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Matthew Barsalou

Quality Insider

Presenting Information to Management

Maximize the effect of your message with these simple hints

Published: Monday, June 15, 2015 - 13:39

One seldom mentioned yet critical skill is the ability to bring well-presented information to management. I almost typed “data,” but that would probably be incorrect. Chances are you are not holding a presentation to show top management data; you are presenting data that has already been distilled into information.

There should be some underlying, fact-based narrative to what you present to upper management. Conducting a presentation is more than just throwing bullet points onto a slide and reading them; you should be telling a story with a clear beginning and end. For example, you may be presenting the story of how the organization launched a product before it was ready to be brought to market. Here, you could explain what tests were performed and why the product was released before it was fully evaluated. This narrative would then move to the current situation, including describing a “failure rate of 4%” and relating that “Customer X is threatening to buy elsewhere.” This should then lead into current actions, followed by the solution or potential solutions, if available.

Illustrations and graphs can also be very helpful. For example, an illustration or photograph can be helpful when discussing a quality failure. Let your illustrations do the talking for you. This does not mean simply throwing together a few pictures; choose illustrations and graphs that support the narrative.

Proper labeling is essential when using illustrations. Be sure to label both the X and Y axes if you are showing a graph. Try to anticipate questions and tailor your illustration towards answering the questions so they don’t need to be asked. For example, describe units or specific timeframes so that nobody needs to ask. Additional details may be needed if you are presenting something with which management may be unfamiliar.

Presenting an SPC chart to a marketing manager may require explaining not just the information in the chart but the concept of SPC as well. In such a situation, a very brief explanation, using a bullet point or two, may be necessary. The SPC chart should also be interpreted for the audience. A quality manager should be able to quickly interpret the SPC chart, but the obvious conclusion may not be so obvious to the marketing manager.

A presentation should be provided for phone conferences, even when there are no graphs or illustrations to present. Otherwise, the attendees may be left looking at a blank screen, or worse, reading their email or otherwise failing to fully pay attention.

A good-looking presentation may be nice to have, but it’s the content that should matter. Information should be brief, yet with sufficient detail to communicate the message. Additional information and even raw data can be provided in the form of an appendix. The appendix should also contain sufficient information to help answer questions that go beyond what was in the main body of the presentation. Supporting information on quantities shipped to each customer and the number of failed units claimed by each customer may prove helpful if added to an appendix.

The presenter should thoroughly understand the presentation; getting lost in one’s own presentation can’t end well. Knowing the presentation is not sufficient, however. Be prepared to answer questions on the information contained in the presentation. For this, it is essential to understand the deeper details of what you are presenting. If you say that something happened, chances are that somebody will want to know why it happened. Failing to answer the question may take the conversation away from your well-prepared presentation and may lead to additional difficulties in answering questions.


About The Author

Matthew Barsalou’s picture

Matthew Barsalou

Matthew Barsalou is a statistical problem resolution master black belt at BorgWarner Turbo Systems Engineering GmbH. He is an ASQ-certified Six Sigma Black Belt, quality engineer, and quality technician; a TÜV-certified quality manager, quality management representative, and quality auditor; and a Smarter Solutions-certified lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt. He has a bachelor’s degree in industrial sciences, and master’s degrees in engineering, business administration, and liberal studies with emphasis in international business. Barsalou is author of Root Cause Analysis, Statistics for Six Sigma Black Belts, The ASQ Pocket Guide to Statistics for Six Sigma Black Belts, and The Quality Improvement Field Guide.