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Communicate Effectively with Charts
Figure 3.20
These charts show the
number of customers
in the bank and their
expected wait times.
3
Communicate Effectively with Charts
A long time ago, a McKinsey & Company team investigated opportunities for growth at the
company where I was employed. I was chosen to be part of the team because I knew how to
get the data out of the mainframe.
The consultants at McKinsey & Company knew how to make great charts. Every sheet of
grid paper was turned sideways, and a pencil was used to create a landscape chart that was
an awesome communication tool. After drawing the charts by hand, they sent off the charts
to someone in the home office who generated the charts on a computer. This was a great
technique. Long before touching Excel, someone figured out what the message should be.
You should do the same thing today. Even if you have data in Excel, before you start to
create a chart, it’s a good idea to analyze the data to see what message you are trying to
present.
The McKinsey & Company group used a couple of simple techniques to always get the
point across:
To help the reader interpret a chart, include the message in the title. Instead of using
an Excel-generated title such as “Sales,” you can actually use a two- or three-line title
such as “Sales have grown every quarter except for Q3, when a strike impacted
production.”
 
 
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