Disasters of the Acronym Kind

Companies have a glut of internal reporting measures.  They overlap and report on information that already exists.  Why?  What is the point?   Why another quarterly report that is different from the other quarterly report that asks for the same information?   Why create endless rounds of repeated data, especially if you are not enforcing a higher internal standard than an outside certifying (or policing) organization would (especially if the area in question got certified last week)?

The economist inside me bristles at the time and money lost to these pursuits.  The productivity costs to an organization, including the time that could be spent innovating new approaches, processes and even products, are wasted.  Why? Because Sue in Operations decided we need a new report to determine the greenness of the lime Jello in the cafeteria, fully ignoring that Jello executives came in last week and gave the cafeteria a trophy.

Is Sue just bored?  Is she just desperate to be a little queen of Jello information? Is this are even something that falls under her for review?  Why is Sue under the impression that she should also be entitled to the color of the underwear of the individuals boiling the water for the Jello?  Can’t she just take the world of the person in charge of that, that it is being handled appropriately and that THEY have the data and are happy to share it, no need for the Jello makers to create a whole new 150 pg report on proper underwear for Jello cooks of exactly the correct shade green?  And then yet another one next week on the orange or cherry?

But the problem is, Sue thought it was a GREAT idea.  She probably created a cute acronym.  And because she thought it was a great idea and has some (not a whole lot, but some) leverage, the WHOLE place is doing what this semi-important operations manager has deemed to be essential.  Because she just wants to know about already-certified Jello greenness.   Three months from now she will ask the same again, even though the data never changes.  She will ask the same measurement of people who bring the pre-made Jello from the supermarket.

She will probably also create a quiz.  And a training session on how to do it.  She wants to talk to your group.  Badly.  She is very proud of her power point and her quiz.  All you really want is less crap to do anyway.  And you wonder why Sue just can’t look at the data that you already all have on Jello greenness.   Sue likes her program.  Because while the data exists on Jello greenness and underwear colors and styles, it doesn’t exist exactly together in the table she made just for her.  She has, indeed, created an entire program, got buy in from the whole place, had her semi-important voice heard, just so you would put data together that already exists, because she wanted it easy to read in a cute little form just for her.   She will probably, in the presentation, give a vacant gaze and smile and say, “this is so great because now we will know…. ” and you will think to yourself, “We already do, you nimwit!”  She probably gave it a cute acronym that almost, but not quite, spells a positive word.  GREEAAT or SUPERRR or SMRT.

Overreporting is not a crime, but it really should be some kind of economic misdemeanor.   If the information exists elsewhere, just not in the particular format you want…. why don’t you go look it up for YOURSELF and put it on the form that YOU want? You are a pansy if you cannot do this.  A PANSY.   A BUSINESS WIMP.  A little Lord Fauntleroy of the workplace.

Stop wasting time on finding data that already exists or has already been certified by some other body.  Would the people be unallowed to continue if they didn’t do x, y, and z?  And they just got recertified?  and you are asking about it anyway?


Think about programs before you put them into place. Some suggested guidelines:

1-does it already exist? can you literally walk over, grab five notebooks, and get the information that you need without hassling 15 underlings in each department who need to actually do the business of the business?

2-Is someone else already holding them accountable for the same measure to the same degree and doing it adequately?

3- Is the information not likely to have changed?  Would you likely already be aware if it had?  Would a short update if changes exist be a more appropriate measure?

4-Is the artificial due date you have created reasonable?  Why was that date your choice?  Was it well-reasoned, or did you just pick it from nothing?

5-Are you doing it because you really need the information, or do you just think “it would be gooooood to know… ”

6- Is the information really for the betterment of the company?  Why and how?  What will it do that the other data, once you get off your butt and look for it, won’t do?

7- is the information really in your wheelhouse to ask for, or does it feel more like the gardener asking for the latest numbers from accounting?   If it doesn’t fall into the umbrella of things that fit your position, why do you need the information?

Is your internal reporting really worthwhile?  Or just another thing that everyone knows is pointless except for the person who invented it?  Take a hard look… I predict you’ll be amazed at the time, money and ingenuity that you will gain.  And tell Sue to shut up.  Give her that report you already did last week for someone else and tell her to look for it herself.