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Thread: On Powerpoint

  1. #21
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    Forgive the link to my own site, but I could not resist.

    A PowerPoint Briefing About Why PowerPoint is Bad for Briefing
    That was an execellent execution of a briefing in order to provide an explanation of proper utilization of Power Point

    PS

    It was observed by me that a failure was executed by you, however, to provide an explicatory bullet in front of the paragraph on slide nine in order to fully meet proper Power Point Ranger standards
    Last edited by Tom Odom; 07-13-2009 at 12:22 PM. Reason: more better grammar

  2. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greyhawk View Post
    Para two: "Make no mistake, PowerPoint is not a neutral tool it is actively hostile to thoughtful decision-making. It has fundamentally changed our culture by altering the expectations of who makes decisions, what decisions they make and how they make them. While this may seem to be a sweeping generalization, I think a brief examination of the impact of PowerPoint will support this statement."

    Then he goes on to explain its abuse and misuse, which - were it not for that initial polite caveat of a thesis statement - some might mistakenly interpret as an attack on those who are doing so. I suspect his point is as you say it is - his arguments clearly lead me to that conclusion - and that's a point with which we'd all agree (but with which many - or someone? - might be highly offended).

    I don't think we need worry about an outright ban. The more likely solution is a PowerPoint in every inbox explaining the right and wrong uses of PowerPoint.
    Yeah, I noticed that and just saw it as a rhetorical vehicle to make his point and maybe grab a few more readers with the opening paragraphs.


    Schmelap,

    Forgive the link to my own site, but I could not resist.

    A PowerPoint Briefing About Why PowerPoint is Bad for Briefing
    That's excellent, but what I really wanted is a decision brief on whether future decision briefs will continue to use Powerpoint XP or 2007. Also, I didn't like the color scheme or fonts - in the future please use a hot pink background with yellow lettering in comic sans to aid readability.

  3. #23
    Council Member Hacksaw's Avatar
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    Default PowerPoint Gone Bad....

    As a former planner... who wound up spending his last four years in uniform and first two in suit and tie working in and supporting the institutional army (e.g. TRADOC)... I can assure you the worst abuses of PowerPoint are committed in Garrison...

    An example... I had built a three slide step through of how Army operational concepts had evolved from Air Land to Full Spectrum... complete with graphics that highlighted the differences and an assessment by BOS/WFF of how each differed...

    The three slides were a complex, but impressive/useful aid when accompanied by a knowledgable briefer... and fortunately the senior officer for whom it was developed met that criteria... all was good with my world because there is a degree of satisfaction in helping in the process of communicating complex information in an intelligable manner...

    Then my world changed when the senior leader I primarily supported was changed due to "TRANSFORMATION"... the horror the horror...

    The new Senior Leader was a trifecta... a moron, an ass, and a shameful plagerist... in other words he stole (I'm sorry incorporated the brief) into his base briefing.... the problem was that he couldn't brief it which led to questions that he couldn't answer that led to further questioning that became very uncomfortable...

    The problem obviously was.... the slides....

    The guidance... rework the slides so that three turns into one... and so that the slide "stands on its own" and doesn't require further clarification from the briefer....

    I exagerate not...


    So I try, but of course, its literally impossible... I can make the slides stand on their own in 6-7 slides, but not one... physics being what it is... combining three slides into one makes the slide more complex not simpler (but i digress)...

    Thankfully, the previous senior leader (still in the organization) happened past my work station where he found me with head in hands... after I had explained the task and the previous iterations with the current moron in charge... he directed me to follow him and we marched directly across the street to my nemises office where he explained that the task assigned was not possible and that he'd be happy to write out the talking points he used in conveying the ideas contained in the slides...

    As grateful as I was... I knew a tactical engagement had been won at the expense of my strategic reserve... the next 6 months were... arduous... until the next general in the chain of command decided to pull me onto his personal staff....

    And what happened of the "Wanting Senior Leader"... he was placed in command of a lesser Divsion....

    PowerPoint is not inherently evil... but in the hands of lesser intellects its downright lethal

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  4. #24
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Don't forget multiple builds for dramatic effect leading to a decision!

    I once had a young author tell me --after I had taken his PPT show and turned it into a coherent article--that "power point" was "his canvas" and that he could not "work" in mere Word.

    Personally I believe CPOF and Google Earth have had similar effects on planning, assessments, and situational understanding but hey, I am a dinosaur. I still think one should be able to read a map and use a compass.

    Tom

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    Don't forget multiple builds for dramatic effect leading to a decision!

    I once had a young author tell me --after I had taken his PPT show and turned it into a coherent article--that "power point" was "his canvas" and that he could not "work" in mere Word.

    Personally I believe CPOF and Google Earth have had similar effects on planning, assessments, and situational understanding but hey, I am a dinosaur. I still think one should be able to read a map and use a compass.

    Tom
    That reminds me of the GPS Nav system our family bought about six months ago. I've noticed it made me lazy and dumb about how to get to different places since I didn't have to think about it, just follow along like a lemming (kind of like how my cell phone has made me lazy about remembering phone numbers). Now I only use the GPS on road trips to estimate time-of-arrival and to find specific stores/restaurants in unfamiliar terrain.

  6. #26
    Council Member Jason Port's Avatar
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    Default It's all been said but not everybody's said it

    In the spirit of not repeating what has all been said, the one hammer statement is on point. However, I am seeing the other Office tools be used in similar fashion. Access Databases and Excel files are being created because we have failed to keep systems up with the enemies pace. Excel is being used for funding because we don't know how to make work compute formulas. Microsoft designed each tool for a purpose, and the DoD has taken each and whored it to the maximum extent possible.

    The most important thing we could do is demonstrate to commanders how Office could work effectively, and then enforce it. Imagine - read aheads in Word, briefings in PowerPoint, and computations in Excel - Incredible.
    Last edited by Jason Port; 07-13-2009 at 03:32 PM. Reason: typo in subject
    "New knowledge is the most valuable commodity on earth. The more truth we have to work with, the richer we become."

    - Kurt Vonnegut

  7. #27
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    No kidding! Down at the ROTC level I've seen our staff meeting explode from a 2 page agenda under a previous commander (and that was for a meeting held roughly every 2-3 weeks) to a 37(!) slide "presentation" for a WEEKLY meeting. Of those 37 slides, at least half are repeats of information presented on another slide (often the one right before). We're at the point now where we have almost one slide for each cadet in the program (.74 slides for each cadet). Some weeks more time gets spent updating those slides than is spent planning or executing programs for the cadets....

    What we've seen is a tool morphing into a process. Ppt no longer supports decisions in some cases, it BECOMES the decision as folks opt for the flashier presentation over actual content and substance. Then it turns into a game of who can cram the most bells and whistles into a ppt slide as opposed to using the slide to support actual discussion and comment. God forbid anyone actually thinks when the lights go down and the slides flash on the screen....
    Last edited by Steve Blair; 07-13-2009 at 02:42 PM. Reason: added stuff...
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
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  8. #28
    Registered User mikekuhn's Avatar
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    Another dangerous side effect of PowerPoint - not only are decisions being made from slides, units are sometimes expected to execute tasks from slides instead of receiving actual orders. I've seen this at the higher echelon staff level, and unfortunately participated in it myself.

  9. #29
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Yes!

    Quote Originally Posted by Jason Port View Post
    In the spirit of not repeating what has all been said, the one hammer statement is on point. However, I am seeing the other Office tools be used in similar fashion. Access Databases and Excel files are being created because we have failed to keep systems up with the enemies pace. Excel is being used for funding because we don't know how to make work compute formulas. Microsoft designed each tool for a purpose, and the DoD has taken each and whored it to the maximum extent possible.
    I have seen METLs done in Excel

    A sure indicator that the METL process has overtaken the reality of what it's supposed to do. GEN Chiarelli's article told folks but my suspicion is that Excel will continue to be used.

    That's just wrong. No unit needs that much specificity...

  10. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by Entropy View Post
    That's excellent, but what I really wanted is a decision brief on whether future decision briefs will continue to use Powerpoint XP or 2007.
    That has been pushed to next quarter. You didn't get the slides showing the changes to the long-range calendar?

  11. #31
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    Default Another war story

    I hate to add to the war stories, but since we're sharing...

    Every week I had to update a set of PP slides which included, among other things, color-coding our relationship with our supported command (?!). I don't know, sir, but I think we're "Green" on pointless.
    "The status quo is not sustainable. All of DoD needs to be placed in a large bag and thoroughly shaken. Bureaucracy and micromanagement kill."
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    "With a plan this complex, nothing can go wrong." -- Schmedlap

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  12. #32
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default Trees Falling in a Digital World; Communications Incommunicado

    One other curiosity is the need to print read ahead and table slides for the group. I might understand read ahead slides if there was something to read and I especially love the use of embedded video and sound to make the main point--that really jumps out of a paper slide.

    As for table slides, the big guns get full color single frame; the lesser lights get double slides as an eye test. The non-players of course have to look at the damn screen--which is what everyone is supposed to do.

    The tragedy in this is that it is killing written communications skills in the military and that in turn is killing verbal skills. I hear and see mission statements that are so garbled and jumbled with gerunds, passive voice, and useless helpers such as IOT (in order to --which means "to" and should be used sparingly for emphasis) that the actual mission gets lost.

    A mission statement in passive voice with no "by whom"...from SAMS grads!

  13. #33
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    This reminds me of the mercifully short stint that I did as a staff weiner. I was doing IO plans for a TF and had a PA guy who worked with me. He seemed unclear on what exactly he should be briefing to the commander during the daily update brief. My advice to him to was to write a succinct summary of the days events and put it into a draft e-mail, just in case. By "succinct" I meant only those items that the commander would care about and only in the depth that would not lose his attention, meaning less than one page. Then, add in a few blurbs about other stuff in case he asks. Then, during the brief, tell him the gist of it. If he wants the full in-depth version, the go back to your laptop after the brief, open the draft, and press "send." IF you need a slide or two as a visual during the brief, to get the point across, then go ahead and use one. If you don't need it, then don't bother. There is no rule (at least that I'm aware of) that says you NEED to make a slide in order to brief something (at least not in that task force). I think he made a grand total of 3 slides in the 5 or 6 months that we worked together. If that had any impact on his NCOER, it could only have been positive.

    I, on the other hand, used slides as a tool to keep people's attention. To many people, "IO" was just some weird staff billet that nobody knew much about that occasionally issued talking points. I had to not only brief the commander, but also educate the rest of the chain of command and staff. I was continually trying to convey what perceptions were out there among the populace, what this meant to us, and how to act upon them. But none of this is of any use if people don't pay attention or care. And when you're the 8th guy to brief out of a group of 10, people are not really in listening mode. So my slides were half content and half humor. After a month or so, you could actually see people kind of wake up and lean forward in their chairs when I began to stand up for my portion. Some of the humor may have been borderline unprofessional, much of it politically incorrect, but people paid attention and it helped me to get my points across and educate them. And the content on the slides really was necessary. Most people didn't even know what IO was prior to the deployment. I genuinely had to paint a picture for them.

  14. #34
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Now the BBC says

    An illustrated article 'The problem with PowerPoint' :http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8207849.stm and comes with nine slides.

    davidbfpo

  15. #35
    Council Member Infanteer's Avatar
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    This is an excellent thread, if for anything because it highlights the subtleties of how communications affect our ability to command and control units and soldiers.

    Quote Originally Posted by Greyhawk View Post
    Hammes is on target, but also cursing a hammer for people using it as a screwdriver. That's his choice of approach, a cautious one that avoids (beyond implying) placing blame where due. Much of what he describes (too many slides, too much data crammed onto one slide, etc.) is a mark of a bad briefer.
    Quote Originally Posted by Jason Port View Post
    However, I am seeing the other Office tools be used in similar fashion. Access Databases and Excel files are being created because we have failed to keep systems up with the enemies pace. Excel is being used for funding because we don't know how to make work compute formulas. Microsoft designed each tool for a purpose, and the DoD has taken each and whored it to the maximum extent possible.
    Agreed - having suffered through messing around with a 97 page ConOps brief and watching a very good LCol get caught up in silly little parts like the width of boxes left me with a bad taste in using power point for any part of operational planning process.

    However, as a Platoon Commander, I utlize Powerpoint to good effect as a tool to bring out discussions on somewhat dry doctrine. Finding good images and videos brings a discussion on "Ambush/Counter-Ambush" alive. However, I try to leave out words to simply the key points, so that Privates and Corporals can remember the fundamentals.

    The problem is when the program is abused. As Jason Port has highlighted, the entire suite of Microsoft Office is being pushed in a manner that simply creates nugatory staffwork (my new favorite word drawn from a Storr article). I've seen countless man-hours lost due to myself and my NCOs being caught up in filling Excel spreadsheets (my new nemesis) for tracking various things instead of training soldiers. Instead of being used for a simple calculation tool, it is used as a giant white board leaving the end user to sift through hundreds of cells to find the right ones to fill in (as opposed to simply saying "2 Pers have yet to submit their documentation....").

    The most important thing we could do is demonstrate to commanders how Office could work effectively, and then enforce it. Imagine - read aheads in Word, briefings in PowerPoint, and computations in Excel - Incredible.
    Yep - unfortunately all learning of essential computer programs to manage and plan within units is done by simply learning on one's own....

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    The tragedy in this is that it is killing written communications skills in the military and that in turn is killing verbal skills. I hear and see mission statements that are so garbled and jumbled with gerunds, passive voice, and useless helpers such as IOT (in order to --which means "to" and should be used sparingly for emphasis) that the actual mission gets lost.

    A mission statement in passive voice with no "by whom"...from SAMS grads!
    No kidding - I had "IOT" pushed into my head all throughout my training - "always remember the "IOT"!" The purpose was good - to have us all remember to explain why you're doing the friggin mission, but the IOT was simply fluff (the antithesis of good SD). My Company Commander has since beat IOT out of me with a red pen.

  16. #36
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    Default I loath ppt like the rest

    I could, and have written, pages on why powerpoint is the bane of Army existence. I have one point to show why it is unneccessary. The Taliban and Anti-Iraqi Forces have fought our coalitions in two countries to utter standstills. Yet, they don't have powerpoint, word or excel!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael C View Post
    I could, and have written, pages on why powerpoint is the bane of Army existence. I have one point to show why it is unneccessary. The Taliban and Anti-Iraqi Forces have fought our coalitions in two countries to utter standstills. Yet, they don't have powerpoint, word or excel!
    Well, they certainly have and use Word and Excel, not to mention database programs and others. In the public domain, the CTC has done an excellent of using captured electronic records to tell us some interesting things about both AQ and Iraqi insurgents. Long may they continue to use it!
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


  18. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael C View Post
    I could, and have written, pages on why powerpoint is the bane of Army existence. I have one point to show why it is unneccessary. The Taliban and Anti-Iraqi Forces have fought our coalitions in two countries to utter standstills. Yet, they don't have powerpoint, word or excel!
    As early as OIF III, I recommended that we distribute bootlegged copies of PowerPoint, in hopes that the enemy would use it and become as paralyzed and bureaucratic as us. The means by which I recommended doing this was leaving 5 or 10 copies with each enemy cache of explosives and ammunition that we find (rather than destroying it). Emplace a team to overwatch the cache. If a guy comes out carrying a bag full of explosives, shoot him. If he comes out carrying copies of PowerPoint, then let him go! Unfortunately, my suggestion went nowhere.

  19. #39
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    Default What if?

    If you have a blackbelt in powerpoint, intellect and the creativity of an artist you can use powerpoint to effectively project your story or points. If however you use powerpoint to dumb down a complicated subject to a few bullet statements which provide on context, then every ill thing said about powerpoint is true.

    While I agree with Tom's comment about being able to read a map, there is a powerful new information technology emerging in knowledge management called visual analytics, which I think will take decision briefs to a new level. It allows the briefer (or staff) to present and manipulate volumes of complex data visually in way that permits the audience to grasp complex relations without hours of study.

    Of course you'll have to have a graduate degree in this technology to effectively use it, but let's not trip over the mouse turds.

  20. #40
    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Default Well Shucks,

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post

    Of course you'll have to have a graduate degree in this technology to effectively use it, but let's not trip over the mouse turds.
    And here I thought I might have it figured out and you go and point out how I'm not gettin it cause m not edumacated enough

    Guess I'll just stick to drawin pretty pictures
    Last edited by Ron Humphrey; 08-30-2009 at 08:42 PM. Reason: caint even miss-pell right
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