Management reports remind me of the peephole in my front door. I seldom see anything I recognize.
Management reports are backward-looking documents, rehashing the recent past. Often used as part of a roll-up, by people charged with repeating others’ reports, usually without understanding them. (See GIGO)
At best, they represent 90 minutes of diversion condensing the last 50 hours/30 days/90 days of work.
Worse is a response of “Let’s discuss,” which turns into hours of the dance of gray fantasy, “Tell me what you want, I’ll agree.” A smart economist told me last month, “You don't torture a dataset until it confesses.”
If the right answers were available, don’t you think I’d have put ’em in there? I wrote one of these reports last week.
Ever notice that when the right answers are available, they are no longer worthy of the report? We’ve already moved to a next stage.
“Just checking, did we get through the next gate when I wasn’t paying attention?” It’s a management fantasy, like being on a cruise ship and waking up in a new port.
If you weren’t going to use management reports to reverify known history again, or trying to change reality to observers’ preconceptions, what might you do?
I’ve always found management reports are light on senior commitments, “When I come down the trail, hotly pursued by the entire population of hostiles, you’re sure you will have that skyhook rented and ready?”
“I assure you, we’ll really try our best!”
Or what about celebration? The middle of a project can get kind of dreary, or it can be wonderful. That’s up to manglement. Which do you think gets you better work product?
Heck, something good must have happened, otherwise how will we remember what good is?
If you’re just going to roll up your GIGO, how about supplying some top down information that improves strategy, speed, or safety? Best practices are either blindingly obvious or they’re fiction. Best practices are hard work, a lot like blogging, and that’s why we pay the top guys the big bucks.
How would you improve this list?