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Gleaning Facts From Figures

Skills and Tools for Analytical and Critical Thinking

In the information-rich society in which we live it is becoming increasingly difficult to make sense of the barrage of data we are constantly fed from the Media, Wall Street, advertisers, economists, product vendors, and special interest groups¾not to mention the "number-crunchers" within our own organizations. Complicating matters, many admit they have less time than ever before to questions the numbers and rationale on which decisions are made¾making them susceptible to assertions and propositions that are based on questionable data, bad math, persuasive language, or faulty analysis.

This course is intended for individuals, regardless of their background, who wish to improve their analytical thinking and reasoning skills¾including a working knowledge of a few simple but effective tools to assist them in these areas. The course builds skills in Gleaning Facts From Figures that pertain to: 1) solving problems or identifying opportunities, 2) making informed decisions, and 3) ascertaining the truth when data is used to try to "sell" a product, service, or proposition.

Drawing on examples from public sources and business publications, the participants are provided with a real-world context for understanding how and where the principles apply, rather than a litany of dry facts. This "side door" approach especially appeals to individuals who may be intimidated by math or those who learn best by relying on practical examples, rather than theory. Formulas and calculations are kept to a minimum, demonstrating instead how contemporary tools such as Excel can enhance critical thinking and also reveal hidden patterns and trends using simple charts and graphs.

This is an applied course to enhance real-world analytical and critical thinking skills, both on the job and in your personal life. The threefold objectives of the course are as follows:

1.  To solve problems or identify opportunities that depend on knowing:

2. To make informed decisions that depend on knowing:

3. To detect fallacious or misleading assertions that depend on knowing:

 – Topical Outline – 

  • Profile of an effective analytical thinker – skill set, mindset, and habits
  • Examples of how numbers are used and misused by vendors, the media and SIGs
  • Uses and abuses of averages and percentages – knowing what to watch for
  • Uses and abuses of statistical charts – avoiding "visual manipulation"
  • Uses and abuses of surveys – including misinterpretation of the "margin of error"
  • Logical errors – how to recognize and avoid them
  • Correlation versus causation – recognizing hidden agendas and circular logic
  • Sources of variation and uncertainty in workplace data
  • Analytical techniques used to test relationships
  • Analytical techniques used to track trends
  • Analytical techniques used to support decision-making
  • Analytical techniques used to support risk analysis
  • Analytical techniques used to assess differences
  • Analytical techniques used in market research and survey analysis
  • Complicating factors, such as multiple contributors to variance
  • Rapid calculating and order-of-magnitude "sanity-checking" techniques 
  • Putting the Pareto principle to work
  • Making sense of the symbols statisticians use
  • How to read and interpret a statistical report
  • Using the basic statistical and charting functions in Excel
  • Using the Big-3 Questions to frame and avoid Type III logical errors
  • How decision makers deal with uncertainty
  • How decision makers make decisions – implications for data providers
  • How to "package" and present quantitative information to senior managers
  • The 21st century paradigm: Marrying qualitative and quantitative methods to deal with "wicked problems" involving humans factors and human nature
  This course was designed and is instructed by the author of the book . . .

Each participant will receive a set of course notes, handouts, a variety of helpful files, and a resource guide to assist in constructing Excel graphs and charts.

This is a 2-day skill-building course with extensive hands-on exercises.  Many of the exercises take advantage of the charting and data analysis capabilities of Excel. Each participant should have access to a computer (laptop or desktop) that has MS Excel installed and also a basic working knowledge of Excel.

A one-day version the course is available that uses a limited number of exercises along with demonstrations presented by the instructor. Topic areas can be emphasized or deemphasized as necessary to address skill-development areas that are of particular interest to the client.

Related Course: Applied Statistics for Business Analytics Applications

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Training & Development Programs for
Administrative Professionals

Roberts & Roberts Associates is proud to offer The Platinum Series™ ... a set of top-tier courses specially geared for contemporary administrative professionals and the challenges they face in the workplace. Participants will be issued a certificate of completion that complies with the documentation requirements for CAP® and CPS® recertification. Courses are available on demand and are occasionally offered on an open-enrollment basis. The courses are also available for sponsorship by associations, franchises, and other groups. To request information, click here.

Here is a synopsis of the courses in the series:

Analytical Skills for
Administrative Professionals

This 2-day course builds skills in three areas: 1) detecting and preventing potential problems - making others aware of problems before they escalate or spiral out of control; 2) making real-time decisions by rapidly assessing the facts and assumptions; and 3) identifying logical errors, false conclusions, and unsubstantiated assertions.  You will also learn how to use MS Excel to analyze data and create compelling charts and graphs. A customized 1-day version of this course is also available. (For more details on this course, click here.)

Practical Project Management for
Administrative Professionals

In this 2-day course you will learn how to use a 10-step framework to plan and organize projects that are of the scope and variety that administrative professionals typically encounter.  You will also learn how to use certain tools in the project manager’s “toolkit” to assist in executing projects, tracking progress, and dealing with the difficult “human challenges” that are known to accompany high-pressure, high-profile project. A customized 1-day version of this course is also available.

Multitasking Skills and Tools for
Administrative Professionals

This 1-day course is designed to deal with the challenges that virtually every administrative professional faces: How to juggle multiple tasks while supporting multiple internal customers—each of whom feels that his or her projects and tasks should take top priority.  In this course you will learn practical skills in managing multiple tasks and dealing with competing and concurrent demands for your time, energy, and attention from multiple sources.

Tact and Diplomacy Skills for
Administrative Professionals

Administrative professionals are required to be masters at communicating their thoughts and ideas. They must be adept at asking questions, presenting facts, expressing opinions, and getting their point across in delicate situations ... without coming across as abrasive or insensitive. This 1-day course emphasizes practical skills in dealing with these very difficult challenges. Scenarios and exercises are used throughout the course to reinforce the skills.

Negotiating and Persuasion Skills for
Administrative Professionals

Whether negotiating with superiors, customers, peers, or vendors, administrative professionals encounter negotiating "opportunities" every day. In this 1-day course you will learn practical skills for negotiating with peers and associates in situations involving task assignments, priorities, resource utilization, and other matters that are internal to the organization. You will also acquire skills in negotiating with vendors and suppliers for issues involving costs, features, terms, and conditions.

Writing and Editing Skills for
Administrative Professionals

Whether writing a memorandum, e-mail message, or department manual, it is important to apply certain principles to ensure the information you wish to convey is communicated clearly, accurately, and succinctly. In this 1-day course you will learn skills for enhancing your writing ability.  You will learn how to frame your message to get the reader's attention and evoke a response when needed. You will also learn how review and tactfully recommend changes to documents that have been prepared by others.

Conducting Internal Surveys and Needs Analyses

This 2-day course is designed for administrative professionals who are called upon to conduct internal surveys to collect data in support of organizational decisions and initiatives. Surveys may be used to assess training needs, the effectiveness of internal communications, or employee attitudes toward a recent policy change ... to name a few. Participants will learn how to design a valid survey instrument, administer the survey, use incentives to increase the response rate, compile the data, and create a report of the results.

Delivering Presentations to Co-Workers and Managers

As the responsibilities of administrative professionals have expanded many are now asked to deliver presentations to their peers and managers.  For example, they may be called upon to brief co-workers on the use of a new office system, or they may be asked to deliver a summary presentation to managers on the results of a recent internal survey. In this 1-day course, participants will learn how to analyze the information needs of the audience and then prepare and deliver a compelling presentation with confidence.

Excel for Right-Brain Thinkers

This 1-day course is for individuals needing a basic knowledge of Excel and who might also describe themselves as "right-brain" thinkers ... non-analytic types who learn best by starting with the "big picture" rather than memorizing an array of commands and functions. The course uses an innovative approach based on examining actual worksheets and then giving the participants ample opportunity on their own to produce modified versions of the examples. This engaging "side door" approach enhances both comprehension and retention.

To inquire about an on-site or customized workshop, call us at or
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