Don’t interrupt, I’m writing a new business document

Bud Porter-Roth posted an article (The SharePoint Myth) which describes why technology solutions to address enterprise content management (ECM) often fail. He points out that if you don't understand the role of People and Process, then any new Technology (he cites SharePoint as an example) is bound to fail for the same reasons as similar technologies before it have.

Bud gives three reasons why people don't use document systems:

1. Employees create their own file structure that they only use for their work because they don't like the way the team file share is organized.

2. Workers recreate in whole or part many documents they know exist, but couldn't find.

3. Nobody trusts the information they do find on the file share because they can't tell if it is the latest version of that information.

But I think there is a fourth reason, somewhat related to #2. People routinely prefer to repeat work. Often this is not because they can't find past work, they simply don't look for it – they are unaware, uninterested, or believe it would have no value. They are confident they can do something better and more current!

I see people starting new projects and initiatives to address old issues over and over. While some staff are aware of similar past efforts which are often well documented, even if those documents are stored and readily available, people seldom review them for lessons learned.

Could you be a culprit? If your boss asks you to write a report, do you look to see what was done before, or just hit Google and start writing? This seems like a common People issue in all companies to me.

People can work for days writing and reviewing a report or similar document. Despite this effort, the final product may be read, or even just scanned, by one or just a few people. The effort devoted to production is many times greater than the effort others devote to comprehension. Despite this, report writing is seen by many as 'real work' – something that traditional email, and more especially modern social network tools, simply interrupt and frustrate.

When you do something at work you want it to be effective – it needs to make a difference to have worth. In any given situation, do people consider first if writing new documents is always the most important or effective at impacting an organization? And if documents are so effective, why don't others accord them enduring value and read them, when they are first finished or some time later?

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