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HBR选读:Why Your Organization Needs a Writing Center  

2017-02-22 03:10:32|  分类: 领导力与管理学 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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HBR选读:Why Your Organization Needs a Writing Center

 

宁老师按:能写好的人一般也能说会道,反之亦然!

 

Josh Bernoff; February 21, 2017

 

 

When you think of great writers, you probably don’t think of bankers.

But this is the story of how a group of bank examiners at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, one of 12 banks in the U.S.’s Federal Reserve System, dramatically improved the clarity and impact of their written reports.

 

The 250 people in the supervision, regulation, and credit group at the Philadelphia bank supervise the commercial and retail banks based in their district. That means they write detailed reports, sometimes 40 pages long, to bank executives and boards of directors, specifying the changes they need to make to comply with government banking regulations.

 

The examiners who create these reports are experts in bank regulation, not in writing. Many staffers collaborate on the reports, which may bounce back and forth between reviewers several times over a period of weeks. As you might imagine, a process like that doesn’t tend to enhance clarity or teach examiners to write well. The crucial focus on communicating an important point to the target audience can easily get muddled. The result is that bank executives may not understand what problems they need to fix.

 

The Philadelphia Fed hired Jessica Weber to improve the bank examiners’ writing, focusing on ways to make it more efficient and succinct, streamline the review process, and generally make the documents clearer and more effective.

 

The technique that Weber used to improve writing at the bank is unusual for the corporate world but common at colleges and universities: a writing center.

 

In a university setting, a writing center is a place where students can work with a tutor to improve a piece of writing. (Weber had been the assistant director of the writing center at Salisbury University while she was getting her master’s degree there.) Writing center coaching sessions typically have two goals: to improve the specific document being edited and to train the writer in better techniques so that their writing improves over time.

 

At the Fed, she decided to apply the same techniques to coaching the examiners. As a 23-year-old woman entering a bureaucratic organization, she faced some skepticism. As one examiner said, “I don’t see what a poetry major can do to help me.” But her managers at the Philly Fed were open to her nontraditional approach.

 

Weber made some careful choices in how to run the program:

  • The program was voluntary. This ensured that no one would perceive being sent to the writing center as some sort of punishment or remedial effort on the part of their managers. Because the writers maintained control of their content, there was no stigma in participating.
  • The feedback was in person or by phone. The examiners were used to getting dozens or hundreds of contradictory comments over a period of weeks from their managers and other staff. Managing and dealing with these sorts of redline markups is a huge effort, just as it is in other corporate settings. But Weber offered her feedback on one draft at a time, in half-hour sessions with an emphasis on coaching the examiners on better writing techniques — training through editorial coaching.
  • The feedback was outside of normal management channels. Except in rare circumstances, the writing center did not report session results to examiners’ managers. This allowed the writers in the program to be more open about problems they were having.
  • The writing center encouraged repeat visits. About 63% of those who came for coaching returned for another session.
  • They measured the results. To prove the program worked, Weber and her managers found ways to measure writing quality before and after the coaching session. Looking at 20 writing samples from before the program and 20 revisions from the writers who had gone through it, senior officers at the Philly Fed rated each piece of writing on organization, support and analysis, clarity, grammar, and other factors. To eliminate bias, the writing center removed details from the samples that might identify the examiners who had written them or specific banks.

The experienced managers’ ratings showed:

  • a 36% improvement in overall quality
  • a 56% improvement in organization
  • a 48% improvement in clarity
  • a 38% improvement in support and analysis.
  • a 20% improvement in grammar

These results, combined with the high levels of repeat coaching and satisfaction with the program, convinced Weber’s managers that the program was working. Now the writing center has expanded to include a second writing consultant and has completed over 400 writing consultations. Weber is figuring out ways to spread the program to other banks in the Federal Reserve System.

 

Could your organization do what Weber did at the Fed? Yes. I’m convinced that a writing center like this can improve the writing culture in many organizations. Here’s what you need to make this work for your company:

  • A belief at the top that improving writing is worth it. Bad writing is destroying your organization’s productivity. In my survey of 547 business writers, 81% said that poorly written material wasted a lot of their time. Before you can fix the problem, you need to get your management to admit that there is a problem.
  • A collection of similar writers. I think Weber’s program worked in part because the bank examiners’ jobs are all similar. The same might apply to technical writers, analysts, or people who write internet copy. When you have a collection of writers like this, you can develop a set of criteria, materials, and training methods to help them. You can also measure the results, as Weber did.
  • A voluntary program that management encourages. While a mandatory program might work, a voluntary program like Weber’s is more likely to succeed because it selects for motivated individuals. If you can make sure that those who get the training get specific benefits, then they’ll spread word of mouth and encourage others to participate. But you’ll get nowhere unless managers see the value of the program and get behind it.
  • A focus on learning through editing. ”Writing training” sounds like a chore. But editorial coaching sounds more like something helpful. Editing fixes documents. Editing with an emphasis on lessons to learn fixes writers. Editors send documents back with fixes. Editorial coaches, like Weber, take the time to make sure the lessons of their edits actually stick.
  • A commitment to measure results. Succeeding is not enough; you have to prove you succeeded. Weber’s program did that, which is why she had the license to expand her work to other parts of her organization.

If it works with bank examiners, it will work for you. A writing center is an effective way to lift an organization’s writing culture by its bootstraps. That means everybody can spend less time puzzling out incomprehensible messages and more time actually getting things done.

 

 

以上内容摘自:

https://hbr.org/2017/02/why-your-organization-needs-a-writing-center 

 

 

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