How to write a report (part two)

Remember last week’s post told you all about How To Write A Report?

To write a lush report you’ve got to remember not to just report numbers and facts but actually do some analysing because…

The purpose of analysis is insight, so find the insight and share the insight, that’s how to write a lush report.

And yes, that is thinkpurpose offering suggestions on how to write a paper document. Saying how to type documents excellently




This isn’t all there is to it…

So, writing reports. For decision-makers to make decisions from. What’s that all about then?
Things don’t make sense in themselves, they only make sense in the worldview in which they sit.
So what makes sense of pieces of paper called reports being ceremonially taken to important managers meetings?
Deming said, there’s no true knowledge without theory. We need to know the theory behind this.
Theory sounds boring but it is your thoughts about how the world works. It allows you to function in the world by knowing that if you do something then something else will happen as a result. It is made of IF and THEN.

IF something  happens, THEN something else will result.

Theory predicts. You wouldnt be asked to do a report unless somebody thought something would happen as a result.

So lets see the theory underlying how to write a report…



This is command and control!
[insert Sparta meme here].

There’s no other way round it, if you’re typing reports you’re a hand maiden of command and control.


I know I know, so sad. So what’s to do? Basically nothing. A well typed report containing an insight that answers a question posed by a decision maker probably isn’t going to change thinking because…

“…profound knowledge generally comes from outside the system and is only useful if it is invited and received with an eagerness to learn and improve.
A system cannot understand itself without help from outside the system, because prior experiences will bias objectivity, preventing critical analysis of the organization”  [link]

So your report can’t change the system, because it’s from inside it. A well written report going to a management meeting is unlikely to critique and improve the current thinking because it’s an essential part of it. Totally is single loop learning at best.

Insights! That is still the purpose of a report, to provide an insight on something that is happening within the system

In the case of C&C the best insight is the one that causes people to think about how C&C is working, but without saying that’s what you’re doing. It’s really hard, I certainly couldn’t tell you how to do it, but creating cognitive dissonance in people, making their heads feel bad enough through conflicting ideas, so much that they are provoked to think to resolve the situation…it could possibly provoke something. But highly unlikely to by itself, like most things, it requires an already inquisitive-and-disatisfied-with-C&C leader.

This is a different form of insight than intially talked about. It isn’t just an answer to the question originally posed, it critiques the actual question itself.

So, if asked to do a report, still go find the question, get the data, do the analysis, get the insight, hand in the report. And walk away. The learning, the curiousity and the potential for change do not lie in …
CaptureNo they do not.

They lie in what happened just right now 5 minutes ago.amazing
I went to buy a caramel slice from the cafe downstairs after a hard mornings Policying, and I saw a man reading a battered and well-read copy of The Whitehall Effect. Never seen anybody reading it, so I went up and asked him what he thought of it. He said approving things, about targets distorting purpose etc, and most important he said it made him think. Gave him some ideas for where he works in a core service.

I recommended Freedom From Command and Control and returned to my desk for more policying and insightful report writing.  What is more likely to change service for the customer for the better?


This entry was posted in change, command and control, learning, public sector, systems thinking, vanguard method and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s