Recently, the Lead Change Group invited me to share my thoughts on Renewable Leadership in a Disposable World. In the post, I explain how several 20th-Century organizations fixated on quarterly profits at the expense of their own long-term viability.
There are many differences between the disposable and renewable organization and I won’t repeat them all here. But I wanted to share how a brand’s Technical Communication practices often reveal the sustainability level of the underlying business.
The disposable organization is optimized for quarterly profits, not long-term growth. For this reason, in the disposable enterprise:
- Documentation is viewed as a cost-center that adds little value.
- Documentation expenses are to be minimized by every possible means.
- Documentation resources are considered expendable commodities.
- Captures a snapshot of a product’s state at the moment of release.
- Is NEVER updated to reflect real-world customer discoveries.
- Exists to fulfill a requirement on a release-readiness checklist.
The renewable organization is optimized for long-term growth and the health of all entities involved, including shareholders, employees and customers. For this reason, in the renewable enterprise:
- Documentation is a proactive customer care channel.
- Documentation meets the growing demand for self-service support.
- Documentation authors are respected communications experts.
Because the over-arching goal is to build customer loyalty, documentation authored for the renewable organization:
- Reflects the state of the product as it exists on the day it is READ.
- Includes knowledge gained through actual customer usage.
- Builds marketplace credibility for the product and the brand.
So what now? What if you read this and cry, “Alas! I work for a disposable enterprise!” Take heart: There is MUCH you can do! Any organization can transform from disposable to renewable if a sufficient number decide to “Make it So.” The change needn’t come from the top down or from the bottom up. Any entity can begin the cycle, simply by making a commitment to genuine service. If you are stuck authoring disposable documentation, here are a just few actions you can consider:
- Work with your web team to obtain a hierarchical list of your topics, based on traffic.
- Assess which topics your customers truly value and use THAT to guide future work.
- Use free social listening tools to gain insight into how your customers view your product.
- Seek permission to participate in your corporate customer forums as a trusted advisor.
- Study available user-generated content and look for ways to improve your branded content.
These are just a few ways you can take part in a solution. You need to find out EVERYTHING you can about what your readers need. Then, you need to change what you do to get them what they seek. They need you to advocate for them. If they want PDFs, give them PDFs. If they want mobile smartphone topics, give them that. Build your strategy on YOUR customers’ opinions. They pay EVERYONE’s salary.