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The Pyramid Principle: Logic in Writing and Thinking [Barbara Minto] on Amazon. com. Get your Kindle here, or download a FREE Kindle Reading App. Verdi Heinz deleted the Barbara Minto-The pyramid principle_ logic in writing and thinking -Pearson Education () (1).pdf attachment from [eBook] The. Barbara Minto Pearson Education Limited Edinburgh Gate Harlow, Essex CM20 2JE Tel: +44 (0) Fax: +44 (0)
Corporations should invest in all opportunities where probable returns exceed the cost of capital. Better quantification of future uncertainty and risk is the key to more effective resource allocation. Planning and capital budgeting are two separate processes; capital budgeting is a financial activity. Top management's role is to challenge the numbers rather than the underlying thinking. Now apparently these are the four misleading prescriptions that result from the traditional financial focus.
More specifically, they are commonly believed 'rules of thumb' in corporations. But are they? If you reword them as results, they say, to abbreviate them: Encourages corporations to invest. Emphasizes quantification of uncertainty. Separates plahning ahd capital budgeting. Leads top management to focus on the numbers, All but the third can now be seen as part of a process of decision making, which would dictate a different order, which in turn would lead to a clearer point at the top: The traditional financial focus of investment evaluation can result in poorresource allocation decisions: Emphasizes quantification of future uncertainty and risk as.
Leads top management to focus on the numbers rather than the underlying thinking. Encourages investment in all opportunities where probable returns exceed the cost of capital, ignoring other considerations.
Very often, however, you will find yourself with several kinds of ideas whose class membership is not that easy to see at first reading. Problems with sales and inventory systems reports: The trick is to go through and sort them into rough categories, as a prelude to looking more critically later.
You get the categories by defining the kind of problem they are discussing: Timing 1 Report frequency is inappropriate 3 Inventory data are too late Data 2 Inventory data is unreliable 4 Inventory data cannot be matched to sales data 6 People want elimination of meaningless data Format 5 People want better report formats 7 People want exception highlighting 8 People want to do fewer calculations manually.
You have a double ordering task here. First, in what order do you put timing, data, and format? That depends on the process you think they reflect. Here we have two possibilities: If you are talking about preparing the reports, you would complain first about the data, then about the format, then about the timing, because that is the order in which the preparer would deal with them. How about ordering the ideas in each grouping?
Under Timing, points 1 and 3 should probably be reversed, as you worry about lateness before you worry about frequency. Under Data, I should think you would complain first that a good deal of the data are meaningless, what is not meaningless is unreliable, and what is reliable can't be matched. Process order again. Under Format, points 7 and 8 would be subsets of point 5, with the 'fewer calculations' probably coming before the 'highlighting.
Here's another example: The causes of New York's decline are many and complex. Among them are: This is a good example of 'truism' in argument. What in effect the author is saying is: The problem with such 'for instancing' is that it cannot lead you logically to consider what you do about the problems.
As a partial list it communicates nothing, because you cannot draw a clear inference from it. Is there any message at all? Where can you see some similarities? Perhaps he means to be saying this: By pointing out what it does seem to be saying, you give the author the opportunity to rewrite it, to say more clearly what he does mean.
I want to give you just one more example. It is a very difficult one, in that it is almost a free association of points. However, given our technique it is relatively easy to work out.
And it does demonstrate that the author had a structure in his head before he began to write. He simply reflected his comprehension of it badly. It is written by someone in a soft-drinks manufacturing company that had decided to put its product into plastic rather than glass bottles. It could buy the plastic bottles on the outside, or it could create its own plastic bottle manufacturing capability.
This looks like a terrible mess, but the sorting process for fixing it would be the same as in other cases. First, go down the list and see why he is complaining about each point. Why is each one considered to be a bad thing? This will allow you to see some patterns.
If you impose the relevant points on such a tree, it is relatively easy to see what his message is: The borrowing point can be fitted into the tree if I add another layer below profits to make room for taxes and interest. I've left this out to make the technique easier to comprehend. If we try to put it all together, he appears to be saying: Now that you see what the message is, you can scrutinize the individual points to make sure they are properly supported.
I would guess they are not, only because I know that this particular company did go into the plastic bottle business and has made an immense success of it. What was left out of the author's thinking, apparently, was an assessment of the effect of plastic containers on the sales of the product. It is the imposition of the structure that permits you to see flaws and omissions.
To summarize, I have tried to demonstrate with all these examples that checking order is a key means of checking the validity of a grouping.
With any grouping of inductive ideas that you are reviewing for sense, always begin by running your eye quickly down the list. Are they indeed all from the same source: Are they all in logical order: Once you know the grouping is valid, you are in a position to draw a logical inference from it, as explained in Chapter 9. By forcing themselves actually to visualize the structure, they can match their points to it.
Thus, they can check not only that the points are in the right order, but also that all those that should be included are included. In the particular example I gave, the structure was that of a Department responsible for building and maintaining a state highway system. Once you saw the match between its activities and the ideas in the grouping, the proper order became obvious. The document from which the grouping was taken came from a consulting firm, and is known as a Letter of Proposal.
Such letters spell out for a prospective client what his problem is and how the consulting firm proposes to go about solving it. If the proposal is accepted, the consulting firm will then carry out the analyses required to solve the problem and write a report embodying its findings, conclusions, and recommendations. Coming up with those findings, conclusions, and recommendations requires the creation and use of a number of analytical structures. These structures, in turn, must be referred to in checking the order and completeness of the ideas generated by them.
Those of you who write documents that detail the results of problem solving, whether in consulting or in business, may find it useful to review the general problem-solving process and some of the analytical structures associated with it, as a basis for looking critically at what is said.
The problem-solving process Ideally, problem solving begins with problem setting - i. When you identify a problem, essentially what you do is recognize that a particular situation yields a specific result. Is it the structure of the brain?
Is it our genetic makeup? Changing the result in the first instance calls for the application of routine problem-solving skills. Finding the explanation in the second demands the somewhat more creative hypothesizing of scientists and inventors.
I am talking here about routine problem solving. See the Appendix for a discussion of creative problem solving. This process has been described in a number of different, sometimes conflicting, ways. The simplest, most practical description I have seen was set out by my friend B.
According to Holland, the process consists of answering a series of questions in logical sequence: Whatshould we do aboutit? The answer to each question must be structured visually before you can be said fully to understand what you have found. Let me take you through the sequence using a simple example, and then show you how creating the structures required at each stage can aid you in writing clearly about your results.
In doing so, let me point out that I recognize that you may in fact not go about problem solving in this clean, compelling manner. The problem situation you face can be very murky, and information can come at you in a random way, in a variety of misleading or overwhelming forms.
And you always have the personalities of the people with whom you are working to consider. What I am advocating, however, is that when you sit down to put your thoughts in order prior to writing, you try to force an analytical structure on your findings and conclusions.
The example I will use is this: Suppose that you are a cigarette manufacturer and you discover that the productivity of the machines in Department A is lower than the productivity of the machines in all your other departments - i. The problem is that you do not like the result. But that is not a complete definition of the problem. To what precisely do you object? How will you know when the problem is solved?
In effect, what question do you want your analysis to answer? What you want to do here is to try to create a clear image of exactly what you mean. You may have to gather some data in order to answer the question, but it should be easily available.
For example, this particular company measured its machines in terms of productive hours per day, and the figures were available for each machine. The useful image, then, would probably be some visualization between the good performers and the poor ones. Now you can say to yourself, 'We're losing 2 hours of productivity a day. What I want to know is what is causing those lost hours? Or more specifically, how do I eliminate the causes of lost hours?
Next you gather the data that will allow you to picture the situation within which the problem occurs - i. This will enable you to isolate all the possible ways in which lost hours of production could be caused. These are the possibilities that you must investigate.
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In creating a useful structure of the situation, you are trying to show how the elements in the situation relate functionally and interact as a system to accomplish a specific purpose.
Sometimes these relationships are not at all obvious, so that to diagram them you must first do a good deal of digging. Keep digging until 1 you are sure you have identified all the parts in the system, 2 you can arrange them in sequential order, and 3 you can clearly show inputs and outputs. Why does the problem exist? The overall structure of the situation will indicate a number of directions in which your analysis can proceed.
In our cigarette example we know we can gather facts that let us judge whether the machines were without raw material, or without maintenance, etc. In more complex situations, however, you will have to probe more deeply into both the things and the processes that make up the structure.
You will be trying to make clear the components of each, their importance to each other, and how they change over time. A number of analytical structures have been developed that permit you to initiate this probing and display its results so that they can be thought about productively.
I will talk about several of the most useful of these in the next section. Clearly, in these more complex situations you will also have to be selective. Not all possibilities are likely to prove equally important in solving the problem. Consequently, you will have to make a judgment early on about which areas deserve the greatest concentration of effort. Such judgments can only be based on experience in the industry or in solving similar problems, and are thus generally made by senior members of the consulting staff.
Once the situation has been visualized and analyzed, so that you know why the problem exists, you have a good idea of what needs to be changed.
However, there may appear to be alternative ways to change, each of which derives logically from the structure of the activity under study. They must now be tested to determine which way most effectively creates the desired result.
In our cigarette company example, the problem turned out to be that the operators were not 'tuning up' their machines properly, which in turn was the result of inadequate training by their superiors.
How could one go about improving the supervision, then? Which course of action makes most sense depends on its feasibility and on its likelihood of success on its benefits and risks, if you like , which must be thoroughly assessed before you choose.
In making the decision to choose one alternative over the next, you must be able to visualize the new situation with the change implemented. Creating this picture should suggest to you the additional changes that must be made to accommodate it, and once again highlight the points that need analysis and verification before you make a final recommendation.
With the numerical consequences clear, you next want to explore the risks involved in achieving them. Risks in this context would generally be of three kinds: Should it look as though the choice is very risky for any one of these reasons, you would want to stop considering it as an alternative. What this section has been saying is that before you can legitimately advise someone on how to change an undesirable result, you must have defined clearly five things: You can see that completion of Step 1 tells you not only how to direct your analysis of the problem, but also how to write your introduction.
It identifies the question your report must be structured to answer. Steps 2 and 3 identify the major analyses that must be completed before you can formulate recommendations to answer the question.
Thus, in looking critically at the draft of a report, you will want to make sure first that the introduction reflects a clear definition of the problem, and then that the findings and conclusions derive from appropriate analytical structures. Chances are that you will find glaring omissions in both cases.
Defining the problem As I noted earlier, the likelihood is that you will not have done your problem solving in quite the neat and tidy way described, particularly where you face very complex problem situations.
The difference between the two. The ease with which re-creating these structures can help you decide what to say in your introduction and how to set up your pyramid may amaze you. To demonstrate that ease, let's look at the introduction shown in Exhibit 34, DDT: The DDT system Here we have an extremely densely written text. What it says is approximately as follows: You recommended more technical studies. We have been looking at the. This is because technology is rapidly developing that could permit electronic document delivery.
Even if the graphs are correct when put in the book, however, the presenter causes another problem. He may arbitrarily decide to change it to show a clearer or more desirable trend line.
In such cases, he does not inform the staff group of the change. Since the system for producing one of them utilizes the computer to gather data, the department head has reasoned that it could be used to gather data for the others. PBG System 1 2 Computer calculates data points for graph Enter internal computer sheets in computer 3 4 5 Colour graphics puts on input sheets Enters in their computer Computer generates graph Consequently, he has decided he wants a system like this: J File , He has asked his assistant to write a memorandum to their boss, who knows about the problem, to explain the changes needed to correct it.
The result is the document shown in Exhibit The document says roughly this: Without access to the author, we cannot judge what he means by 'Information not adequately considered in making projections. Once you have a clear mental image, you can straightaway translate it into a clear English sentence, which your reader can just as straightforwardly interpret and absorb. And he has the additional advantage of being able to store this knowledge in his memory in image form.
By rescuing the image from the words, the reader is able not only to transfer the knowledge in large chunks, which are more efficient for his mind to process, but also to transfer it as a vivid impression, which makes it easier to recall. To quote a kinsman of mine, Professor William Minto, who lived in a more leisured era: No matter how large or how involved the subject, it can be communicated only in that way. You see, then, what an obligation we owe to him of order and arrangement - and why, apart from felicities and curiosities of diction, the old rhetorician laid such stress upon order and arrangement as duties we owe to those who honor us with their attention.
Our theory has been that the solution of the problem will always lie in tinkering with the structure as indeed it will if the problem is that we do not like the result the structure is yielding. However as I mentioned, there is another kind of problem situation where the problem is not that you don't like the result but rather that you can't explain it. You can't explain it for one of three reasons: It is possible that you may confront one of these structureless situations in the course of an ordinary problem-solving assignment.
Although such situations require a higher level of visual thinking than we have been discussing, you will be pleased to know that the reasoning process employed is very similar. What is required is simply another form of Abduction - a name coined by Charles Sanders Peirce in to describe the process of problem solving.
In calling it Abduction he hoped to emphasize the affinity of problem-solving thinking with Deduction and Induction.
Let me explain the difference between the two forms of Abduction, and show you how to use the second. Peirce's insight was that in any reasoning process you always deal with three distinct entities: The way in which you can consider yourself to be reasoning at any one time is determined by where you start in the process and what additional fact you know. To illustrate the differences: Deduction Rule: Result If we put the price too high, sales will go down.
We have put the price too high.
The Minto pyramid principle
Therefore, sales will go down. We have put the price up. Sales have gone down. The reason sales have gone down is probably that the price was too high.
logic in writing, thinking, and problem solving
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