Re-wrting Guidelines

by | Jun 7, 2022 | Change, ICT4D |

re-writing

Bring the experts together (virtual or in person) – the technical experts, those who know their stuff, include the legal folk. Work with them to get articulate the process, the steps required, and so on. And allow them to use all the acronyms and technical words they wish.

Invite a few observers into the room (virtual or in person). Specifically non-technical experts and ideally people who interact with clients, customers, or the people who will be implementing the process. The more diverse (role, seniority, gender, colour) the better. They are to observe, listen, take notes, but not interfere.

Once the expert group agrees on the process and steps, ensure it is documented. Then invite the observers to ask any clarifying questions. And then invite the experts to leave.

Now do two things. First, ask the observers to rewrite the entire process and steps in everyday language. This will take time, so allow for this. Second, have a small diverse group of potential users on stand by. Again diversity, especially of understanding of the subject area, is crucial. When the observer group has a step or process re-written, they can ‘interview’ one ‘user’ at a time to check if their re-write make sense and is understood. If there is any uncertainty or hesitation in the any of the users, the observer group needs to go back and re-write again. Repeat this as many times as necessary.

Yes, this is time consuming. And yes, hardly any organisations do this. However, because they don’t, might be one of the reasons we have so many manuals and processes, written by experts, that users don’t understand. And unfortunately, we tend to blame the user not the authors. Too often I receive guidelines for processes that are meant to be simple yes/no checklists and yet I keep searching for the ‘I don’t know’ option because I don’t understand the question.

If technical experts are to follow the guidance, then technical experts can write the guidance. If non-technical experts need to follow the guidance, do the hard work of writing for them. Re-write your guidance in language they speak.

We may not like it, but re-writing our guideliness is the hard work we all need to do.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema

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