The importance of comparison

You know I write reports for a living. Dozens of them per year ranging from 5 page briefing notes to 100 page reports that only a handful of folks ever read.

One of the central themes I have learned over the years when it comes to report writing is the importance of comparison. Specifically comparing what you are proposing to what is being done in other companies or jurisdictions.

For example, take the Erdle Report entitled “Management Alternatives for New Brunswick’s Public Forest” that was released today. 108 pages of very technical analysis – detailed forecasts, multiple scenarios all designed to help the government decide how best to manage the public forest into the future. I didn’t read the whole thing yet but early media reports suggests Erdle is putting more focus on conservation.

But my point is simple. 108 pages. Not one reference to how other similar jursidictions are doing it. Now, I realize that the Yakov Smirnoff (what was that report guy’s name?) report back in 2002 made recommendations that modelled some of the Scandanavian countries – but it was perceived that Jaakko Pöyry (I was quite far off with Yakov Smirnoff wasn’t I?) was too much ‘industry’ focused his well written comparative analysis was discarded.

Now maybe the great UNB experts will say that wasn’t in the terms of reference. Maybe so. I don’t know. But as someone who looks at the intersection of public policy and economic development on a daily basis, I can tell you that this report doesn’t set anything in the broader context. I would far rather have another comparative look – in similar environments – and then have the context. Policy makers may still go another route – opting for something non-conventional but at least they would have understood how things are done elsewhere.

This is heady stuff. Thousands of jobs are on the line. Just not David Coon’s.

Ooops. Did I say that out loud?