Friday, June 18, 2010

Best Document Review Strategy

Life is a Puzzle. Right? You just need to stop and think: "Why am I doing this?" to come up with some creative ideas on why you should not do this or how to do it better. Otherwise, you'll just continue being a tiny little piece of this 1000+ piece puzzle.

Many of us frequently need to review some documents at work. Assume that a new product manual is being published and five people need to review and approve every word. Technical writer usually creates such document and sends it for review to all five people. Each one of these people returns comments to the writer. Writer incorporates all the comments and sends for another review. What if someone has a comment on someone else's comment? This can go on and on till no more new comments are sent and everyone agrees with every word of the document. This approach doesn't take long as everyone comments in parallel but it requires many repeated reviews. And you know how everyone becomes less and less vigilant with every next review. Can you offer an alternative approach: easier, faster or perhaps more stimulating or rewarding? How you solve this real life puzzle in your work? Creative ideas are specially encouraged.

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Wang said...

What we do at work is put it up on the wiki so that everyone can see the document, everyone can make changes and everyone can see who made the changes. Our organization usually doesn't have so many reviews though if it does, that's what the wiki is for.

Another way might be to just have a meeting with all of the people to review the document. Meetings aren't great but in this case, it is useful because you can review the document and comment on others comments at the same time.

Tom said...

That's why there are committee meetings-- hopefully open, well managed and well led, where everyone has their say. These meetings can be notoriously clumsy and wasteful, but if it's done right they can get the job done. In this case, if all the readers will come to the meeting prepared, and if all agree that there will be only one meeting, then the document might reach something near consensus in one meeting. It can be done.

Maria said...

Ok, I accept this and give one puzzle point to each of you, Wang and Tom.
Meeting idea is probably the easiest and fastest way to go. However, when the document is long or people spread all around the world, it is less feasible. And, with the World Cup, they may just be muting the meeting and watching TV :)

Wiki is more practical but we are still facing the recursive review problem. What one needs to do when he/she is editing comments that someone else recently put in?

Also, how one can encourage reviewers to be thorough yet not nutty to each other? What do you think about giving a reward for any comment that everyone else approves?

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