14 April 2009

Reports that are actually books

Sometimes when people respond to my emails enquiring about small creative ideas, they refer me to various documents published on the interweb.  I always take a look and usually (though to be fair not always) I end up being disappointed. 


I guess it is when I see the digits in the pdf file box which shows the number of pages. If this number goes beyond 6, I sigh, have a quick scroll to see if anything leaps out. It usually does not. Instead - there are pages of words and tables and figures (usually large ones of course!) which leave me cold.

Genuinely - I wonder who reads these documents? Does anyone really read them from end to end apart from the original author, plus maybe his/her boss and an elected member with rather too much time on her/his hands? 

I wonder who gets to compile these books (for that is what they are).  I fear that we have far too many 'strutegies' and not enough 'stractegies' when it comes to improving the public services. By strutegy - I mean the kind of long (and often glossy) document that looks great and is praded proudly around, but where most of the effort has been spent on talking with the printers. On the other hand there are the stractegies which live in activity and people doing things - making a difference - using resources more wisely - delivering more to the public. These people don't have the time to write long and detailed reports.

Moreover, I wonder if these long reports are disempowering? Do they make people think that 'it is all been done then...' - they don't have to worry about making improvements in their area - the people up there on the '7th floor' have got it all in hand. And even if a frontline person has a small creative idea that would make a difference to the lives of (say) the 20 older people that they go and visit each week, or they have spotted a way to save £15k - then this is just insignificant. The megabucks are being found elsewhere. No one is here to listen to, authorise or acknowledge their ideas. 

Without doubt the big changes are necessary. But is it correct to say that ordinary everyday improvements are 'business as usual'.  Often they are not - and the big, grand & heftily reported on improvements may be just be smothering the small creative ideas that could also be making a big difference too.

What do you think?

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