Friday, June 14, 2013

It's a Bullet Point World

No doubt you have concluded that I must be least a baby boomer. That I am, and so much has changed in the day-to-day work environment compared to when I was a young manager.

No, I'm not going to decry the "good old days" because so many of the changes have been for the better. I don't miss the rolls of stinky fax paper that connected my office with what was then called the Bureau of Biologic (BOB) for batch releases. I don't miss the tedious manual culling through records to compile data and slide rule calculations. The digital age of computers and the Internet provides instant communication and analysis.

Today I compose my own emails rather than dictating to my secretary. Oh, right---that's another change. There are no secretaries anymore. I don't even think the term administrative assistant is used much anymore.

But it's all good. Well---mostly.

In my opinion, the biggest loss is that we live in a bullet point world. There appears to be less time to think, reflect and defend our conclusions.

When was the last time you heard: "I will study the issue and prepare a paper that summarizes the situation, the problem that is created, the implications and recommendations." Nowadays, there seems to be far less individual reflection. There are no writers. There is no legacy of our thinking and obtaining knowledge. At best we capture decisions in minutes that were made by the most vocal team member through a process of flip charts and stick notes. Then it all gets reduced to a few bullet points in a PowerPoint for consumers of information who are just as happy with pre-digested information so they don't have to spend any energy chewing.

Perhaps I have sat through one too many management meetings where the multi-tasking members are looking at their computer screens or smartphones and barely paying attention. The presenter is delivering information on an important subject that is reduced to a handful of bullet points to folks that have an attention span of a two-year old. Someone clearly bored asks,"What's the bottom line?"

For me, it is just as important to know how a person or a team came to a conclusion, not just the final answer or recommendation. The thinking. The reflection. The debate. The struggles.

This is particularly important for the quality assurance professional. If you are sitting on the site senior leadership board and receiving important information that has a regulatory compliance and/or a product quality implication, you really need to understand the caliber of thinking that went into the presentation you are receiving.

The temptation is far too great in our fast-paced, next-agenda-item-please world to accept the dribble of bullet points, particularly if it's exactly what you want to hear.

So, the next time you hear a presentation on a significant topic, be sure to ask questions. Dig into the ways and means that the conclusion was derived. Get into their head so that you can have confidence in the conclusion. You may surprise the presenter who was hoping no one was paying attention.

The QA Pharm

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