After any team planning exercise, you quickly realize that the phrase "no plan survives first contact with the enemy" applies just as much in business as it does to combat.
This doesn't mean planning is futile. There's another saying you may have heard: "planning is more important than the plan."
I introduce a corollary:
Writing a report is more important than the report itself.
Consider some things you need to do before writing a report:
- Gather data
- Interpret results
- Describe progress
- Synthesize context
All of these have the effect of snapping you out of your day-to-day, forcing you to take a bird's eye view of what you and your team are doing. This is incredibly valuable, especially in fast-moving companies. You spot trends, you get a feel for the numbers and you improve your ability to predict future performance.
But perhaps the most value I get from reporting is when you write it for an important stakeholder who is not familiar with your work or what happens in your team.
This forces you to zoom way the hell out and consider:
What do they care about?
What matters to this person?
What are they expecting from me?
A good stakeholder empathy exercise has the effect of checking whether you are prioritizing the right things.
So if you ever find yourself feeling stuck, or feel like you're burning out, or feel like you're doing pointless work – you might be right.
Do yourself a favor and write a report on what you're working on to someone who is a skip-level above you. If you're a manager, imagine you're writing a status update to a VP. If you're a Director or VP, imagine writing it to your CMO (or if you want to do this on hard mode: write it to your CFO).
The funny thing is, you don't even have to send the report. You've realized 80% of the value just by going the process. Writing the report is more important than the report itself.