You have already established your writing mandate with Law 3. So does the team start scribbling yet? Not quite. There’s an Arabic saying about good, expressive prose:
(If it takes) No skill to understand it, (then it takes) mastery to write it.”
— cited by Taleb in his book on anti fragility (I’ve added parenthetical notes)
In writing, the challenge is to clarify and simplify information. We do this for our readers. I am facing that challenge in these blogs about collaborative writing. You are facing that challenge as you express ideas in writing, too.
If you write for an organization, there is often a lot of information to manage in the documents you prepare. It doesn’t help the reader if there is too little or too much information. How do you decide which are the main points, the most important elements and the key concepts? How does you whittle a lot of information down into a chunk that is easily grasped and enjoyed by your reader?
The process of mastery starts way before writing the draft. It’s part of the planning process for a document. In The Art of Project Management, Scott Berkun talks about the “magical interdisciplinary view.” This is where different points of view are explored: the business, technical, and customer perspectives.
Writing teams need to explore topics from different points of view, both from within the organization and externally. It is the only way to find out what is required for the document. Yet few teams have the luxury of time or the collaborative will to do this work.
It can be intense at first, but the work can have a positive impact on the next project. Once it becomes part of the culture of production in your organization, you will save time and money; you will have a solid understanding of how readers perceive your documentation, whether they are employees, actual or potential customers, or the public at large.
A writing project has three main sets of requirements, and each comes with a lot of expectations and assumptions. For each type there may be quality considerations at work, which may entail some kind of evaluation or measurement process:
- Content (or customer) requirements
- Team requirements
- Production requirements
The writing team needs to understand and internalize all the requirements and quality dimensions of a writing project. These will guide the team in mastering their writing activities and other actions. They also provide a basis for making decisions about the document which will guide production, from the choice of contributors to the final output.
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