When an exec comes to you and asks for a printout of a report, there’s always the temptation to run to your desk and hit a 100 score on your “speed of response” metric. I know that’s how I used to answer those requests.
Unfortunately, when we want to answer those requests as fast as possible, there’s always something we forget and no one wants to have a C-level executive tell him/her that something’s not right or is missing.
To make sure this does not happen to you, here are the 9 things you need to check before handing anyone a report. That’s the only way to guarantee you always present your best piece of work.
- Name of the company
Always mention the name of the company on your document. Your boss of course knows what company he works in (or so we hope) but the real reason is that this clearly authenticates this document as a privileged piece of information that belongs to the company you work for.
- Name of your Department
Although the report should not have your name specifically on it, it should always have the name of the department you work for. This is telling the person receiving the report who to go to if there’s any question about the information produced.
Always date the document. Numbers for example change all the time, so it is important to know when the report was produced. If you want to over-kill this one, put also the date or period of time covered by the numbers you are reporting. For example, you could have a report produced on the 5th of august, presenting the numbers of July.
- Page number
Always number your pages. It is too complicated for people to reference report titles. It is customary to refer to a page number, so don’t forget to add one.
- Report Title
This one seems obvious but it’s often forgotten. Always have at the top center of the page a descriptive report title that explains in 5 words max what this report is about.
- “Confidential” / “Internal Use Only” note
Put at the bottom of the page a note stating if the document reports confidential information or if it’s for an internal use only. Always assume the person receiving the document doesn’t know better.
If your report has labels that could be cryptic to people outside of your department or team then add a legend at the bottom of the page defining each label sufficiently that anyone in the company can understand it.
- Review a printed copy of the document
Always print and review your report before handing it out. I have no logical explanation to share on why reviewing a printed copy makes a big difference but it does. It’s maybe due to the fact that you’ve seen your report a hundred times on screen and that your brain has blocked out the details. When you print a copy of the report and review it, you see errors that your eye cannot catch on screen. While reviewing the document, put yourself in the shoes of your boss and imagine you are reviewing the document and need to use it to have a positive impact on the business. See if anything important is missing.
- Report vs. analysis
Last thing, don’t call it analysis if you are not sharing your opinion or a recommendation. Many people hand out a bunch of numbers and call it analysis. Sorry to break the news but this is just reporting numbers not analysis. Reporting is a document with numbers on it. Analysis is your value added, your opinion, a recommendation you are making. So call it what it is, at least it will show you know what you’re doing 🙂
With all this information, a report your produce can have an existence of its own and does not need you to give a 5-minute explanation to the receiver about what you are handing out. The person receiving the report can also keep it in a folder and pull it out at any time knowing exactly what it is about.