Documentation hazard

In the past few years of my working life, I have struggled to understand why we generate so many documents of various sizes and purposes of which only a small fraction ever gets consumed. As humans we probably have this undying urge to express ourselves in more words than necessary (note to self, keep this blog short!). Why should a product spec extend out to a hundred odd pages? Why should a transformation plan or growth strategy document run into the size of my Tempur pillow?

Mind you, I haven’t even introduced consultants and lawyers yet. Invite a consultant to do a small piece of boring work such as define a governance process of some kind, you are guaranteed to get a long and winded process with about 10 approval “gates” that is viewable at best only when printed on a 6ftx6ft wall. Each gate must have at least 5 input and output documents with pretty templates for each. Never mind some of these documents will have to repeated at various gates. Also, never mind that even in the most optimistic scenario, one cannot ever go through this process without burning months and one’s own sanity. Finally, I would bet that not a single soul involved in the process ever read more than 10% of the documents.

At least with consultants, it’s easy to see why. You are not paying big bucks to a consultant for a simple 3 stage process that fits into half a napkin, even if that would do a fortune of good for the company. The system is such that managers expect reams of printed paper and consultants never disappoint.

I saw a TED video yesterday where this guy has taken it upon himself to simplify legal documents, specially ones in the public domain. He has constructed a one page credit card agreement in simple English that has apparently been ratified even by legal experts. He’s doing the same for some IRS documents that has already been adopted by the agency. If only we could employ the same trick in the corporate world…


One thought on “Documentation hazard

  1. I think it is the same with committees. I believe the British government had setup a committee to figure out why do they have so many committees.

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