December 11, 2005

Reports, useless reports and more useless reports! Is corporate life all about making and reading reports that hardly make any sense? Well what will you say if someone makes reports for October in December. Then a high level team, comprising of senior level people, sits over it and reviews it for one full day. So we had some problems one-and-a-half months back and we have just started to analyze it. Great!

People talk a lot about keeping things simple in business. But how simple they are really making it? Here come reports to make complex things simple. One report, then another, one more and it goes on till infinity. Great job, you now have a complex network of reports to keep things simple. And how do you manage the complex network of your reports. Simple, you just make a checklist that runs into pages with a list of all reports that are part of this complex network. Then you make it further simple. You hire a full time person to keep this checklist with him all the time and roam from cubicle to cubicle and cabin to cabin whole day following up on reports and putting a tick mark on the checklist when a precious report lands in his hand. Isn’t it so simple? Aha! This is not finished yet. Once all the reports of the checklist are collected, you have a 100 page bunch, which is good enough to put to sleep an insomniac in 5 minutes flat. KISS (Keep it simple, silly).

And one thing I just forgot. There are not only checklists and various reports. In between there are REPORT INDEX and REPORT SUB-INDEX for each of the reports mentioned in the checklist. Well, I am sorry my mental capacity is not big enough to explain the intricacies of INDEX and SUB-INDEX. In fact, I am confused and still trying to understand why there are INDEX and SUB-INDEX and why every bullet mark and numbering scheme has to be exactly same as that on the holy INDEX and SUB-INDEX.

My experience tells me that one of the biggest reasons for managerial inefficiency is reports. I am not saying that reports are bad. I am just saying useless reports are bad. The purpose of making any report is to analyze something and take action for prompt resolution of issues. But how many times we do that? The standard practice seems to be making reports for the sake of making it or for the sake of sending it to Managing Director or whoever matters. So there are reports which not only waste the precious time of managers but also the precious A4 sheets of the organization (Mr. CFO, please take note as you have a valid case for cost cutting here). Why these reports are there in the first place? Because some hot shot moron thought that it would make sense.

There are other reports which are great and can provide excellent business insights. But the problem is that these are made and studied 30-60 days late. By that time the problem has either become sufficiently old and very likely more chronic or totally irrelevant. It is no surprise that these reports are not of much value because of faulty handling and delay in making and studying. So you make a great report late and then people act on it late. Anyway, it is useless by then. Wastage of time isn’t it?

Many sane people in organizations understand these things and admit that too much of reports are making things messy, complex, and unproductive. But if that is the case, why don’t they change the system? Not an easy task. It’s like asking, “Who will bell the cat”?


  1. anurag // December 13, 2005 at 9:35 PM  

    Dear M

    U forgot to include the enormous waste of stationery and manpower in generating these silly(read of no use) reports.



  2. Mayank Krishna // December 14, 2005 at 12:05 AM  

    @Anurag: I didn't forget yaar. If you read closely you will notice that I have mentioned something about A4 sheets and telling the CFO about a valid case for cost cutting exercise :-)In the same line I have also mentioned wastage of time of managers in making these reports.