We’ve previously discussed the fact that a great deal of time is often wasted with superfluous and often unread reports. Many times, these reports are implemented at a point in time when they are legitimately needed; however, the reports may have been poorly created, or their usefulness may have waned or disappeared altogether.
Citing a report from The Boston Consulting Group in an article for Fast Company, Lisa Bodell writes, “What’s more, in the most complicated organizations, ‘managers spend 40 percent of their time writing reports and 30 percent to 60 percent of it in coordination meetings.’ No wonder people feel like they can never get any real work done.”
But even if we acknowledge we have a lot of worthless reports, it can be hard to know which reports to keep and which to kick to the curb. Here, we’ll provide some tips on how to identify those that aren’t truly needed.
Take Stock of the Reports
You may be surprised at the number of reports your team is submitting. There may be some you were entirely unaware of. Ask the members of the team to compile a list of EVERY report they fill out on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual basis.
Who’s Using the Reports?
Once you have a list of the reports that are being generated, ask around to find out who is using the reports and for what. A tool like Survey Monkey could be useful to track this. Ask people to be honest (the goal isn’t to get someone in trouble for not reading reports—it’s to improve efficiency).
Try to Determine the Original Purpose of the Report
This may be difficult, particularly for long-standing reports that may have been the brainchild of someone no longer in the organization. But to the extent possible, see if you can determine what problem the report was originally intended to address. Just because nobody is reading the report doesn’t mean there’s no reason to. This step will help prevent disregarding reports too quickly.
Gradually Put Reports ‘On Hold’
Put those unused or barely used reports on hold. We say “put on hold” instead of “discontinue” to allow time to gauge the impact of stopping the reports. If they are weekly reports, try not to have anyone submit them for a couple of months.
If they are monthly reports, go for 6 months or 1 year. If there is no impact, you can decide to discontinue entirely. If people realize they really are missing those reports, you can resume requiring them.
It’s extremely refreshing to get rid of the obligation to submit a useless report. Some reports may be useful but currently ineffective. In our next post on this topic, we’ll talk about how to revamp existing reports to make them more impactful.
The more efficient you can be, the better your bottom line will look. At our upcoming Workforce L&D 2019 conference, we’ll cover how L&D can be used to support organizational agility.