Articles / Collaborative document creation

Most organisations create documents. Lots of them.

Strategy documents, policies, rotas, requests for proposals, bid proposals, marketing articles, internal guidance … the list goes on and on!

Let’s take the typical organisation and how they write documents. It generally goes like this:

  1. A meeting generates an idea for a document
  2. There’s an initial brainstorm of headings
  3. Someone goes away and writes the first draft
  4. The first draft gets set around the team as an email attachment
  5. Each person makes comments and changes to the document. Some even use “track changes” to show what they’ve done.
  6. Each person then sends their version back to the original author who has to collate all the changes and comments into one central version.
  7. In the meantime, one of the team makes more changes, and sends it to the team leader to check out. She then creates a new version and sends it to the original author.
  8. The author creates a 2nd draft, which goes through the same process again.

As you can see, even with this simplified look, it can very quickly get complicated, with multiple versions of the same document, and no-one quite sure which is the most up-to-date version.

It amazes me how many organisations live with this, without questioning it.

As part of my work on Lean Learning, I are looking at all areas where there is unnecessary activity, that adds no value to the customer.

Of the many types of waste, in this situation I can see that there is a lot of processing that would take place just to fix defects in the document. Not that I should get it all completed first time, but the process of getting it better shouldn’t introduce new problems (eg. mix-ups in versions).

Having worked in organisations that use modern, collaborative document editing systems (like Google Docs or Office Online) I can attest to how much more efficiently you can end up with a finished document. Each person can be editing the same document at the same time as everyone else. All comments (and their replies) are centrally displayed, and every change is recorded in an audit trail.

In your organisation, ask the question when you have to create a document as a team… how much of what I are doing is wasted activity?

Join my Lean Learning Masterclass to explore this further.

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Posted: 08 December 2014

Tags: Learning