Be ready to show your work at any minute

201512-projector-file00070258661I facilitated part of a meeting yesterday. I planned to show a couple of analytical tools that I built…tools that helped us manage some of our forecasts.

I didn’t plan to show some of the other, preliminary tools I built. I used these preliminary tools to build the models themselves. But the preliminary tools were intended for my eyes only.

As circumstance would have it, I ended up showing one of the preliminary tools as well. It helped me explain why the final models looked and acted the way they did.

What was my lesson? To be ready to show my work at any minute, even if it’s

  1. Stuff I think people will never see, or
  2. Stuff I think I’ll have more time to polish.

You never know when a stakeholder, or your manager, or an executive, will stop by and ask to see what you’re working on. The more realistic case is they ask you a question about something you’re doing. Then, to answer their question clearly and succinctly, you have to show them your work.

You won’t anticipate these circumstances. But they’ll occur, and you’ll want to put your best foot forward.

I’m not arguing that you should spend a bunch of time making the stuff you do look unnecessarily pretty. I am arguing, though, that you should

  • Keep your work organized and legible,
  • Include plenty of whitespace,
  • Use descriptive titles,
  • Draw borders to group similar items,
  • And take notes so you know why you made certain decisions.

You’ll never know when this stuff will come in hand. It takes little time to do. It’ll help eliminate clutter and focus your thinking, even if you never show it to anyone else.

As you make your transition from a technical career path to a business path, you’ll encounter new scenarios. You’ll face new challenges. The techniques above will make the transition smoother, and might even help you impress someone that can accelerate your career development.

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