One of the people who wrote to me over the festive season was Mark. He asked ‘why when we need a decision on anything do we have to write a report instead of pitching to the Leadership Team in person?’
That opened up a whole new can of worms. I’ve never really thought about it (at least recently) and so it was a great question. Why do we always rely upon reports? There must be a reason other than we’ve always done it that way or that is how local government works. I must admit that I found it odd when I first joined the public sector to see the reliance upon report writing. My former Chief Executive told me how he hadn’t written a report for ages and so it must have been something he had been used to doing. Often! I’ve gone native though over the last twelve years and have forgotten that is was different.
What has intrigued me isn’t whether or not we should write reports but rather are we missing something by insisting upon them. Perhaps in the first place I should start with some defence of the written report however. They are a tried and trusted way of getting complex issues across to a wide audience. They can be read over and over again to squeeze out every ounce (gram?) of detail and can act as a permanent reminder of what was considered and agreed. They can also be read by people outside of the decision making process which adds transparency and hopefully some trust to the process. So reports seem like a good thing all round.
Yet the issue we need to consider is ‘does the quality of the report affect the quality of the decision?’ In other words could it be possible to make a bad decision based upon a good report or miss a good opportunity on the back of a badly written report. What about all those people with great ideas who struggle to write reports?
Having been around for some time I am aware that people are different. Some people ae good with language while others are not. Some can put pen to paper and tell a good story while others flounder. So how do we make sure that those whose report writing skills are not as proficient as others to bring forth their ideas?
I might like to tell of my ideas through stories while others might prefer a presentation. Some may be more comfortable having a chat over a cup of tea and a biscuit while some may wish to use the medium of song.
Perhaps it would be better for people with ideas to pitch them in whatever way they feel comfortable. Once enough people have bought in to it, then the report can be written.