Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Charts in presentations...

Charts in presentations...  This morning's Dilbert cartoon (below) triggered a memory of a conversation I once had with my company's CEO.  I was, at the time, the Chief Technology Officer.  I had been tasked with making a presentation to the Board about our software development process.  In my presentation, I had a chart that showed the number of unresolved bugs in our main product declining over time.  If you're a software company, a steadily declining number of unresolved (“open”) bugs is a really good thing.  The CEO – my boss – was very unhappy with that chart.  Why?  Because the trend was down, and that (to him) by definition was negative.  So he had me change out the chart for one that showed the resolved (“closed”) bug count, which of course went steadily up.  My protestations that the closed bug count was the wrong measure fell upon deaf ears.  I couldn't even get him to let me use the inverse of unresolved bugs (which would make the trend upwards), as he said that would be too hard to explain to the Board.

The result? 

When I gave my presentation, two Board members reacted as my CEO hoped – they saw the upward trend and assumed life was good.  The rest of the board – four or five members – all jumped on me for having a stupid metric in my presentation, and they proceeded to lecture me about the importance of tracking unresolved bugs.

I'm so glad to be retired! :)

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