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Value Creation Blog

Stop Writing Long Reports

Posted by Josh Patrick

scrollYou can add long business plans, long marketing plans, long job descriptions; you get the idea. If at all possible stop writing long reports and plans. No one wants to read long reports and once they’re read they’re never looked at again.

The longer the report the less clear you’ll be.

This is just my observation. The longer a report is the less clear it is. The shorter and the more bullet points the easier it is to understand.

One of my favorite sayings is, “the meaning of your communication is the way it’s received.” This is true of written material as well as spoken. If you write long reports and memos they’re likely to be misinterpreted. The shorter the better.

You’re not only wasting your time.

Writing long reports takes lots of time. I bet you have better things to do with your time than put together plans that are more than one page long. If you’re writing a twenty-page report you’re spending a lot of time making major plans. If you believe in small experiments, large and long plans don’t fit. Small experiments allow you to pivot quickly when things don’t work out as you planned.

Besides the time you spend writing a long plan you’re asking others to spend lots of time reading, integrating, and responding to your long plan. Instead, wouldn’t it make more sense to just write a plan that is short and to the point?

There is a tendency to look good instead of being good.

Almost every long plan I see is really designed so the writer looks good. Looking good doesn’t count. Having a plan that makes sense and can be easily implemented does. With a short plan you can make steps well defined and easy to understand.

I’ve found that most people don’t want to figure out what you’re trying to get across. Most people want to easily understand what you want and help you achieve a common outcome.

Use bullet points and the fifteen-minute rule.

I think most of the time a report can be written in fifteen minutes or less. You might have to think about your plan and you might have to sift through lots of information to make your plan understandable. When you finally start writing your report or plan spend no more than fifteen minutes writing it.

If possible write your plan using as many bullet points as possible. When you start writing paragraphs you’re taking up more space and spending more time. Bullet points are fast to write and easy to understand.

Better yet, learn to mind map and deliver your reports and plans in the form of a mind map. You can communicate incredibly complicated strategies on one page using a mind map. Mind maps allow your readers to easily make complicated connections.

The point is to be clear not verbose.

Whether you use mind maps or short reports with lots of bullet points you want to be clear in your communication. The more clear you are, the easier it is for others to implement. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about? Having clear implementation with as little effort as possible.

One of the more complicated new ideas we’ve developed is one on performance coaching. This process replaces performance reviews with a coaching process instead. Take a look at how we use a mind map to show how a performance coaching process should be implemented.

performance coaching mind map

Topics: cultural change, value creation, communication

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