Have you ever asked a group of people to undertake the same assignment and then been amazed by the range of different results presented? If you are in an industry that values creativity, the varied results will be a source of immense delight.
If you are in an industry that leans more towards conformity, you will be appalled by the number of different ways your instructions are interpreted. This is what happened to Jessica, the executive director of a non-government organisation (NGO).
When she asked the organisation’s four recently recruited project assistants to prepare month end reports, the documents they submitted came in four different formats and lengths and focused on completely different aspects of the writers’ shared experience. Had Jessica provided the new recruits with a standard outline, their submissions would have been more closely aligned with her expectations.
One of the NGOs that I am involved with provides document guidelines to all newly hired staff. There is a template for each of the documents they will be expected to prepare on a regular basis.
The project monthly report for example, includes six categories of information: 1) Achievements, 2)hallenges, 3) Proposed Solutions, 4) Upcoming Activities, 5) Finances, and 6) Appendices.
Outlines or templates like the above make the handling of documents much easier for writers and readers alike.
Take a uniform approach
By providing templates for documents that are regularly prepared to fulfill a named purpose e.g. monthly reports, client visit reports, job interview reports or sales reports you ensure that everyone preparing those documents uses the same outline. There will be no content or format surprises.
Address all important areas
Document templates ensure that all the areas the template preparer considers worth reporting on, are covered. Templates may evolve over time, as those who prepare them and those who read them suggest improvements that will help the documents better achieve their intended purpose.
Draw comparison with ease
It will be much easier to compare one report to another if the writers cover the same areas, preferably in the same sequence. It will take you less time to evaluate the interview performance of several job candidates if the interviewers all prepare their assessments using the same outline. Similarly, comparing the outcome of different client visits over time is much easier to do, if the same information categories are included in each client visit report.
Readers know where to look
The readers of regularly prepared documents that are written in a standard format become so accustomed to that format, that they know exactly where to look for the information they value the most.
Sports enthusiasts know that they must turn to the last pages of their newspapers for sports news. Think about creating templates for the documents that you or your staff prepare on a regular basis. With time, populating the templates will become much easier for the document preparers. The document readers will also find them easier to refer to.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor