Did you ever get that feeling that you’re producing more reports than you really need to? That those reports might not actually create as much value as they should?  Or that they might not even be read?

It has been said that if you want to find out if a report does not add value, just stop producing it -and wait and see who asks for it.  If nobody requests it, maybe it did not really add value in the first place.

Now, that’s a risky strategy.  But there is grain of wisdom to it.

We’ve seen organizations dedicate huge amounts of effort to creating, maintaining, updating and disseminating reports – all while they sense that this effort is not providing anything near a reasonable return on their investment.

Common symptoms:

  • Reports are created without a clear purpose, or desired outcome, thus becoming bloated with more information than required.  As a result, unnecessary information is collected, sorted, compiled, reviewed and published.
  • Reports are created for a purpose that doesn’t really need a report – like status updates, that may be shared with simpler, lighter methods such as visual management.
  • Report requests often do not have an end-date – they are produced into eternity without being reconsidered.
  • It’s easy to request a new report, but difficult to kill off an existing one.  In fact, processes to review and update, and consolidate reports simply don’t exist in many organizations.  This creates “bureaucratic bloating”.  We add new reports, but rarely if ever get rid of one – just in case it is needed one day.
  • Reporting processes take too long, and their products become stale and irrelevant to clients.

Solving all of this begins with:

  1. Identifying the client – who is the user of the report, and
  2. Identifying the specific purpose that the clients use it for – or as Clayton Christianson observed – “what job are they hiring it to do for them?” 

We once worked with a tribunal with a world-class research group that created reports that were used by adjudicators to make decisions in their hearing rooms.  

It was clear that their research reports were world-class:  tribunals in other countries would not create their own monthly research reports – they would simply link to this tribunal’s reports.  Imitation (or web-linking) is the sincerest form of flattery.

The problem was that this world-class research group was overwhelmed by a backlog of ad-hoc research requests, and unable to keep up.  

They investigated the two questions above:  

  1. Who is the user of the report?; and
  2. What purpose do they use it for?

It was easy to identify the report’s user:  the adjudicator in the hearing room.  

Less clear was the specific purpose they used it for.

We pulled together a focus group of adjudicators and provided them with samples of actual reports, and asked them a number of questions using a design-thinking approach.

It quickly became apparent that this world-class research group was producing information that was not being used. The clients identified that about 40% of the report they used frequently, and 60% of the report they never used.  Opportunity knocks.

The researchers immediately cut the 60% of the report that was never used.  This freed up significant capacity.  

They then did a pareto review (frequency review) of the ad-hoc question types coming in from adjudicators that were overwhelming them.  Many of these ad-hoc questions, when you studied the trends, were not actually ad-hoc questions:  these were questions whose answers should have been in the standard report, being asked many times over and being replied to each time at great cost in an ad-hoc (one-off) manner.

Armed with this information, the researchers added the top “ad-hoc” questions to the standard report for each country, and very quickly got their backlog down to a manageable working inventory.

Here’s the important learning:  had they tried to streamline their research and reporting processes without understanding client and purpose, they would simply have done the wrong thing faster, or have continued to do more than necessary, but faster.

In this content area, we cover:

  • Why reports are often over-delivered
  • The cost of over-delivery
  • Identifying report Outcomes to be Achieved or Jobs to Be Done
  • Creating an effective problem statement with your client
  • Reviewing existing products and identifying issues
  • Prototyping solutions
  • Testing solutions
  • Keeping your products in control with a solid development/review/testing/publication process
Techpoint. (2009, May 26). Innovation Summit ’09, Clayton Christensen (Clip #4, TechPoint) [Video] YouTube. https://youtu.be/s9nbTB33hbg


  • One-hour talk
  • Group/team multi-day training workshops (1 day, 2 days or 3 days)
  • Consulting engagements to work side-by-side with you to improve your ability to deliver less, but the right reports to your clients – or as a client of the reporting unit – to develop better, more focused requirements resulting in a product that takes a fraction of the time and effort to develop, while actually working once implemented.


  • In an informal focus group setting, review an existing report with your client.  Ask them:
    • What works well for you in this report?
    • What parts don’t work well for you?
    • What parts do you use? To accomplish what?
    • What parts don’t you use?
    • How would you do this report differently to better meet your needs?
  • Just an hour with a client may give you information that can save you days of effort and help meet their needs better.  It’s a great way to get started.