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Don’t let paperwork mess with performance

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in Office Management,Office Organizer

Sometimes, your work processes get hung up on burdensome paperwork requirements—including ones that, over time, you've imposed on yourselves. Don't be afraid to ask whether the forms and reports you handle are both necessary and effective, and whether they could be revised or eliminated to improve their value and reduce their impact on your team's performance.

Here are some questions to ask:

Who needs this? You may find that the people you send paperwork to never read or use it. But they may need other information from you, and other people may need your current paperwork instead. It's good to check this out every six months or so. Of course, one way of doing this is to simply not send out the paperwork and see what the reaction is—though this won't tell you whether you should be providing other information, or reaching other recipients, instead.

What do they do with it? If the information simply goes into a file, don't spend too much time worrying about how it looks; save the time-consuming polishing and presentation work for reports with a broader audience. Also find out if the recipient ends up having to re-enter data from a hard-copy form or report, and look for ways you can simply send the data itself and skip filling out the form.

How many copies? There's little excuse, with today's technology, for making multiple copies of documents or forms for internal distribution. Even multiple electronic copies (attached to e-mails) take up space on servers and individual hard drives. Instead, put the information on a shared file server where everyone who needs it can access it. Make a limited number of hard copies (like, say, one) for reference in case the server goes down.

How many times? You may be able to send a monthly report instead of a weekly one, or group several different purchases on one requisition. If you have to fill out the same form frequently, see if you can preprint it with the standard information for your team already filled in—address, budget code and so on.


Having trouble getting your group to come to a decision? Draw a picture. A study at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania found that groups came to consensus more quickly when they were given both visual and verbal presentation content. Even if your group knows the facts, turning the information into a chart or graph can stimulate different kinds of ideas.

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