Management by PowerPoint

Serious problems require a serious tool… Meetings should center on concisely written reports on paper, not fragmented bulleted talking points projected up on the wall.

-Edward Tufte

If every software meeting that you attend is being driven by a PowerPoint deck, don’t kid yourself: you’ve got yourself a serious problem. This is a sign of an acute infection of bureaucracy.

Let’s face it, most software decisions… whether it be design, prioritization, process, budget… are conversations that need to be had at a detailed level. PowerPoint presentations, almost by design, forces your meeting participants to gloss right over those details. It implies tacit agreement with high level, and mostly generic points and statements that often bear little to no significance to the problems being discussed.

Let me illustrate by identifying some glaring symptoms of the PowerPoint infection:

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Innovation not Regurgitation

Given the rapid growth of the internet as an information resource… and our seemingly inherent human treatment of the written word as gospel… it is very easy for my fellow engineers to read a single blog entry and conclude that ‘we should be doing that!’

… and I think that’s a very serious problem.

To make matters worse, the ever increasing number of tools and frameworks leads to a dangerous tendency to reduce our engineering responsibility to ‘toolbox assembly’.  We’ll use Tool A for this and Tool B for that and we’ll house that all in Framework C… my work is done here!

I remember sitting in a meeting a few years ago and asking “when did we get so afraid to write our own code?”

Ultimately, I’m interested in ideas… using tools and contemplating thoughts from internet blogs are useful endeavors… but they shouldn’t replace our basic creative function as engineers.

Give me innovation not regurgitation!