The Main Purposes of Upward Communication
To Give Feedback on Performance
Subordinates report to superiors in the organization hierarchy: if you have been given orders or delegated authority to make a decision or perform a task, you are accountable for the results of that decision or task to your superior. Managers may not be as close to the nitty gritty of daily work as their team members, as they require the team to report on how things are going, progress and problems. A useful principle to bear in mind here is management by exception. If a manager has made a detailed plan, he/she does not need regular reports about things going according to plan: (s)he already knows what to expect in that case. However, if performance deviates from plan, the manager needs to know, in order to take control action to put things right. “Reporting by exception” means that only deviations from the plan or norm need be reported.
To Give Information
Managers monitor information which is relevant to the task and team, and which may affect decisions made even higher up the organization. Information provided by team members includes performance feedbacks, but may also cover others matters. A manager may, for example, require information for a meeting or report, which subordinates possess or have access to; a team member may have closer knowledge of the production technology involved I her work; a subordinate may be given the task of researching a new product, technology or idea to give the manager a summary or digest of the information that will be relevant.
To Give Suggestions
Being in possession of practical knowledge and information about the work, team members may be in a position to offer helpful insights for problem-solving or new methods of working, which managers may not have thought of. This is one of the important principles behind the empowerment of teams.
Reports (Planning a report)
Unless you have an extremely orderly mind, compiling a report takes planning. If you know the user is, what information (s) he wants and why, and if you are aware of any requirements of size and time, you will have a good framework for planning the structure and content of your report. Ask yourself the following questions:
What information do I need to provide? What is relevant to the user’s requirements?
What is the information for: Explanation? Description? Recommendation? Instruction?
Do I need to follow a line of reasoning? If so, what is the most logical way in which data can be organized, to make my reasoning clear?
Do I need to include my own personal views? What form should these take: recommendations or suggestions? Interpretation? Opinion?
What can I do to make the report easier to read?
Jot down a skeleton of the headings and sub-headings you have decided to use and you will be ready to write. The formal headings of standard business reports may be useful to help you to organize your thoughts – but may not be necessary or even advisable, if they simply act as a constraint on what you actually want to say, and how you want to shape your argument.
Report Structure and Style
When a formal request is made by a superior for a report to be prepared, such as in a formally worded memorandum or letter, the format and style of the report will obviously have to be formal as well: it will be highly organized in structure ans layout, and impersonal in tone. An informal request for a report – “Can you jot down a few ideas for me about…?” or “Let me know what happens, will you?” – will result in an informal report, in which the structure will be less rigid, and the style slightly more personal (depending on the relationship between the writer and user).