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The Cost of Poor Writing Skills

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The Cost of Poor Writing Skills

  1. 1. J Cutting the Costs of Poor Writing Skills Thursday, October 15th, 2009 S Cutting the Costs of Poor Writing Skills JEFFERSON SMITH A Workshop for the Western Region Credit Conference Arranged, Coordinated, and Developed by— Alphonse Desjardins Jodi Owens Kurt Weiland Thursday, October 15th, 2009: 1:00-2:30 TheWorkBook 1
  2. 2. Western Region Credit Conference Cutting the Costs of Poor Writing Skills Background Some Jefferson Smith Clients— Copyright 2009 Jefferson Smith Alcoa Engineered Products Training and Consulting Inc. American Express We welcome your comments and Association of College and University Auditors suggestions. Send them to— Autoridad del Canal de Panama Ayuda en Mexico Workshop Development 90 West 500 South, Number 101 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Bountiful, Utah 84010 The City of Ogden, Utah Or call us at— Fairchild Semiconductor The Federal Reserve Bank of New York 888 305 1155 The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco or 801 296 1155 Graymont Western Canada No animals were harmed in the Graymont Western US making of this workshop. Icon Health and Fitness Iomega Kennecott Minerals The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Lutheran Hour Ministries Mazda North America Micron Technology Mountain America Credit Union The National Guard Bureau Purdue University Questar Gas Toyota of America Texaco Tucson Electric Power The Tuskegee Airmen’s Project The United States Air Force The United States Department of the Interior United States Gypsum The University of Utah The Ute Indian Tribe Wells Fargo Bank The Yavapai-Apache Nation Zions Bank 2 TheWorkbook
  3. 3. Cutting the Costs of Poor Writing Skills Thursday, October 15th, 2009 The Purpose of the Workshop To generate thought and discussion about cutting the costs of writing poorly. C Cutting the Costs of Writing Poorly The way a document is written, organized, and formatted can save—or waste—time and dollars. Wow. Given the title of the discussion, that was easy. —James Suchan and Robert Colucci, “The High Cost of Bureaucratic Writing,” Business Horizons, March-April 1991, An Outline of the Workshop Page 68 An Introduction Who’s who, where we’re going, what we’ll do. The First Point Why good writing matters. What bad writing costs. The Second Point Why the principles matter. A look at writing from a historical context. A Conclusion What we’ve done, what we’ve learned. TheWorkBook 3
  4. 4. Western Region Credit Conference Cutting the Costs of Poor Writing Skills Best time on Document A: ________ 4 TheWorkbook
  5. 5. A Cutting the Costs of Poor Writing Skills Thursday, October 15th, 2009 10/15/09 Lou Jacobsen Quality Sticker Company 4321 South Main Springfield, AB 12345 Dear Mr. Jacobsen: SUBJECT: FINANCIAL SERVICES SHOW LITERATURE NONCONFORMANCE Our introductory brochure (AK:1056-09) was specified to have PRODUCT cards placed in the entire inventory. The instructions given to you were to first complete the 1000 designated to go to the Financial Services Trade Show. Approximately 80% of the literature sent to the show did not have the cards in place. This is determined to be a nonconformance to requirements in the context of our Quality Process. A trade show is one of the ways the Credit Union conveys information to their customers and potential customers, and it is very important that each Credit Union vendor delivers their portion as specified. As you know, we spot check the literature requirements given to you when they are sent to Heritage Display. With 20% of AK:1056-09 complete, the spot check showed that Quality had done the job correctly. The incompleteness of the job was not discovered until the show opened. We are concerned that the remaining AK:1056-09 in inventory could also be missing the cards. Please ensure that the entire inventory including brochures returned from the show are complete, at no additional cost to the Credit Union. The Credit Union does not want anyone to receive this brochure without the cards placed inside. In the form of a letter, please let me know why this problem occurred and what corrective action will be taken to ensure that it will not happen again. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to call. Sincerely, Sally Chang TheWorkBook 5
  6. 6. Western Region Credit Conference Cutting the Costs of Poor Writing Skills Best time on Document B: ________ 6 TheWorkbook
  7. 7. B Cutting the Costs of Poor Writing Skills Thursday, October 15th, 2009 Thursday, October 15th, 2009 Lou Jacobsen Quality Sticker Company 4321 South Main Springfield, AB 12345 SUBJECT: Request for a Correction—and an Explanation—of Incomplete Work Lou— I’ve learned that 80 percent of the brochures (AK:1056-09) delivered to the Financial Services Trade Show did not have the necessary product cards. Please do two things by the end of October: 1. Make sure the entire inventory—including the brochures returned from the trade show—has the product cards at no extra cost. 2. Write to me and explain why the problem happened and what corrective action you’ve taken. Background On Monday, September 14th, 2009, we asked you to put product cards in the brochures. You agreed to include the cards and to complete the 1,000 going to the trade show first. We spot-checked the first 200, and they had the cards. We didn’t find the bad brochures—the ones without the cards—until the show opened. The oversight needs to be corrected; the brochures need the cards. I look forward to hearing from you. If you have questions, call me at 801 296 1155. Thank you. Sally Chang TheWorkBook 7
  8. 8. Western Region Credit Conference Cutting the Costs of Poor Writing Skills Compute the Costs A. Document A ____________ B. Document B ____________ C. Time lost in seconds ____________ (A-B) D. Documents read in a day ____________ E. Percentage of “A” documents ____________ F. Time lost in minutes ____________ (CxDxE/60 seconds in a minute) G. Workdays in a year 240 ____________ H. Time lost in hours ____________ (FxG/60 minutes in an hour) I. Readers in the organization ____________ J. Time lost in years ____________ (HxI/8 hours/240) K. Average salaries of the readers ____________ L. Dollars lost ____________ (JxK) 8 TheWorkbook
  9. 9. Cutting the Costs of Poor Writing Skills Thursday, October 15th, 2009 Identify the Differences Other People, Other Places Alta-Bates Hospital in Berkeley, Work with your buddy. Compare Document A with California, figured it could save Document B. $500,000 in a year. Flip back and forth. Compuserve in Cincinnati, Ohio, figured Why was Document B so much easier to read? it could save $5,000,000 in a year. What made the difference? Saudi Aramco in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, figured it could save $36,000,000 in a Be specific. year. Write your observations here: __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ TheWorkBook 9
  10. 10. Western Region Credit Conference Cutting the Costs of Poor Writing Skills 5 Five Keys to Writing that Works 1. Tell your readers what you want them to do. Be obvious. Help them understand what you want. Don’t be coy, Roy. 2. Put your “bottom line” up front. State your purpose at the beginning of the document. Don’t force your readers to search and wonder. 3. Open up your document. Use lots of white space. Use lists, bullets, and boldface print. Use a ragged-right margin. 4. Keep your paragraphs, sentences, and words short. Write paragraphs no more than six lines long. Write sentences that average no more than fifteen words. Write words of no more than one or two syllables. 5. Use conversational language. Write the way you speak. Use pronouns and contractions. Use active voice. Get rid of the bureaucratic language. —Jefferson Smith’s writing programs 10 TheWorkbook
  11. 11. Cutting the Costs of Poor Writing Skills Thursday, October 15th, 2009 COMPANY PRIVATE MORTON THIOKOL INC. Wasatch Division Interoffice Memo 31 July 1985 2870:FY86:073 TO: R. K. Lund Vice President, Engineering CC: B. C. Brinton, A. J. McDonald, L. H. Sayer, J. R. Kapp FROM: R. M. Boisjoly Applied Mechanics - Ext. 3525 SUBJECT: SRM O-Ring Erosion/Potential Failure Criticality This letter is written to insure that management is fully aware of the seriousness of the current O-Ring erosion problem in the SRM joints from an engineering standpoint. The mistakenly accepted position on the joint problem was to fly without fear of failure and to run a series of design evaluations which would ultimately lead to a solution or at least a significant reduction of the erosion problem. This position is now drastically changed as a result of the SRM 16A nozzle joint erosion which eroded a secondary O-Ring with the primary O-Ring never sealing. If the same scenario should occur in a field joint (and it could), then it is a jump ball as to the success or failure of the joint because the secondary O-Ring cannot respond to the clevis opening rate and may not be capable of pressurization. The result would be a catastrophe of the highest order - loss of human life. An unofficial team (a memo defining the team and its purpose was never published) with leader was formed on 19 July 1985 and was tasked with solving the problem for both the short and long term. This unofficial team is essentially nonexistent at this time. In my opinion, the team must be officially given the responsibility and the authority to execute the work that needs to be done on non- interference basis (full time assignment until completed). TheWorkBook 11
  12. 12. Western Region Credit Conference Cutting the Costs of Poor Writing Skills R. K. Lund 31 July 1985 It is my honest and very real fear that if we do not take immediate action to dedicate a team to solve the problem with the field joint having the number one priority, then we stand in jeopardy of losing a flight along with all the launch pad facilities. R. M. Boisjoly Concurred by: J. R. Kapp, Manager Applied Mechanics COMPANY PRIVATE 12 TheWorkbook
  13. 13. Cutting the Costs of Poor Writing Skills Thursday, October 15th, 2009 Rewrite History Sources and Provenance The story of Roger Boisjoly and the You have an opportunity to rewrite history. Challenger is detailed in The Challenger Let’s suppose you were Roger Boisjoly’s friend and Launch Decision: Risky Technology, office mate. Culture, and Deviance at NASA, by Diane Vaughan. Let’s suppose that after he drafted his memo, he turned to you and asked, “Would you look at this? The book was published by the University of Chicago Press in January How can this be better?” of 1996. The ISBN is 022 685 1753. Based on what we’ve explored in the workshop, what would you suggest? Roger— We suggest you— 1. _________________________ _________________________ 2. _________________________ _________________________ 3. _________________________ _________________________ 4. _________________________ _________________________ 5. _________________________ _________________________ TheWorkBook 13
  14. 14. Western Region Credit Conference Cutting the Costs of Poor Writing Skills COMPANY PRIVATE MORTON THIOKOL INC. Wasatch Division Interoffice Memo 31 July 1985 2870:FY86:073 TO: R. K. Lund, Vice President, Engineering CC: B. C. Brinton, A. J. McDonald, L. H. Sayer, J. R. Kapp FROM: R. M. Boisjoly, Applied Mechanics - Ext. 3525 SUBJECT: Strong Recommendation to Immediately Resolve O-ring Erosion Problem—and Prevent the Loss of Human Life I strongly recommend we immediately establish a team to resolve the O-ring erosion problem. If we don’t, we could lose a flight and all the launch pad facilities. To understand my recommendation, you need to know three things: • What the Consequences Are. SRM 16A revealed that a primary O-ring didn’t seal and the secondary eroded. If this happens in a field joint (and it could), the joint could fail when the secondary doesn’t respond to the clevis opening rate and doesn’t pressurize. The consequences will be catastrophic: loss of human life. • What We’ve Done So Far. We thought we could fly without fear of failure and run design evaluations to solve or reduce the problems. SRM 16A changed that. On 19 July 1985, a team was formed and tasked to solve the problem. The team or its purpose was never defined; the team essentially does not exist. • What We Need To Do. We must give the team full authority and responsibility to do the work without interference. They must work full time on the problem until they solve it. And so I strongly recommend we establish the team and give it full authority. If we don’t take immediate action to solve the problem, we could lose a flight and a pad. Call me at x3525 if you have questions. COMPANY PRIVATE 14 TheWorkbook
  15. 15. Cutting the Costs of Poor Writing Skills Thursday, October 15th, 2009 End the Workshop What a wonderful day we’ve had. You have learned something, and I have Name three things you’ve learned in the workshop: learned something. Too bad we didn’t learn it sooner. We could have gone to 1. ______________________________________ the movies instead. ______________________________________ —Balki Bartokomous, Perfect Strangers 2. ______________________________________ ______________________________________ 3. ______________________________________ ______________________________________ Identify how you might apply what you’ve learned. In other words, what’re you gonna do now? _____________________________________________ _____________________________________________ _____________________________________________ _____________________________________________ _____________________________________________ TheWorkBook 15
  16. 16. Western Region Credit Conference Cutting the Costs of Poor Writing Skills L “Liberty’s too precious a thing to be buried in books, Miss Saunders. “Men should hold it up in front of them every single day of their lives and Some Background Jefferson Smith is an international training and consulting company in Bountiful, Utah (about six say: ‘I’m free to think and to speak. miles north of Salt Lake City). My ancestors couldn’t, I can, and my The company’s mission is to help business do children will.’” business better. —Jefferson Smith (Jimmy Stewart) to We named the company after a movie character. Clarissa Saunders (Jean Arthur) in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Columbia “Jefferson Smith” is the name of the Jimmy Pictures, 1939) Stewart character in the movie, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Honest. Hardworking. Idealistic. (Notice the quotation on the left.) We like those ideals. That’s why we named to company “Jefferson Smith.” Kurt Weiland is El Jefe Gordo of Jefferson Smith. He’s been training businesses and organizations for thousands of years. He served for twenty-three years in the United States Army. He was an infantry soldier and a paratroop commander. He served as an Assistant Professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point. He has a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University, a master’s degree from the University of Southern California, and another master’s degree from UCLA. He’s written five books on leadership and communication skills. Forty-one years ago (June 4th, 1968), he married his college sweetheart, Kathy Lynne Waite. They have six children and thirteen grandchildren: Joshua Frederick, Lindsay Nichole, Aubrey Lynne, Gabriella Louise, Kara Lynne, Tabitha May, Lincoln Joseph, Isabelle Rose, Ally Rose, Isaac Julius Kurt, Jace Hamilton, Vittoria Rose, and Ruby Kathryn. Notice the number of granddaughters with the names “Lynne” or “Kathryn.” That’s a tribute to their grandmother. 16 TheWorkbook

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