Friday, September 15, 2006

Another Day, Another Slide

Some of you might relate to the daily agony that is modern corporate life. Our digital world comes replete with fancy tools that allow anyone with a computer to create all kinds of fancy documents and publications. Of course, in comes the business manager who uses these tools to help spur economic activity. That usually means that any number of fancy-tooled employees with half a brain are asked to produce any number of reports, presentations, briefings, and white papers to sate the desire for information on corporate initiatives and operating performance.

This is all fine and good. Progress is what some call this novel ability to digitally communicate. What we have not remembered, however, are the old-fashioned principles of moderation and prudence. You see, there was once a time in an analog world far, far away when people physically approached each other to talk face-to-face and engaged in iterative dialogue. Talked things out. Let ideas seep into the sub-conscious and stew a bit before deliberation. Of course, I over-simplify. Of course, human beings have applauded and bemoaned their technological inventions from the start of the modern age (read up on the doomsday talk surrounding Alexander Graham Bell's first exhibition of the telephone back in the late 19th century). But somewhere, a line must be drawn - and I choose to draw it in my little monologue before the superfluous powerpoint presentation.

Perhaps it is because this inocuous little Microsoft invention for displaying images and light "decorative" text for purposes of display and communication has become the bane of my existence. Ah, yes, it is the tool of choice for the discerning senior executive who wants to "cut to the chase" and "get real" about her strategic options. Action items anyone? You can capture those devilish little project killers on one slide. State of the industry? Another slide. How about competitive pressures? Knock yourself out with three slides! Before you know it, another 20 slides have gone by and the requests keep on coming. But what does that stack of powerpoint slides collectively mean, exactly?

Who knows. By this time, no one seems to care - just fix that bullet on slide 3 and re-color slide 9's chart to suggest more aggressive market response (red is good, I should say). Then, tie a bow on that deck because it is done - and make some space for the next three decks coming through! I wonder if anyone actually reads this stuff and if I could just slip in some random bullet point on slide 16, if the executives would even notice. I doubt it because I hardly notice the revisions myself - but then again, there was a vicious rumor that circled at some other employer that someone who tried that trick got a nice treat when the president discovered the gaffe mid-sentence at a well-attended analyst conference. Something about women's trousers for a software company. But I digress from the latest train wreck on my desk - that killer of a 25-page deck that needs to get done pronto for the next chairman's meeting. Another day, another slide - I should get back to the communication at hand.
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