Easing the Flow of Information
Does your heart sink when yet another fat business report drops into your inbox? And does the thought of writing a similarly stuffy and complex document sap your spirit?
Business reports can go on for page after boring page, so they may well end up lying unopened on your desk. And, by the time you do read them, they may be out of date.
So much of today's fast-paced business environment relies on speed and conciseness: this is the age of Twitter® and instant communication. If you are "up to your neck" in emails and messages, the last thing you want to do is read a long report. And you may have even less time or desire to write one.
What if you could shorten your progress reports to a simple list of items on a single sheet of paper? What if you could write them in only 15 minutes, and it took your "customer" just five minutes to read them? You could keep information flowing around your organization easily, and help everyone to feel less weighed down with work.
In this article, you'll find out how to do that with the 5-15 Report. It's a bite-sized document that you and your people can use to summarize your team's progress, highlight potential obstacles, set goals, and celebrate success.
What Is a 5-15 Report?
Yvon Chouinard, founder and CEO of outdoor equipment company Patagonia®, devised the 5-15 Report in the 1980s. He spent much of the year out of the office, dreaming up new clothing designs and testing out his current lines, and he created the report-writing approach so that he could stay in touch with the business while he was "out and about."
Paul Hawken, founder of garden lifestyle brand Smith & Hawken™, first published a description of Chouinard's 5-15 Report in his 1988 book, "Growing a Business."
Many organizations have adopted this type of report as an easy format for monitoring progress and keeping report-writing to a minimum. It is designed to take no more than 15 minutes to write and five minutes to read. You should focus on the highlights of the past week or month, to give your team a sense of what is working and what isn't.
Click here for a 5-15 Report template.
The Benefits of Using a 5-15 Report
A 5-15 Report is a simple but effective tool that can benefit any size of business.
It gives you a snapshot of your organization's or team's progress by telling you simply and concisely what is happening with projects, people and processes. It can also highlight any areas that need extra support.
But its main benefit is that it saves you that most valuable of commodities: time. As a manager, you'll probably find it easier to set aside 15 minutes to write this type of report than two or three hours (or perhaps even longer) for a more complex document. The people who read the report are also likely to appreciate a report that takes so little time to read. And you can enjoy the same advantage if you encourage your team members to use this style of reporting with you.
5-15 Reports also offer a number of other benefits. They may help your team members feel more engaged if they can share their ideas easily, and they provide a quick way of celebrating successes and accomplishments that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.
What to Include in a 5-15 Report
The structure of the report can vary but, in general, it will have the following elements:
- Achievements. Detail your team's accomplishments during the period. Include activities members have completed and objectives they've met.
- Plans. List the objectives and priorities for your team for the following period. Make these as specific as possible, and set dates for completion.
- Potential Challenges. If you think it may be difficult for team members to achieve their goals, explain why.
- Opportunities. Describe any lessons you have learned over the relevant period, note any areas where the team can improve, and identify any opportunities that have opened up.
You can tailor your report to your specific needs. Here are some other possible headings:
- Suggestions. What problem does your team need to resolve? Are there ways that you can improve how things are done?
- People and Morale. How do you feel? How do your team members feel? Be direct in describing the work climate around you.
- Risks. Are there any key risks that you've identified? What can you do to mitigate them?
Yvon Chouinard, founder of an outdoor equipment company, came up with 5-15 Reports so that he could quickly stay on top of developments when he was away from the office.
The idea is that you should be able to write a 5-15 report in 15 minutes and read it in five. Reports written like this can be an effective time-saver. They can also provide a wealth of useful information, such as your team's accomplishments, challenges and goals, in a concise, easy-to-digest way.
Apply This to Your Life
- Ask your boss if you can use this approach in any reporting you do.
- Encourage your team members to use it in any reporting they do to you.