Quality of conclusion, not Quantity of work; Issue #376 November 8, 2016

One of the issues I often see in presentations is a slide with a spreadsheet showing all the calculations that were done when analyzing a situation or set of data. This is usually an indication of a fundamental difference in what the presenter thinks the executives want and what the executives actually need.

The presenter puts the spreadsheet of calculations on the slide thinking that the executives want to see how much effort went into the analysis. The presenter did a lot of work and wants to show it. If they only showed a few numbers on the slide, how would the executives know that the analysis was thorough and well done?

When the executives see the spreadsheet on the screen, they get overwhelmed by all the numbers. They may get confused. They may ask to just “give me the bottom line” or something similar. If they are detail oriented, they may focus on one inconsequential number and drill down a rabbit hole that has nothing to do with the real message.

None of these reactions are what the presenter thought they would get. The presenter thought the executives would be so impressed with the volume of work that was done. The presenter is surprised that they don’t get a standing ovation. What is wrong with the executives?

The problem is that the executives care more about the quality of the conclusion than the quantity of work that was done. The executive role is about making important decisions to move the organization forward towards the goals that have been set. This requires insight from analysis of data and situations.

The executives hire competent professionals to do the analysis. Ones who have the experience and education to understand and analyze the data. If the professional isn’t qualified, they won’t get the job.

What the executive is looking for is an insightful conclusion from the analysis. They will judge the professional by the quality of the conclusion. Is it uncovering new insights? Is it giving them information that they haven’t seen before? Is the conclusion going to give them an advantage over the competition in the marketplace?

If the analysis has been done well, it will show in the conclusion. Most executives frankly don’t care how many spreadsheet cells were filled in or how many hours were spent. They hire professionals to do that work. They don’t expect a spreadsheet on a slide and then have to figure out the conclusion themselves.

If you are a financial, operational, or technical professional who presents analysis, remember that the executives you present to want an insightful conclusion. They expect that you have done the analysis required. That’s why they hired you in the first place. They don’t need to see all the details of the work you did. They trust you know how to do the job. They will evaluate your performance based on the quality of the conclusion, not the quantity of the work.