It's Clear, But Is It Meaningful?

Price, quality, turnaround time . . . pick any two.

—Sign posted in many a print shop's scheduling department

Up to this point in Painting with Numbers, we've focused only on presenting understandable numbers: how to put them on the page and to deliver them in a way that your audience can grasp and appreciate them. Clarity in your quantation is important, but clarity alone is only half the job. To make your quantation valuable and meaningful to your audience, you need to have a sense of what decisions the people in your audience are facing, what problems they are facing, how they think about these decisions and problems, and your own ultimate goals in preparing your report(s).

Making your reports meaningful is vitally important to fulfilling your duty as a quantation professional. To accomplish this, you need to understand your organization and its mission deeply enough so that your understanding corresponds to the depth of your audience's understanding. You must also recognize that delivering good quantation is rarely a get-it-right-the-first-time endeavor. It is always an iterative process.

The War of the Adjectives

When you are preparing a report (or a whole reporting package), there are several adjectives you naturally would like to be true about what you prepare. You want it to be:

  • Complete
  • Accurate (or precise)
  • Useful

Unfortunately, all three of these adjectives are in conflict with each other. All three of these adjectives are ...

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