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Office Waste – Useless Reports

March 18, 2013


TPS Report Cover SheetRecently, while teaching a workshop one of the participants mentioned how at his (I’ll call him Les – to protect the innocent or guilty?) company they had many useless reports. Les even gave an example of writing in his report “Is anyone reading this?” and of course no one responded. Les asked his bosses if they could discontinue creating this useless report. The response was unquestionably “no”. One time, while performing an AIB audit Les had to go through an access in the ceiling to do an inspection. As he put it “someone took a picture of my big fat as*” going through the hatch. So this time he put that picture in the report to see if anyone would notice. Not a single response.

Maybe you can help me answer these questions:

  1. Why does management require so many useless reports?
  2. Do they know how much time is wasted creating these reports? Do they know how much time is wasted reading these reports? Do they know how much misinformation, inaccurate or incomplete information is in the reports? And worse, what poor decisions are made because of these reports?
  3. What do they do with the information when they get it?
  4. Do they use this as any sort of “Check” in Plan-Do-Check-Act?
  5. Is this just a CYA (cover your as*) move?
  6. If management really wants to know what’s going on, why don’t they just go to gemba (the place where the action occurs)?

I guess my questions are rhetorical; I think we already know the answers.

Now, having said all that, there may actually be some good and helpful reports; like good A3s.

For fun, if you have some other examples of useless reports, feel free to share them with us. – Tony

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One Response to “Office Waste – Useless Reports”


  1. Hi Tony,
    I must agree that it is almost true!

    That being said, my little reserve is that I learned, while working for over 15 years in a multinational company, that people are “mechanically” creating these reports for someone down the line without knowing it.

    In these huge companies, there are too many people to understand who is doing what. I often suggested to do “SIPOC” to try linking all these deliverables within the value chain. I do agree that a majority of them are useless, but, I firmly believe that, if it has been created once, it was to solve a problem somewhere.

    The fun thing to do is to test the report like it was done! awesome! But beware, no feedback does not mean no one had a look of the picture. It may simply be ignored.

    I would suggest to try to grasp the real customer of that deliverable and verify the need of it or the value of its content. Sometimes, during time, some info may not be all required with the evolution of the technology.


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