The Proof Is In The Pudding

There is a very old proverb which says that "the proof of the pudding is in the eating" and a recent experience really brought that home to me. Last year I wrote a blog explaining how pictures are very valuable communication tools. I truly believe that, but a lot of people would want to see the evidence of that, rather than just take my word for it. So I wanted to share an example which provides just that.

As you have probably guessed, my blogs reflect my approach to my work and it won’t surprise you to learn that I do indeed practice what I preach.  Nevertheless you can get complacent from time to time. By that I don’t mean you do things the wrong way. It’s just that if you are doing a job which you enjoy and are good at, you sometimes do things because you always do them and not because you have thought through the approach in detail. This can easily happen if you are busy juggling a number of activities.

The following experience brought that home to me and reinforced my conviction that pictures are powerful communication tools, which are invaluable in data governance and data quality work.

A while ago I was trying to identify all the different instances of data quality reporting already in place in an organisation (with the longer term plan of developing a unified approach to DQ reporting).  I had been speaking to a number of people, collating the information they gave me into a spreadsheet for ease of comparison and analysis.  I sent the spreadsheet out to all those individuals to ask them to confirm that I had captured the information correctly.  One person came back to highlight a small difference, but the rest confirmed that it was ok.  In the meantime I had been creating a picture based on the spreadsheet information to include in a presentation to a senior audience.

I also sent out the picture to the same individuals (more out of habit than thinking it needed checking, after all this was only days after I had had the information in the spreadsheet confirmed).  Interestingly this time more people came back with changes. It was clear that having seen what others had told me in diagram form prompted them to recall further information. However, seeing the same information in a spreadsheet did not have the same effect, in fact I would guess that they probably only reviewed the row with their name/department on it. 

I found this very enlightening and a useful reminder of the power of pictures. On this occasion the picture was not created to communicate to those individuals, but it proved it’s value in confirming and updating a situation which had already been captured and confirmed in a spreadsheet! An image makes it easy to absorb a lot of information quickly and encourages you to look at the bigger picture in a way that a spreadsheet or document full of information does not.

But don't just take my word for it, try using a picture where you wouldn't have done in the past and see if you get a different response. And do please let me know of your results!


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