Communications at Work Creative Writing


Most reports contain some sort of extraneous data. In many cases, the report contains this data because the data has been gathered. There is a sense that if some data has been gathered, it should be presented, and let the user figure out what parts are relevant. This is perhaps a reasonable starting point, but at some point the user will have a sense of what is needed and what is not; at that point there is value in providing feedback so that the report can be structured with the specific needs of each user in mind.

Another area of fat on a report comes when people attempt to discuss context. Too often, this ends up being their context, not the context of the user. In many cases, the discussion merely repeats what the numbers already show, so there is no real added value to the text. I tend to prefer reports with a minimal amount of written work — just a very brief overview of what the numbers are, then give me the numbers. In my job, I should understand already what these numbers are that I am looking at, as this should be part of my training. It is like that for anyone within the organization. So the reports that I get generally reflect this view, but occasionally there is superfluous information in them. And certainly, I have worked places where no end of superfluous information is presented to me.

Management needs to be able to make decisions based on aggregate data. The reports that I would receive would provide direct feedback on my performance, and the other workers would receive the same. So for management, the challenge is to identify outlying performers. The good ones can be rewarded with higher raises, and given more challenging assignments that better make use of their skills. People who are underperforming would be selected for remedial action, and dramatic negative outliers would be removed from the company. Management, in that sense, mostly needs to focus on outliers in terms of productivity. There might be some part-timers who excel and should be receiving full-time hours, and those sorts of decisions.

Overall productivity numbers, given the large number of workers, should not change much over time, at least due to the efforts of the workers. The company should be able to track, however, workload levels, and adjust the workforce on that basis. There is a natural level of attrition, so where I worked adjusting the workforce mostly means allowing attrition to thin the workforce out a bit during slow times, and of course to hire more people when business is improving. The company has years’ worth of data that will allow it to know what the average performance floors and ceilings are, so it should be easily able to estimate the number of workers needed for a given level of demand.

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