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 are instantly de-prioritizing writing as a function; instead, writing gets relegated to hurried, harried “when I have a chance” moments. In turn, that de-prioritization 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; poor written guidance leads to bad outcomes; and, in extreme cases, poor writing leads to outright reputational or even safety disasters that we can 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, such as underperformance by salespeople. As a result, they end up misdiagnosing problems. In turn, this 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 doesn’t have 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 their team’s writing and the critical role documents play in connecting with customers or readers.
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 team’s 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? 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.
Here, getting a consultation from expert business writing consultants can be invaluable. A word of warning, though: two key ingredients are needed to find the right writing consultants.
- 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.
- They must have experience working with professionals in a wide variety of disciplines. This might sound counterintuitive: don’t you want to hire only experts who are experts in one type of field? No, and here’s why: it’s seldom that any one organization writes for experts in its field. In other words, engineers write for those in engineering, of course, but depending on the type of document and the engineering firm, they could also write for lawyers, laypeople, and technical experts in other fields. So, you want a firm that has lots of experience teaching writers in a variety of fields.
For more help, Contact Hurley Write for a consultation to assess, diagnose, and resolve your writing challenges.