are this person's proposed changes being authorized (or, why are they not being denied)? – DarkCygnus Oct 29 '19 at 20:21
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    Is "a boss" your boss (i.e. your direct manager)? Or just someone who is in the general management structure of your organization? – Justin Cave Oct 29 '19 at 20:27
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    so this means that anyone can keep proposing changes indefinitely? Perhaps you don't have a good reason why you can't, but, do they have a good reason why to do it in first place? – DarkCygnus Oct 29 '19 at 21:23
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    Perhaps it is time to negotiate a standard theme with your boss and the PMs? – Jon Custer Oct 30 '19 at 1:25
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    Did anyone tell him that he shouldn’t suggest changes but improvements ? – gnasher729 Oct 30 '19 at 20:42
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The reason why you are asked to send the maps to multiple people is to receive different perspectives on how it could be improved. This specific boss seems to be only focused on the presentation rather than the content. His criticisms and suggestions are not necessarily a knock on your work, but suggestions on making the document more presentable for its intended audience.

If you feel like all these changes are unnecessary or time consuming, I would bring it up with your boss and ask to assign priorities to proposed changes. This way, if it is determined that the visual aspects are a low priority, you can leave them for the end ( or not bother if your boss doesn't think they are needed ).

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    I think this is a great suggestion. +1 if i could vote! – wakanda_official_tourism Oct 29 '19 at 20:59
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    Agree. Consulting your actual boss to assign priorities over the proposed changes is the way to go. – DarkCygnus Oct 29 '19 at 21:24
  • @wankanda You can vote! You can also accept an answer (clicking the little grey tick below the voting buttons) after an appropriate amount of time has passed - SE Help Pages – Bee Oct 30 '19 at 12:58
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Gather some numbers on how much time you're spending on these requests, how much time you're spending on other requests, and what other tasks are getting postponed and schedule a meeting with your boss. In that meeting, you want to have a conversation something like

Hey Boss,

I want to make sure that I'm being as productive as I can be. Over the past two weeks (or whatever a reasonable time period is), I've been spending 80% of my time incorporating the visualization changes you're suggesting and 20% of my time making changes that everyone else is suggesting. That means that when Alice noticed a problem with the analysis, it took 4 hours to get a revised version out rather than 1 hour because I spent 3 hours incorporating your changes. And it took me 2 extra days to get out the first version of the Smith analysis because I spent 16 hours making visualization tweaks to the Jones analysis. Is there a way that I can make sure that the visualizations look the way you want more efficiently?

  • Could we come up with a handful of pre-approved templates that I can just drop a new analysis into rather than building the entire analysis from the ground up every time?
  • If templates aren't an option, can we come up with some guidelines on what you're looking for that I can apply so that there is less subsequent rework? Maybe it would make sense for me to take this class [link to some training you'd like] on making impactful visualizations?
  • Should we talk about changing the process to separate out "required" changes from "nice to have" changes so that I'm prioritizing the more valuable work?
  • Is there something else I can do to make this process smoother?
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First thing, you should incorporate backlog into your workflow. Hopefully, you get comments in writing, then you can just copy-paste them in something like Trello or Google Doc. backlog in this case is just a list of tasks you have to finish.

After you have some history accumulated, you can sit down and discuss how to better prioritize these items, because that seems to be the core problem.

Second thing, you should try to have a hierarchy of process. Maybe you don't have to send draft to your boss every iteration. You are hired to make some judgements yourself, so try to say: "boss, I will ask for feedback from X, Y and Z, and only then send you a draft. That will decrease number of iterations you have to go through and hopefully save you some time".

TL;DR:

  1. Start writing things down to get help on prioritization
  2. Stop sending every draft to your boss, especially since there is not much of substance feedback
  • I already do this to some degree and I can continue to update my list with bossman's preferences. This won't catch all of them since many are project-specific ("title should be smaller" - title size depends on map size) but hopefully this will reduce my workload a bit. – wakanda_official_tourism Oct 29 '19 at 21:42
  • @wakanda_official_tourism great, I guess i meant "start writing more things down". Documentation will also help your boss to see what you are actually busy with, right now they might think you don't have enough work hence always trying to suggest things – aaaaa says reinstate Monica Oct 29 '19 at 21:59

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