Are they really that difficult?

Sue got in touch with me as she had been asked to create and maintain the “organograms” for the company she works for. It is a large multi-national organisation with plants all over the world, so the charts would be quite complex.

“I’ve no experience of using Microsoft PowerPoint and my colleagues are telling me that modifications to an existing chart are a nightmare”.

That didn’t match up with my experience of working with Organisation Charts in PowerPoint, so we arranged a session together to explore the possibilities.

Using SmartArt

To start with, I knew that the SmartArt feature in PowerPoint was specifically designed to do all the “heavy lifting” for you, so that was the route to take.

Choosing [Insert / Illustrations] – SmartArt from the Ribbon leads to this dialog box:


The Basic Chart

I’ve highlighted the Heirarchy category, and chosen the diagram at the top left.  Clicking OK creates a basic chart.

Note the following:

  1. The starting point has an Executive position at the top, an Assistant working for the CEO, and three Managers.
  2. These shapes (and the text within them) can all be altered, add to or removed to get the chart that you require
  3. Although it is perfectly possible to work with the shapes themselves, the real efficiency savings come from manipulating the Text Pane.  [This is seen at the left of the following illustration – underneath “Type your text here“]

If you can’t see the Text Pane, click on the SmartArt and choose [Design / Create Graphic] – Text Pane:


Using the Text Pane

It is really quite easy to use the Text Pane to alter the basic chart.  Crucially – because this is a piece of SmartArt  – when you add extra shapes, everything else is re-sized and re-positioned automatically.

Here is what I did – (remember that I’m doing all of this in the Text Pane, I’m not touching the diagram itself):

  • First, I clicked in the CEO line, then typed “The Boss“.
  • Pressing Down Arrow got me into the Assistant line.
    Once there, I pressed Backspace twice to remove that shape from the diagram.
  • Down Arrow again put me in the line for the first Department name.
    That is where I typed “SALES“.
  • Here comes the clever bit…
    … making sure I had clicked at the end of the word “SALES”, I pressed Enter
    … this created a fourth Department, but by pressing Tab immediately, I demoted the Shape to become a member of Staff…
    … then I could type “Fred“.
  • Now, every time I pressed the Enter key, I created another member of the Sales department.

Knowing that, it all becomes quite straight forward – use arrow keys to move between the Shapes; press Enter to create a new Shape; press Tab to demote (or Shift+Tab to promote).  All the while, the SmartArt feature is re-sizing and re-positioning things.

[I’ve made the illustration below look pretty by using one of the SmartArt Styles and a choice from the Change Colors list]


I want more control

You may be thinking – “I’m not happy with PowerPoint doing all the formatting for me“.

Fair enough – I would probably agree with you.  In this next illustration I’ve given each member of staff a Job Title.  Pressing Shift+Enter is the way to get a new line within a Shape.

I’ve also reduced the Font Size and made everyone’s name Bold.  I actually preferred to do this bit in the diagram itself, using standard techniques to highlight the text I wanted to change (not forgetting to hold down the Ctrl key to select multiple items).

The point is that I would only do this after all the Shapes that make up the Organisation Chart are in place.  If you set (say) a Font Size manually and then add new Shapes, the text won’t re-size automatically.


Was Sue Happy?

Only about ten minutes into our session Sue said she was “Over the Moon”.  Her colleagues had told her that modifying an Organisation Chart in PowerPoint involved lots of tedious effort dragging Shapes to the correct place and re-doing the connecting lines between them.

That is just not the case.  My guess is that these people began their use of PowerPoint before SmartArt was introduced and didn’t realise its potential benefit when it arrived.

How about you?  Are there areas of the program you would like to explore.  Contact me via to organise a session.