Microsoft’s Executive Dashboard… Magnifying Glass Required

Organizations have a personality, and it bleeds into everything from executive reporting to product offerings. A recent Fortune article entitled Microsoft without Gates offers this wonderful tidbit about Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft:

Even though he never was a serious computer programmer, by all accounts Ballmer is just as good at math as Gates is. He lives and breathes data. “Steve has a computer in his head,” says Bob Muglia, a 20-year company man who heads the Server and Tools division. Ballmer expects his subordinates to be adept in math as well. He distributes 11-by-17 sheets filled with numbers detailing the progress of various operations. The numerals are so small that executives use transparent magnifier rulers to see them. But there are never any columns showing percentage changes. Ballmer believes people ought to do that in their heads. It saves space on the paper for more numbers.

Wow. If it is as bad as the author describes, Ballmer has designed the anti-dashboard.

The Presentation Zen blog offers another great example of organization culture as displayed in business artifacts:

Gates here explaining the Live strategy. A lot of images and a lot of text...Good graphic design guides the viewer and has a clear hierarchy or order so that she knows where to look first, second, and so on. What is the communication priority of this visual? It must be the circle of clip art, but that does not help me much.

Does it get more "Zen" than this? "Visual-Zen Master," Steve Jobs, allows the screen to fade completely empty at appropriate, short moments while he tells his story.