I once had an efficiency consultant tell me that he went into an office looking for a ruler left out on someone’s desk. This was a sure sign that person received one or more reports that were so large and so complex, it was necessary to lay a ruler across the report in order to read it properly. These “ruler reports” were the first candidates to be redesigned and replaced.

Ruler reports do not lead to effective decision making. In fact, the confusion they create can lead to poor or even incorrect decisions. Equally damaging, ruler reports slow down the decision making process because of time dedicated to deciphering the content. Ruler reports are not effective data visualizations.

The following guidelines for creating effective data visualizations will help you eradicate ruler reports in your organization.