Mastering Year-End Reports: The Importance of Logical Structure

Mastering Year-End Reports: The Importance of Logical Structure

As the year-end approaches, many managers are facing a challenge. They find their subordinates’ work reports often meandering, lacking focus, and showing poor execution. What can be done?

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Many entrepreneurs and managers have shared with me their frustrations:

“Many people don’t even have the basics down. They struggle to collaborate effectively. Moreover, it not only affects the team but also hampers their personal development.”

For instance: Communication, meetings, and reporting.

They often say, “I don’t enjoy meetings or listening to reports.”

Why is that?

It’s because many individuals lack training in how to communicate effectively, fail to get to the point, and end up wasting time. Their communication is too convoluted.

Year-end reporting is a significant event. Having a logical and structured presentation is essential.

01-Trunk: Precisely Identify the Reporting Theme

“Why do I always struggle to grasp the key points of my work, and why do my reports get interrupted by my managers?”

When it comes to reporting and communication, many employees tend to make these mistakes:

First, they can’t resist praising themselves excessively, talking about how hard they work and how skilled they are. They tell stories, share emotions, and talk about their hardships but avoid addressing the real issues. They treat communication and reporting as opportunities to showcase themselves, hoping that everyone will acknowledge their efforts. Self-praise is necessary, but it should be done in moderation. Otherwise, it can create the impression that someone is too self-absorbed, both in speech and action. Furthermore, behind excessive self-praise often lies an attempt to hide problems. By talking about the positive aspects, they can avoid exposing real issues, making it seem like they are competent. However, this mindset focuses on themselves, not on the actual problems, which is counterproductive. Address the issues directly and focus on the matters at hand.

Second, some employees work diligently but fail to report their progress. They might argue, “As long as I do my job well, why do I need to report constantly?” While this perspective seems reasonable, it’s actually a significant misconception. Excelling at your work is a goal and aspiration, but achieving those goals and aspirations requires understanding the business, assessing risks, collaborating with the team, and seeking assistance when needed. These changes can potentially lead to project failure. Reporting is not just about presenting results; it’s also about reporting progress and the process, facilitating timely communication and course corrections. The result of solely focusing on completing tasks is often overworking oneself, leading to failure. Avoiding reporting can also cause concern for the boss. Reporting gives the boss a sense of “control,” and it doesn’t mean the boss is interested in controlling “you” but rather in controlling the “work.” Just as food delivery apps provide users with real-time updates (e.g., the restaurant has accepted your order, the delivery driver is en route), reporting work progress allows the boss to feel in control and make efficient decisions.

Third, some individuals lack focus and structure in their communication. They talk without a clear logical flow, making it difficult to identify the key points. Their communication lacks structure and coherence, resembling a jumble of words. This type of reporting is ineffective and a waste of time. Even exceptional achievements can be overshadowed by poor communication. Effective reporting is essential. When presenting, use logical tree-like structures to highlight four key elements: Plan, Progress, Problems, and Results (4Ps). This approach ensures that you address the most important aspects of your work. The four key elements are:

  1. Plan: Who is responsible, action steps, deadlines, and priorities.
  2. Progress: Overview, critical milestones, and key metrics.
  3. Problems: Unresolved issues requiring resources or resolved issues worth highlighting.
  4. Results: Extracting replicable methodologies.

Mastering these elements will help you determine the crucial aspects to focus on when reporting. Think of it as building a tree, starting with the trunk, followed by branches, and then leaves. These “leaves” represent the specific content you should emphasize when reporting.

02-Branches and Leaves, What to Focus on in Reporting

What should be the focus when reporting on work? Sophie suggests that, following the four key points mentioned earlier, we can break it down step by step.

First, the plan.

In the plan, there are several key elements: responsible person, action items, deadline, priority, and so on.

For example, if you’re reporting on a competitive analysis:

“Boss, I (the responsible person) will start working on it right away.

Before I proceed, I want to confirm a few points with you: Are you interested in a general overview of our competitors, including their customer channels, pricing strategies, and product performance (action items)? I plan to create an analysis report in PPT format (action items) and deliver it to your email by Friday (deadline). Do you think this timeline works for you, or do you have any other requirements?”

Second, the progress.

In the progress section, the key elements are the overall situation, critical milestones, and noteworthy numbers.

For example, consider a scenario where a project is assigned to someone:

Boss: “How’s the project progressing?”

Employee: “Well, boss, let me check with the client.”

A day later…

Employee: “The project is delayed.”

Boss: “Why is it delayed? Did the client have any specific requirements?”

Employee: “Um, I need to go ask again.”

Nearly a week later, during the weekly meeting, the boss asks about the project’s progress again:

Employee: “Due to this and that, all the projects are delayed.”

Boss: “Why didn’t you tell me earlier? I could have provided more resources and assistance. Do you have any other solutions now? What’s the client’s feedback?”

Employee: “Hold on, let me check…”

This scenario illustrates a common pain point for many managers – employees often delay or avoid reporting on their progress, which leads to a lack of transparency and makes it difficult for managers to trust their team’s abilities.

Effective execution means that employees should proactively report progress on tasks assigned by their managers. Even if there’s no significant progress, it’s still considered progress. If you encounter obstacles or delays, it’s essential to communicate and seek help promptly. Delaying progress updates can create distrust and frustration among managers.

The progress report has a formula:

Progress Report = Current Progress % (Evidence) + What’s Next + Expected Completion Date (if progress is slower than planned, include reasons/solutions).

Next is the key milestones. Many employees tend to provide a detailed account of their activities, losing sight of the important milestones. For instance, when reporting on a cooperation project, focus on significant milestones such as the preparation of a proposal, contract signing, and receipt of payments.

Lastly, highlight the key numbers that are relevant to the results. Provide numbers that reflect your achievements, challenges, and recommendations. For example, in an HR report, rather than talking about how challenging the week was and how hard you worked, emphasize how many outstanding talents were recruited.

Third, issues.

When discussing issues, there are typically two scenarios: issues that have been resolved and issues that haven’t.

Issues, in this context, refer to anything beyond your ability to handle. When faced with obstacles or roadblocks, it’s crucial to seek external resources and assistance promptly. Don’t try to tackle them alone, as this may lead to project delays and hinder your progress.

When you haven’t resolved an issue, you can communicate with your boss using a specific formula:

Issue = Cause of the Problem + Proposed Solutions (Options) + Pros and Cons Analysis.

If you have resolved the issue, it’s essential to showcase your problem-solving abilities. In such cases, use this formula:

Problem = Difficulty + Approach + Achievements.

Fourth, results.

Results refer to the extraction of replicable methodologies from your work experiences. It’s vital to show your boss that you can translate your efforts into valuable lessons for the organization.

Avoid focusing solely on personal achievements or complaining about difficulties. Instead, emphasize the methods and strategies you’ve developed or learned through your work.

For example:

“Employee A consistently delivers exceptional results for our team. Employee B continually seeks ways to optimize our processes, reducing our production cycle by three days. As for myself, I made a judgment error that caused us to miss an opportunity. This was entirely my responsibility, and it had nothing to do with the team’s performance.”

By taking responsibility for both successes and failures and sharing valuable methodologies, you demonstrate reliability and leadership qualities.

In summary, using the 4P approach (Plan, Progress, Problem, and Results) can help structure your work reports effectively. However, it’s essential to maximize the impact of your reports by ensuring that your team members actively listen and follow through with the information you provide.

03-Fruit, Maximizing the Impact of Reporting

Have you ever encountered these problems in your daily management?

Do your employees not listen to you if you don’t exercise authority, and your colleagues don’t cooperate with you? Using the big stick of authority and punishment to force employees to complete tasks will only get you a tool.

What to do?

Be able to shoulder responsibility, be able to take the blame, and be able to lead the team to victory. If you can lead others to victory, fill in the gaps when it’s critical, and plug the performance gap in the department, you can solve particularly tricky problems. Then you will become an irreplaceable key figure in the team in the short term.

And if you fail, you don’t shirk responsibility, but take the initiative to take on the blame, even if it’s someone else’s responsibility. Over time, you will gain influence and use that influence to impact the team, subordinates, and every member.

Then, you will transition from being a personal contributor to a team contributor, making everyone around you willing to listen to you, and that’s the result.

The so-called result is to maximize the impact of your reporting.

This fruit requires accumulation over time. Every time you report, talk about results, progress, plans, and problems.

Communicate with facts and data, not with a show-off or a pity-seeking mentality.

Reporting is about work reporting, not ideological reporting, and certainly not storytelling. Don’t let your fancy words overshadow the impressive things you’ve done.

Be practical and don’t just talk a big game.

In addition to the above points, there are a few things to keep in mind when reporting at work.

For example: Summarize the purpose of this work report in one sentence.

For example: Work reporting frequency should be high, but time should be short.

For example: Don’t report work to higher levels without the permission of your immediate supervisor.

You see, work reporting is like watering and planting a tree, from seed to seedling, from seedling to tree. From the trunk to the leaves, and then to the fruit.

In this process, there should be a theme, structure, and logic. Step by step, pushing forward.

Here’s a summary:

When subordinates’ work reports tend to be convoluted, lack focus, and have poor execution, what should you do?

Sophie suggests structuring the coaching process using the logic of the trunk, branches, and leaves:

  • Trunk: Precisely identify the main theme of the report.
  • Branches: Focus on the four key aspects of work reporting: plan, progress, problems, and results.
  • Plan: Who is responsible, actions to be taken, deadlines, and priority.
  • Progress: Overall status, key milestones, and noteworthy data.
  • Problems: If unresolved, indicate what resources are needed; if solved, highlight the achievement.
  • Results: Summarize a replicable methodology.
  • Leaves: Determine what specific content to emphasize during work reporting.

As the year-end approaches, many companies are preparing for annual meetings and year-end summaries. What if the results of the year-end summary are not favorable? How should you report it?

Many people tend to instinctively shift blame externally. For example, they blame external factors like the overall economic situation (the sky), attribute issues to internal factors such as inappropriate goals, lack of support from leadership, departmental issues, uncooperative employees, or unethical competitors (the earth), and express mistrust when there’s a lack of reporting (the air).

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