Monday, October 19, 2009

Mission: Impossible?

Is it really that hard to write a good mission statement?

Fast Company's November 2009 issue has an excellent short article by Nancy Lublin about mission statements. Nancy compares real mission statements with the random garbage that is spewed by the Dilbert Automatic Mission Statement Generator and challenges the reader to spot the difference (hint: you can't...)

I think the keys to a great mission statement are threefold:
1) it's singular - a mission statement is just as important for what it doesn't say as for what it says
2) it's a rudder - it makes it clear what every individual should do when presented with multiple options
3) it's unique - it defines what you do differently from (almost) everyone else

How's yours stand up?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Keeping busy!

It's been a busy week...

  • Finished class number 11 (out of 13) for my Masters in Adult Education and Training...
  • Started class number 12
  • Packed up my office and went 'open work' (ie: homeless)
  • Received my Kindle DX and loaded it with brain candy
  • Delivered slide:ology webinars to South Korea and Singapore. Both went really well...
  • Helped an internal team build their vision statement
  • Ended up on the winning team in an HR Iron Chef challenge!
  • Facilitated a team session with DiSC, Tuckman's model, and the ever-awesome spiderweb
  • Got in a hike at Alum Rock Park
  • Watched the Yanks sweep the Twins (Yanks/Angels should be a great series)
  • Watched the Giants beat up on the Raiders (or is that 'beat down')
  • Worked with Randy Emelo on Part III of our Mentoring Conversations Model
  • Worked with Ed Muzio on the instructional design of the workshop version for his upcoming book
Yep... it was a good week.

Monday, October 5, 2009


Rock Sculpture at San Francisco Maritime Park

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Glance Test

Over the past six months, Nancy Duarte and I have collaborated on a job aid that measures "personal perception of signal to noise ratio in a still media". This tool came from two themes in her book "slide:ology" that I found particularly useful.

The first theme was that of slides as a 'glance media'.
That is, like a billboard, a slide should convey its message to the viewer in three seconds or less.

After reading slide:ology, I took this concept quite literally, and started testing slides that I saw against a 'glance test'. I would show a slide for three seconds and then put it down. Could the audience correctly identify the message of each slide? In my tests of typical business slides, most failed... miserably. In fact, so absurd is the concept of 'getting' a typical business slide in three seconds that the test usually provokes laughter.

This leads to the second theme - Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR).
If a slide fails the glance test, it either lacks signal (to amplify the message) or has too much noise (distracting from the message). Or both.
Usually both...

Applying the design principles that Nancy articulates in slide:ology, we created a 'scorecard' so that a user can measure the SNR of any slide. Now, bear in mind, Signal and Noise are relative to the viewer. I like to say "one man's signal is another man's noise".

For example, an image of a starving African child might amplify your message for one audience member, or it could just as easily provoke such an emotional response that it clouds the message for another audience member.
You must know your audience.

The Glance Test has turned out to be a powerful tool. I have used it with teams to measure their signal to noise before attending a slide:ology workshop. The typical business score is 4 parts signal to 7 parts noise (4:7).
After the workshop, scores soar to 9:1 or better.

My experience to date indicates that a score of 5:1 or better will create a slide that passes the 'three second glance test'.

Nancy has a post on her blog that I strongly recommend. She shares the 'glance test' in a pdf, and shows two examples of presentations that she recently scored at Stanford.

While increasing signal requires some skills that must be learned, reducing noise is quite easy - less words, less colors, simple images. Most of the presenters that I've coached find that reducing their noise (which increases their SNR) makes a dramatic difference in their presentation.

So, visit Nancy's blog, download the tool, and start using it!!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Show Me The Numbers... Live!

Stephen Few at Fort Mason

I just spent the past three days at Stephen Few's West Coast Data Visualization conference, exploring the use of data in presentations, dashboards, and analytics.

Stephen's books are fantastic, I recommend you pick up all three. The conference basically walked through each book. If you can't or don't find the time to read, these workshops are an excellent substitute.

If you have already read the books and understand them, the value proposition falls off dramatically. The question and answer segments were useful; as were Stephen's demonstrations of some of the leading software products. I could have used more activities, but that's a personal preference.

Ultimately, Stephen's passion for this topic and the mix of attendees made this an event worth attending.