450 words | 3 minutes to read
What’s the problem?
Large organisations all produce large amounts of information, but how much of it is useful and how well is it being produced?
The documents are typically generated by a committee of sorts, not a lone writer. The quality of outputs is usually variable, but the cost is almost always high. This is because the core writing process is bloated with accumulated layers of well-intentioned contributions (from multiple briefers, reviewers, and authorisers).
In government agencies, it is common for more than a dozen senior staff — in addition to the writer(s) — to contribute to the production of even a relatively simple ministerial briefing. This explodes costs without a commensurate boost to the quality of outputs.
Producing too much information increases cost and makes the extra information unusable. Most organisations ignore the fact that humans cannot usefully consume unlimited amounts of information.
In corporate environments, it is also common for large teams to produce exhaustive documents (such as business cases, sales documents, or board papers) in which the audience’s need for critical and concise decision-making information remains unmet, or is buried in swathes of non-essential ‘padding’.
Instead of all this effort leading to excellent outputs, the busyness usually obscures responsibilities and leaves writers confused about what they should write, for whom, and to whose satisfaction.
What’s the solution?
Office workers, like all of us, work within systems whose influence cannot be overestimated.
…the performance of anyone is governed largely by the system that he works in — W. Edwards Deming
When managers determine that documents are costing too much in relation to their usefulness, they often respond by sending their colleagues to a business writing course (such as my Writing Essentials course). But the performance of those colleagues is bound by the quality of the document production system they work in. Until the system is improved (or, more likely, transformed), the outputs of the system cannot consistently improve.
For example, a system that allows loose briefs is one that forces writers to guess and ensures costly rework (drafts, edits, reviews).
So, before you send your writers to a writing course, I encourage you to attend Nakedize’s new, leader-focussed Improving Document Production course. In one day you will learn how to design and operate an optimal document production system. Clever knowledge workers transformed the manufacturing sector (think Toyota and Total Quality Management) decades ago with this kind of approach, and it’s long overdue for the knowledge sector to take its own advice.
Don’t put off improving how you write, or how you manage writers. Attend Simon’s public courses in Auckland or at Victoria Professional and Executive Development in Wellington.