A famous scene in the cult classic Office Space shows the protagonist Peter Gibbons being reminded by multiple colleagues and layers of management about a missing cover sheet for his “TPS Report.” The scene was meant to satirize both the superfluous levels of oversight within many organizations and the insignificance of many reporting requirements.
In a 2012 article for Fast Company, Lisa Bodell cites a study of U.S. and European companies by The Boston Consulting Group, which found that “over the past fifteen years, the amount of procedures, vertical layers, interface structures, coordination bodies, and decision approvals needed … has increased by anywhere from 50 percent to 350 percent” and that “managers spend 40 percent of their time writing reports and 30 percent to 60 percent of it in coordination meetings.”
Excessive reporting often occurs because at some point, there was a valid reason to create a report on some activity, but either the report was poorly crafted relative to its purpose in the first place or its usefulness has long since passed and people are too cautious or apathetic to suggest its discontinuation.
In a way, these reports are like new taxes. Once they are implemented—regardless of the duration of their stated necessity—they seldom go away.
Is It Time to Review Your Reporting Requirements?
But all that extra reporting takes time away from other valuable activities. If you have employees putting off productive work because they are scrambling to complete that report by 5 p.m. to avoid getting scolded, you may have an organizational problem on your hands.
Additionally, there are many reports that people spend a lot of time creating that nobody ever reads! The reports are effectively created for the sake of creating them, but then they just go into a black hole.
Your employees have enough real work to do in their day-to-day activities. Why waste their time and sap their energy with meaningless and often superfluous reports that few people read anyway? In a follow-up post, we’ll discuss some tips for identifying which reports should be kicked to the curb.