Writing, like any other business task, requires quality control. No organization would expect their core product or service to be perfect every time, all the time, the first time; neither can they expect that of their writing. However, the writing-related QA/QC processes at most organizations are poorly designed and end up creating a time-consuming process whose effectiveness is questionable at best. One of our clients, for example, reported spending upwards of 20 hours a week reviewing his team's writing, which consequently forced him to work nights and weekends to compensate for lost time – and it’s not even clear it made that much difference!
A common complaint we hear is that writers don’t take the suggestions of the reviewers and that managers themselves end up rewriting the documents because it’s “easier.” What they often don’t ask is why writers don’t take their suggestions and/or consider the amount of time and money being wasted when they do work that’s secondary to what they were hired to do.
The good news is that almost any organization can reduce the amount of times spent on writing-related QA/QC and editing and still, simultaneously, improve writing outcomes. But how?
1: Bring in writing experts to review and assess your overall writing processes.
We call this a communication audit and in this process we identify gaps, problems, and inefficiencies that may be contributing to the excessive time spent on writing and reviewingC. Problem areas can be harder to identify than you think, especially when you’re trying to self-diagnose, and some issues can be very subtle. A communication audit can help unwind the people-, process-, and strategy-related problems affecting writing and reviewing output and provide recommendations.
A communication audit will help you understand your team’s writing and reviewing issues and provide a roadmap for you to solve these issues, whether that means writing training, coaching, revising templates, creating standard operating procedures, establishing a review process, or something else. The right experts will be able to both diagnose and help to fix your issues around writing and reviewing (and diagnose if you have these issues).
2: Establish constructive writing processes.
Unfortunately, raw writing skills are rarely enough to ensure an organization maximally benefits from its writing output. A good writing process is key to driving better results at the organizational level. In fact, formalizing strong writing processes can be transformative for an organization. In particular, the review process is key to great writing and is an area ripe for improvement in most organizations.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise; most organizations spend a lot of time and effort developing processes, workflows, and standards around their core business products or services because they understand that strong processes yield repeatable outcomes and efficiency gains. A good writing and review process will similarly save time and labor.
3: Invest in writing training for team members.
Once you understand the skill and process gaps, training is where the gaps get fixed. By improving the writing skills of employees, organizations can reduce the amount of corrective editing needed in the first place.
The best professional training programs don’t focus on grammar, punctuation, style, and tone to focus on the strategic dimensions of writing. In other words, professional documents should align with organizational goals. Ultimately, with better writing skills, employees will be able to produce clearer, more coherent, and more professional documents, which in turn will reduce the need for extensive editing and revision by managers.
4: Use writing tools and aids.
Don’t be afraid to use writing tools such as grammar checkers and style guides to help catch errors and ensure consistency in writing style and tone. Note that AI-powered tools cannot and will not substitute for writers who know what they’re doing (at least not yet), but they can give writers a nice boost in terms of productivity, grammatical correctness, and quality – including helping them to work faster and spend less time editing.
One word of warning, however: be wary of sharing proprietary company information with third-party tools and services. Many companies have begun banning ChatGPT for just this reason. Third-party tools and platforms can be useful but use them wisely and thoughtfully.
5: Adjust your expectations.
Finally, beware of perfectionism. Of course, all organizations should pursue excellence in all their work, including writing. However, if “excellence” tips over into "it must be perfect," you’ll end up sinking hours you don’t have into work that inevitably falls short of an impossible standard. So, set expectations that are reasonable and communicate those expectations to team members.
Taken together, these tips can enable organizations to significantly reduce the amount of time spent on writing-related quality control, allowing leaders and workers to focus on what truly matters: building a more successful business.
To learn more – and figure out how to streamline writing processes at your organization – contact Hurley Write for a custom, no-obligation consultation.