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VENTURA COUNTY BUSINESS | BUSINESS VIEW

Monthly Reports Offer Way to Improve Communication

September 19, 2000|Gary Izumo

Is it true that bosses read minds? Of course not. We know they can't.

But it is interesting how many people believe managers actually possess that gift. And at some time, we might all fall into this type of thinking.

It is not uncommon for employees to believe that their managers should "intuitively" know what they are doing and what they have done.

That is why these same employees complain that their supervisors ask too many questions and that they feel micromanaged.

I have heard other employees wonder why their supervisors don't "naturally" know what they want to do. Their managers just "don't get it" and do not seek tasks for them that will help them advance toward important career goals.

We want to have influence on the work we do. We want to be more self-directed rather than micromanaged. We want to have a trust-based relationship with our supervisor and not one of frustration or resentment.

We communicate a lot. We use e-mail, voice mail, informal face-to-face meetings, among other means to keep our bosses informed. Yet, is there a healthy two-way initiation of communication between ourselves and our managers? Is there a de facto "don't ask, don't tell" approach by employees to their supervisors? Do we share our activities and results and then link them to important near-term work priorities for our bosses?

The short answer to these questions is we can do better. We have an opportunity to influence how we are managed and the direction our careers take.

We need to communicate so our supervisors have a good, total picture of what we are doing, what we plan to do, and how this fits with organizational goals. Yet, we need tools to help us present a clear picture, tools that enable us to avoid communicating those fuzzy, incomplete jigsaw puzzles that force managers to search for the missing pieces.

Here is one tool that can help. It is called an Objectives, Activities, Results, or OAR, report. This is not a report full of numbers generated by the company computer. And it is not a report of value just to others. It is an empowering report created by you on a monthly basis.

A summary, one-page review, an OAR report lists the current month's four to six key objectives, the associated activities and results accomplished during the month, and a list of four to six proposed objectives to be achieved during the next month. The monthly objectives largely flow out of organizational priorities and should also include one personal developmental goal. If you have too many objectives, you end up with a wish list that won't help you prioritize your time. The OAR report should be given to your supervisor on the last working day of the month.

Not only do OAR reports help managers better understand priorities, actions, results and direction, they help us become better employees. OAR reporting helps us align organizational and career objectives with how we spend our time. Keeping an OAR report short forces us to focus on what is most important. It strengthens our abilities to be concise. And OAR reporting requires reflection, which helps us better learn from our experiences.

Despite an OAR report's value, most employees do not voluntarily provide summarized monthly reviews of their work. Making promises and creating personal responsibility is scary. It's also not much fun to look in the mirror and assess our performance. It's also a challenge to summarize and determine what is most important for us given all of our various responsibilities and desires. Finally, it's simply a difficult personal process for many to write down and then share commitments and developmental desires.

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But OAR reporting creates opportunities for discussion on priorities and direction. It helps us manage upward. It helps supervisors manage on broader objectives rather than micromanage detailed tasks. And OAR reports help keep operational targets lined up with organizational and career goals.

Make a commitment to provide a monthly OAR report to your manager. Use your calendar and carve out several hours at the end of each month to write one. Find time each day to reflect on what you did, what was accomplished, and the fit with your objectives. Jot down notes as you reflect and achieve key objectives during the month. Review your notes as you develop your OAR report. Let us empower ourselves by setting expectations, living up to them and reporting the results.

Let us share our career hopes and enable our supervisors to support us. And let us step beyond the safety of our comfort zones and be the best we can be.

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Gary Izumo is an instructor in the Moorpark College business department and has co-authored "Keys to Workplace Skills." He is a former McKinsey & Co. consultant and practice leader for the Strategic Management Consulting Practice of PricewaterhouseCoopers. You can e-mail him at gizumo@vcccd.net.

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