Monday, July 06, 2009

Unvital Statistics (TPS Reports)

Have you ever prepared a report at work that you felt was pointless to prepare and was based on useless data?

A couple of posts ago, I'd mentioned TPS reports in passing. Here's some info. From Wikipedia: "TPS report" has come to denote pointless mindless paperwork after its use in the comedy film Office Space. In the story, a primary character is reprimanded by several of his superiors for forgetting to put the new cover sheet on his TPS report. Mike Judge, who wrote and directed the movie, said that it meant "Toilet Paper Sheet" in the movie.

TPS reports typically gather and formalize unvital statistics. Is there a correlation between the length/number of breaks and productivity? How much time is spent by the typical employee not working - blinking, walking, could be anything - how can we capture and utilize that time? Typically, these questions have common-sense answers but they need to be backed up with evidence, don't they?

What's behind the gathering of these unvital statistics? Why does it happen? Why is it so prevalent?

1. Information loss happens at each level of hierarchy. These reports are an attempt at mitigating the resultant damage.

a) Bosses get insecure because of this inevitable information loss. Already, they are losing touch with field-work and they don't want lose their utility completely. They want to take "informed' decisions and who can say for sure that these stats are, in fact not vital? Hence they want to capture as much data as possible, data being the basis for information.

b) There are TPS reports at all levels. Your TPS report is what forms the basis for your boss's TPS report!

2. It gives you, as an employee, something to do. It helps in boosting your PUF. It gives you an easy opportunity to prove your uniqueness and utility. You know what, my TPS report is the best, packs the most punch!

Data if collected has to be processed into information, interpreted and assimilated. Otherwise the effort expended on collecting the data is a waste. The time spent for interpretation and analysis of the data at each level is an acceptable transmission-loss.

My colleague (who of his own volition neither reads nor writes, hence I am obliged to document!) termed it "statistical masturbation" - because it is useful to none and, in most cases, provides satisfaction to just one! :)

- Thomas Jay Cubb

Asides (Analysis/expansion later)
1. In information theory, entropy is a measure of the uncertainty associated with a random variable . Work is a random variable. Corporate hierarchies are based on information. The second law of thermodynamics, states that the entropy of the universe always increases.

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