Improving writers' efficiency?

Subject: Improving writers' efficiency?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 6 Nov 2003 11:26:04 -0500

Anna Langley reports: <<It is now my duty to take our four content writers,
and improve their efficiency by 20 percent.>>

Heh. Define efficiency? I can double my output in pages per hour by doubling
the line spacing or using two words where one will do, but I doubt that's
going to be of much help. If you don't start out with a clear knowledge of
what you're trying to achieve, the odds are excellent you'll achieve
something--just not what you'd intended.

<<I have been tasked (love that word) with proving that by editing and
training, I can help our writers produce content 20 percent faster, because
things like consistency issues, time to edit, etc., will be reduced.>>

Heh. Best of luck. Remind your boss that effectiveness is probably every bit
as important as speed. Cutting production times by 20% is easy if you cut
content by 20%, but that's not always a good thing.

<<What other things can I do in a very short time (read about a couple of
weeks), to help my writers improve their output, both in speed and

First off, everyone will have different needs and will thus require
different solutions. For example, the guy who never looks at the style guide
won't benefit from having a style guide created. Second (and related to that
first point), you'll have to clearly and objectively identify what the
actual problems are for each person, as noted above.

The trick is to pay close attention to what each person is actually doing
and see where that's ineffective. Make a list of all the ineffective things
the person is doing, then figure out (quantitatively) how much time
inefficiences are costing them. Prioritize these problems: Which problem is
causing the greatest impact on time or quality? Solve that first, then move
on to the next one.

Empty theory? Nope. A few years back, we did a "Kaizen" exercise that
identified the major problems with our report-production process. We
quantified each problem, then brainstormed solutions. Report production time
dropped by at least 50% across the board, and by more than 100% in some
cases. Do it right and the payback is enormous. Do it wrong and you'll
achieve exactly the results you define in your metrics, even if those are
the wrong results.

--Geoff Hart, ghart@
Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada
580 boul. St-Jean
Pointe-Claire, Que., H9R 3J9 Canada

"Wisdom is one of the few things that look bigger the further away it
is."--Terry Pratchett



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