Think, Plan, and Organize Before Writing. Why Is That So Difficult?

October 2, 2008 at 2:39 pm | Posted in Content Management, Information Work | Leave a comment

Planning before doing seems like common sense, but then I wonder why content planning seems to get skipped over so often by information workers in a hurry to write their deliverables.  I’ve been researching next generation authoring trends for a report due this month and, in turn, looking into how information workers create content.  I think there are three main reasons that enterprise information workers jump straight to writing without planning.

First, many people and organizations delude themselves into thinking they know exactly what to do and therefore don’t need to step back and think, plan, or organize.  The document may not seem to be big or complex enough to warrant serious thought before action.  Only after getting halfway through the deliverable does a writer realize how much they don’t know or how they’ve boxed themselves in by organizing things in a manner that isn’t going to work.  I’ll admit, that writer has sometimes been me and I’m kidding no one when I have to restart after a failed approach with the phrase “well, back to the drawing board” and the truth is I never sat down at the drawing board in the first place – I skipped the drawing board and just starting laying bricks.

Second, when others see you spending unexpected time planning something that most people around you just start doing, it can reflect poorly on you.  As I mentioned with my posting “Email Interruptions as Avoidance Mechanism …” there’s a bias towards getting hits of accomplishment.  Lets say you are told on Monday to deliver a business proposal in the form of a Word document on Friday. If your business partner comes to you on Wednesday and you don’t have even a skeletal Word document to show, how is it going to look?  The answer lies in how difficult the business partner thought this task was.  If they thought this is straightforward and it isn’t, you look like a slacker or a newbie who is doing this for the first time.  Even if you can show a bunch of thoughts on a whiteboard or mind map or sticky notes on the walls, the deliverable is a Word document formatted as a proposal and they may see the completion bar at 0%.  You’d like to think that in the end the quality of the planned, well-though-out document you deliver would change opinions, but corporate life isn’t always the meritocracy it should be.

Third, I think the culture in many enterprises is biased against creativity – at least in roles that don’t consider creativity to be key attribute.  I distinctly remember one occasion when I was in a meeting with a business-side client and heard an idea of mine described as creative (picture wavy, ghoulish Halloween text for “creative”), where the word “creative” was voiced in a euphemistic, sarcastic way.  I had recently come from a very creative job and was getting an introduction to a corporate culture where “creative” had become a derogatory word!

Besides, when do you really have time in your schedule for uninterrupted time to think and reflect?  Probably not too often – you have to make it yourself.

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