Your team is compiling hundreds of pages to support your organization’s product. It takes months, sometimes years. So you can expect the faces at the table to change over time. Writing in organizations takes planning. If the team members take all the expertise with them, the collaborative writing project could be affected. And the organization might feel the pinch.
You will see this scenario play out, for example, in a writing shop. At first, the work is divided up nicely according to the knowledge and ability of each team member. The project chugs on merrily. Then some players are taken away for an urgent assignment; others leave to pursue new opportunities, often based on the great work they did on this very project. New writers are brought in and they dive into the project bringing new ideas and gusto. They have a list of what to accomplish and each job is getting done.
In the rush to the finish line, though, cracks are appearing the pavement. For some reason, the document is no longer consistent. Putting it together has becomes a nightmare; there is too much text to be edited at once and version control has become an issue. When the dust settles, there will be questions.
Ensure the sharing of knowledge in collaborative writing projects
People who work together on a document share some key knowledge about:
- its guiding vision, aims, and objectives
- what makes for stylistic consistency and quality
- how to measure and evaluate its success
We all know these are essential for good documents, then we forget to apply them to our teamwork.
The first team had specific knowledge about the objectives of the project, source information, terminology and definitions, project interdependencies, and many nuances about the subject. The relay team has writing skills but they work in a completely different context.
Writers are not interchangeable parts, with the ability to transfer knowledge at the changing of the guard. Project databases only capture information they are set up to manage, and we all know that a tool is not a project.
Good collaborative strategies
The question every member of the team should be prepared to answer at every phase in the project is: Are we all sharing and agreeing to all the essential elements for success on this project?
Start with the end in mind. Once you know the project aims and objectives, identify the key measures for success, and map the path. Build your knowledge database and toolbox to fit the project requirements. Look at the project timeframe and let your tools support, not define, the project over that term.