A lot of times, I try to work from the top down and bottom up, so that we can meet in the middle. In this case, if I can influence the couple of people mentioned above, that will definitely help. But, there's also the challenge that people have been generating reports with exploding pies or using garish colors for decades. I've taken a couple of classes like Tufte's one day course on Presenting Data and Information as well as the Visual Analytics course offered by Tableau (which by the way, I thought it was outstanding!!! Seriously, if you've not taken a visual analytics course, you must take this one! I actually thought it was too short!) and I feel like I know the basics, but it might be a little bit more than what others know. So, I thought, why not do a lunch and learn session on these basics and impart the little bit of knowledge I have to them? Then at least they have the knowledge and can think through their chart or color choice or whether we need to have bars or pies in 3D. And then I thought about being pregnant. I know, it seems like I'm in left field. You might know (and if you don't, then I'm here to impart some wisdom to you), when a woman gets pregnant and gains the baby weight, it doesn't magically come off after she delivers the baby. It took nine (well, technically ten) months to get there, it's not going to come off overnight or even in one month. My point? People have been using 3D bars or exploding pies with lifesaver colors for decades. Realistically, I can't expect one lunch and learn or one cheat sheet to change the reporting culture overnight.
If you follow me on twitter, you'll sometimes see references to my alter ego, Penny Planner. I love to plan and make lists, so Penny Planner sees plenty of action. So I've decided to rough out a plan for providing guidance on visual best practices. It's not complete yet (I would absolutely love love love to get your thoughts), but I have a short-term and longer-term plan. In the short-term (within the next six months), I'll:
- sit in on a couple of upcoming report discussions so that I can contribute with respect to the visual,
- conduct short lunch & learn sessions where we focus on various visual practices,
- provide a quick reference guide, and
- have someone speak about visual best practices at a lunch-time session.
While I could make all of the items above tableau related, it's important for me to make them tool agnostic. Tableau might be the better tool, but there are people that hold on to their SAS, Business Objects, or Excel, and they need to know this stuff too. Longer-term is a bit fuzzier. I only have two bullet points right now:
- Delve into color choice
- Go on a diet. No more exploding pies (that are labeled!)