Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A couple of final words on Excel


My latest column on UXmatters documents many of the procedures and tricks I have discussed here, plus it includes some useful examples and screen shots. I will also be demonstrating how to build and use an Excel-based Information Model at the STC-Atlanta August 19 meeting as part of a progression on project management.

I will also show how to use pivot tables at that meeting. Pivot tables rock!

Research and the value of iterative feedback

I just wrapped up teaching a research course at Southern Polytechnic State University. Students did their presentations last night and I was delighted! They had chosen real problems at work and used their projects to make data-driven decisions. What was interesting was how many of them had found that the data they collected and analyzed challenged their initial assumptions and biases. It was also my first opportunity to use the book I wrote with George Hayhoe. The course was on an abbreviated 8 week summer session schedule, and I was expecting the worst. Major assignments were due each week, such as proposals, annotated bibliographies, data analysis exercises, and sample surveys. But I used a teaching technique I have used before, and that is to allow multiple resubmissions of assignments until the students get it right, and then give them full credit when they do. It's not unlike my barbecue technique: Turn early; turn often. In both cases that approach has reduced the instances of burned meat and failed students. I wish I had used it when I was a people-manager. Errors and misunderstandings should be anticipated as the norm and viewed as coaching opportunities, not as aberrations to be punished.

And that's how we should use the Excel Information Model. It's not about "how did we get here (and whose fault is it)?" It's about "Where are we and what do we still have left?"

At any rate, congratulations to my students for all their hard work and the excellent results they got.

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