PowerPoint and other miscommunications

Recently read Edward R. Tufte’s The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within and initially dismissed his thesis as troglodyte.  Now sensitized, I’ve been watching for evidence of PowerPoint Abuse.  Found an unfortunate example with two parallel teams during a strategic capital equipment review.  Both teams were given the same mission and access to data: scrutinize the new capital equipment plans, challenge assumptions, collect new data and define cost reduction and risk mitigation plans.  Both teams were staffed with bright industrial, process, manufacturing, quality engineers who pulled on other subject matter experts in their data gathering.  Leadership effectively facilitated and guided both teams through the current state to future state diagnostic journey.  Significant productivity, utilization, overall equipment effectiveness opportunities were identified and tested over the two week full-time exercise.

One team plastered their “war room” with all of their data, continuously rearranging their wall, retelling their story.  The other team began typing their findings and abandoned their wall after a couple of days.  Individual leaders would visit with the teams randomly throughout the study period but never “walked the wall”, instead expected PowerPoint slides for the daily out briefs.  Attempts were made to reconcile the two teams leading up to a joint presentation to senior management.

Bottom line – what’s the new equipment price tag to support the new 5 year strategic operating plan?

One team argued for showing both the prior and new estimates as side by side stacked bar charts, the other team just a table listing the $9.6 million delta.

Despite coaching challenges the delta display won out.  Too bad because the Executive VP had remembered “the number” and misinterpreted the table.  Had the first team taken the EVP on a tour of their wall the message would have been clearer.




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