Editor's Note

March 1, 2013
I wonder what CEOs really think about graphs with three-dimensional blue rectangles on them? I walk in a different kind of information traffic than they do ...

I wonder what CEOs really think about graphs with three-dimensional blue rectangles on them? I walk in a different kind of information traffic than they do, so I don't really know the impact of colorful pie charts, bar charts, column charts, and line charts, featuring all of the innovative tweaks offered by analytical software.

"This blue rectangle denotes a 3% growth from the last quarter, which represents a modest increase from the previous quarter."

Can't you just say that without pointing to a blue rectangle? Do blue rectangles soften the blow somehow, taking the CEO back to another wonderful time in corporate history when orange rectangles were too big for the corporate reports, literally jumping off the page?

Blue rectangles have terrible communication skills. They flunked all of the oral book reports in grammar school. The vice president or division head still has to verbally explain to the CEO what that shy blue rectangle wishes to say.

I would think a CEO would get fed up with blue rectangles.

"Is this human resources? This is the CEO ...

"Yes, it's really me. Don't worry about asking, ‘Is this really the Big Cheese?' People make that mistake all the time ...

"Yes, it has been a while since we've chatted, and thanks for inquiring about my wife. She'll be glad that you remembered her from our annual company dinner ...

"Well, I'm glad to hear about your wife's activities as a soccer mom. Listen, while I've got you on the phone, go ahead and toss that memo that I sent you about laying off everyone in that division. The blue rectangle indicates to me they're not doing that badly. What I want you to do instead is to fire the vice president. When you have given him his walking papers, have someone go through his desk. One of the drawers in there will have a bunch of charts with three-dimensional blue rectangles on them. Take them down to the incinerator and burn them ...

"Ah, I don't know. Use a match or a cigarette lighter. Any

thing that will ignite it works for me."

Just so you know, 3-D blue rectangles are no longer fashionable. It's all about being evidence-based. A CEO does not regard a blue rectangle as evidence. So think about the evidence when making a proposal.

"I just noticed that the dealer has a really good price on these quart bottles of antimicrobial rinse. Here's a printout of the offer. That's a good price. I'd like to buy a dozen quarts, and use it on my patients at the end of their appointments. Here's a journal article that confirms that the rinse will negate any residual bacteria. There's a lot of promise that this will be an effective therapy. Some of them are scheduled for recalls before six months, so I will check the effectiveness of this treatment with those patients. Shall I go ahead and order the rinse through the dealer? ...

"What's that? You want to know if I have anything with blue rectangles on them? You need to study this some more? Well, OK."

So call the dealer back, say you'll get back in a couple of months and, yes, you know the price discount will expire before then. Open up the laptop and go to work on those blue rectangles.

Blue rectangles rule.

Mark Hartley
[email protected]
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