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Writing Bored Reports

February 21, 2011

Oh how I felt for them!  Last week I met a group of managers in the NHS who spend a rather frightening amount of their time writing board reports.  The board doesn’t like the way they are doing it – which is why we were having the workshop.

My first question to them was: ‘What do the members of the board need to know in order to make the decision you are asking them to make?’  Their knee-jerk answer was that they didn’t know – but between us we came to the conclusion that they could make very sensible assumptions.  They were too bored to think hard.

There was room for a huge amount of improvement as well, however, in the way the board communicated their needs down the line.  Templates for board reports  change so often that nobody (least of all the external trainer) knows which one is the latest.  Headings such as ‘recommendations’ and ‘next steps’ are included without explaining what the intended difference is between them.

Do you as a member of the board always rapidly understand the key messages in the reports you receive ? If not, why do you think that is?  Are you explaining clearly enough what you need, or does it seem obvious?  It may be obvious to you, but it won’t be so clear to the people lower down the chain whose day to day business involves minute detail, be it clinical, engineering or financial.

Communication is a two-way process.  If it isn’t working – look at both sides of the equation.

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