A common mistake in business is treating writing as though it's a separate, isolated task or function that can be pulled out from the rest of a person’s job duties.
Not so! Writing is inevitably going to be inseparably intertwined with the achievement of larger business goals. As we’ve written before:
“The documents your organization produces are your true deliverable. In other words, it’s often the writing itself that sells your business offering [rather than the offering by itself], explains and answers questions, and helps customers put the product or service to maximum use. The writing you create is how customers find you, why they decide to do business with you, and how they know how to use your products or services.”
But how does this idea mean that bad or underperforming writing results in unknown losses?
When the organization splits out writing from what they consider “core” job duties, they’re instantly de-prioritizing writing as a function. Writing gets relegated to hurried, harried “when I have a chance” moments. In turn, that de-prioritization of writing translates into underperformance in business.
There are two ways to think about this.
First, there will be known failures in business results.
For example, a formal sales proposal fails to make the sale; poorly written guidance leads to bad outcomes; and, in extreme cases, poor writing leads to outright reputational or even safety disasters that we call “communication shipwrecks.”
However, the organization may not always know to track those failures back to writing. They might think that it's something else, like underperformance by salespeople. As a result, they end up misdiagnosing problems that, in turn, leads to wasted time, effort, and resources trying to solve problems that don’t exist while overlooking the problem that does.
Second, there will be unknown failures.
This is pure missed potential, and it’s far subtler than the first area of underperformance. Here, the business or organization could actually be doing better than they are and they don't realize it. Usually this happens when the organization lacks a basis for comparison because they’ve never actually produced genuinely high-quality, high-performing writing. You never see the sale that never happens. You never know what could have been achieved in an hour that was consumed with writing inefficiency.
And this is all because the organization thinks of writing as a separate standalone process that they can pull out from the primary job function. They don't understand that business outcomes track back to the documents they’re producing and the critical role they play in connecting with their customers or audience.
How do you solve this problem?
The first step is to give the written word its due. The writing your organization produces is foundationally important and needs to be treated as such. Making that cultural shift alone can improve the situation.
From there, it can be helpful to assess your writing process and output. How can you fix a problem if you’re not exactly sure where it is and in what capacity it appears? Only once you understand what’s going on – whether the underlying problem is people- or process-related – can you (1) begin to understand what the impact has been on your business and (2) implement fixes that will correct that impact.
Here, getting a consultation from expert business writers can be invaluable. A word of warning, though: two key ingredients are needed to find the right writing consultants.
- First, they must be subject matter experts in writing in particular, not just business operations at large. Your run-of-the-mill business efficiency consultants won’t be able to help with this problem.
- Second, they must be expert in the kind of writing your organization produces. There’s obviously overlap in what constitutes good, effective writing within business, technical, scientific, and engineering domains, for example, but they’re not exactly alike. Make sure your consultants have experience and expertise in the kind of writing your organization produces.
For more help, Contact Hurley Write for a consultation to assess, diagnose, and resolve your writing challenges.